Jay-Z recruited a stellar all star lineup for the soundtrack to Baz Luhrman's new film interpretation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, and he let them swing for the fences. The result is a few missteps, but mostly it is wildly intense music laced with doom and decadence blending jazz age musical elements into recordings of the moment. In other words, it all seems to match The Great Gatsby and its social criticism of the culture of wealth of the Roaring Twenties.
Decadence and Doom
There is a powerful overall feel of decadence and doom in the songs on The Great Gatsby soundtrack. It is overt in Fergie's "A Little Party Never Killed Nobody." The song adeptly combines a big band style opening with GoonRock's contemporary party rock mix. This is an excellent party track and certainly a welcome return for Fergie. Her Black Eyed Peas colleague will.i.am is here, too interpolating lyrics from the Cher classic, "Bang, Bang My Baby Shot Me Down" for his Charleston infused "Bang Bang."
Lana Del Rey delivers one of her most powerful, haunting performances yet dreading the fleeting nature of beauty on "Young and Beautiful." It is matched by Gotye's desperation to connect meaningfully with a potential lover on "Hearts a Mess." His recording effectively balances an almost jaunty percussion track with words and music that speak of something much more gloomy.
Updating Classic Songs
The Great Gatsby also contains its fair share of impressive re-interpretations of classic songs. One of the most notable is the Andre 3000 and Beyonce collaboration on Amy Winehouse's "Back To Black." The spare, measured production draws out the words in a duet that presents the song in a strangely detached yet still sexy fashion. Emeli Sande takes on Beyonce's own "Crazy In Love" with a jazzy arrangement from the Bryan Ferry Orchestra. Even in this entirely different audio setting from the original, the song still maintains an edgy feel like a lover who is right on the cusp of genuinely going crazy.
Jack White dives deep into U2's Achtung Baby track "Love Is Blindness" in one of the top highlights of the soundtrack. The song first grew out of the emotions surrounding marital separation experienced by The Edge of U2. Jack White wrings the emotion out of the song with both vocal acrobatics and virtuoso guitar.
A Few Low Moments
There are some low moments among the 14 tracks that make up the soundtrack. Jay-Z's own "100$ Bill" that kicks off the album is a bit too standard to make much of an impact. Florence Welch sounds as if she is simply wailing somewhat aimlessly on the Florence and the Machine track "Over the Love." The literate fire that has animated much of their music is mysteriously missing here. Coco O. of Danish duo Quadron sounds a bit like she is playing things just a bit too safe on "Where the Wind Blows." It is pleasant to listen to but fails to match the challenge of much of the rest of the songs here.
'The Great Gatsby' Adds To Baz Luhrman's Memorable Soundtracks
Baz Luhrman, director and co-producer of The Great Gatsby, is noted for creating powerful soundtracks to accompany his films. Romeo and Juliet and Moulin Rouge both still stand out on their own in addition to providing stellar accompaniment to the events taking place on screen. The Great Gatsby follows in that tradition. For some it may be a bit over the top, but this is the sound of major artists going for broke. They are not reaching for top 40 radio airplay here. Instead they are aiming at a goal of creating music evoking the glittering, decadent spirit of one of the greatest of all American novels. That goal has been achieved.