Thursday, May 9, 2013

Music from Baz Luhrmann's Film 'The Great Gatsby' | Various Artists

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Tomorrow, The Great Gatsby hits the big screen in theaters across the United States, but last Tuesday, the soundtrack to the film was released and I had been counting down the days until its release.

What originally got me so excited for this soundtrack was the rumor that one of my favorite artists, Lana Del Rey, was working on a piece for the album. To my surprise, not only was she included, but her song was also chosen as the lead single for the soundtrack. "Young and Beautiful" was released a few weeks before the album, and I quickly took the opportunity to review it here. The song is definitely my favorite from the album; it's got the typical Lana Del Rey-type of lyrics that I fell in love with at the beginning of her career and also takes a lot of influence from her past album, Paradise, in it's production. It's beautiful song, and I would go into further detail, but I have already done so in my full review of the song.

The deluxe edition of the album that I picked up at Target also has a special version of "Young and Beautiful," which is accompanies the vocals with an orchestra rather than the original instrumental. The instrumentation in this version is actually toned down a lot, and lets Lana Del Rey's vocals ring a bit louder. The orchestra does compliment her voice, but I wish they could have mixed the orchestra to sound more prominent in some areas of the song, such as the first verse when it can barely be heard under the vocals.

Another one of my favorite artists, Florence Welch, is also featured on the album, alongside her Machine. Florence + The Machine is credited with "Over the Love," which I am just as impressed with as I was with Lana Del Rey's contribution to the album. Like how "Young & Beautiful" shares the same production values as many of the songs on Lana Del Rey's latest album, "Over the Love" sounds like it could have been used on Ceremonials. In true Florence + The Machine style, the song has really calm verses, with an explosion of Welch's powerhouse vocals appearing in the chorus, which get louder with each repetition. How she can belt out those notes like she can, I will never know, but I am completely in love with her ability to do so and still sound beautiful. Although it sounds like it could be used on Ceremonials, the song does contain a key set of lyrics that makes it clear that this song was made for this soundtrack specifically: the song manages to constantly refer back to "I can see the green light," which represents a lot in The Great Gatsby, including Jay Gatsby's yearning for Daisy Buchanan.

Beyoncé Knowles also makes an appearance on the soundtrack, as both a songwriter for Emeli Sandé's cover of "Crazy in Love" and a performer for her cover of "Back to Black," originally by Amy Winehouse. I was quite excited to hear Knowles' cover of the song because I knew she could add just as much soul to the song as Winehouse did, but then I saw who was included on the cover: André 3000. For those of you who don't know, André 3000 is an irritating rapper who is still trying to regain relevance after he quickly entered and exited the spotlight with the song "Hey Ya!" in 2003. In "Back to Black," he made a complete mess of the beginning half of the song. Thanks to him, the song that should have been one of the best songs on the album was turned into one of the worst. Beyoncé's parts were pretty good, but thanks to her collaborator, overall the song was disgraceful to the original piece.

On the other hand, Emeli Sandé's cover of Beyoncé and Jay-Z's "Crazy in Love" actually turned out well. Sandé collaborated with the Bryan Ferry Orchestra, giving the song the amazing big-band style that I was expecting from the film's soundtrack. I love how they were able to take a modern song and make it seem like it came straight from the 1920s. Sure, the song isn't something that I'm going to go jam out to or anything, but it fits the film so well that I can't help but applaud it. Although I have never heard of her before, Sandé seems to have one great voice; she really took the song as her own and spiced it up when compared to its original counterpart.

One of the songs on the album that I'm kind of on the fence about it "A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)," performed by Fergie, Q-Tip, and GoonRock. Let's be honest though, Q-Tip and Goonrock are completely irrelevant. (A bit off-topic, but who in the hell names himself 'Q-Tip'? That's just stupid.) So, let's just focus on Fergie, okay? I don't love the song, but then again I don't hate the song either. One of my problems with it is that it doesn't seem like it's going to fit in the film. I can tell by the instrumental track and the way that Fergie is styling her voice that she and her producers were trying to find a nice mixture of styles from today and when The Great Gatsby took place, but I feel like today's sounds were too prominent in the song. I would probably like the song more if it wasn't meant to fit in the soundtrack of the film.

My least favorite tracks from this album come from Jack White, The xx,, and the soundtrack's executive producer, Jay-Z. All four of the tracks are obnoxious and bring the whole soundtrack down. Roughly thirty-five percent of White's "Love is Blindness" is just White screaming the lyrics and it's irritating. Perhaps he should go back to the "Seven Nation Army" spiel, because he's actually tolerable there. Meanwhile, I do like the instrumental track of "Together" by The xx, but the singers from the band have boring and dull voices that I can't handle listening to. Finally, Jay-Z's "100$ Bill," (yes, that is the way the title is stylized, and yes, I know it looks stupid), and's "Bang Bang" are both simply intolerable. Both Jay-Z and are terrible rappers, and it still shocks me that they both still have careers.

Minus the contributions from Lana Del Rey, Florence + The Machine, Sia, and few select others, this soundtrack was kind of a let-down, but then again that may be because I had such high expectations for it. Overall, it was an average attempt, with a few amazing tracks sprinkled here and there. Do I regret running out to Target a day after its release to buy it? Of course not, because the standout tracks alone were worthy my time and money to go buy it.

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