Tessa Roy ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff
While Baz Luhrmann’s film adaptation of The Great Gatsby has certainly been highly anticipated, it is quite possible the accompanying soundtrack has generated even more hype. Its track list boasts big names like Beyoncé, Andre 3000, will.i.am., Jay-Z, and Lana del Rey. But does its star quality equal its listening quality?
For the most part, yes, especially when it comes to a few genius collaborations and less popularized tracks on the album. Fergie, Q-Tip, and GoonRock’s “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)” makes for a catchy, bass-thumping party anthem to capture the glamor of Jay Gatsby’s galas. And it gets better with the expertly combined Bryan Ferry Orchestra and Emeli Sandé. Their jazzy cover of Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” is instantly addicting and reminiscent of the 1920s setting of The Great Gatsby. Some individual performances, even will.i.am’s, can be lauded as well. With “Bang Bang,” Will created another fun party track similar to Fergie’s, and we can forgive him for his less than stellar attempt at scatting in the song. But the most attention should be paid to Florence + The Machine’s dramatic, orchestral ballad “Over the Love.” The music combined with Florence Welch’s ability to effortlessly glide from hitting feathery high notes to belting out the lower tones undoubtedly make this Gatsby’s best track.
However, the more popularized songs fall a little flat. The year 2013 has proven very successful for Beyoncé, but her cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” with Andre 3000 isn’t one of her high points. Her soft, sultry form of delivering the lyrics does no favors for her phenomenal voice. Andre 3000’s poorly sung (or rapped? I couldn’t tell) first verse is damaging. And the switching to a hip-hop tone from Amy’s classic, soulful sound doesn’t make much sense considering the time period the film is covering. The much-loved Lana del Rey makes an appearance on the soundtrack with “Young and Beautiful.” Lana sounds gorgeous, and there isn’t really anything wrong with the song. It just doesn’t stand out. Beyoncé’s counterpart Jay-Z is present for two tracks, one on his own called “100$ Bill” and another named “No Church in the Wild” featuring Frank Ocean and Kanye West. The songs try and somewhat succeed in capturing the aspects of Gatsby’s wealth, but ultimately, neither of them are incredibly impressive.
An overall criticism of this album is its attempt at being contemporary while still staying true to the story’s time period. Some tracks sound as if they came straight from a 1920s speakeasy, while others could be played in a modern-day nightclub. As it is with the “Back to Black” cover, the balance of the two eras is confusing. The songs come together in a somewhat jumbled fashion, and it is hard to tell whether the album is seeking to modernize or remain true to the original 1920s-set story.
Sure, it has its weak points. I wouldn’t suggest clinging to the big-name tracks or trying to decipher what time period it seeks to capture. But The Great Gatsby soundtrack is worth a listen. Be sure to check it out before you see the film.