1920s style and modern music all in one
The soundtrack for Baz Lurhmann’s new film The Great Gatsby has received quite the attention. And it should. A soundtrack produced by Jay-Z, with tracks by Jack White, Florence + Machine, Fergie, Andre 3000, Lana Del Rey, and Beyonce, the album is full of top quality stars from a vast array of genres. Of course the album itself leans to a 1920s style, especially the horns, combined with dance synths and hi-hats, plus there's the obvious hip-hop feel coming from Jay-Z’s input no doubt.
Hip-hop has a history of sampling older music, from Run DMC to A Tribe Called Quest to Jay-Z himself; this soundtrack is a sample of today's musical era transplanted in the 1920s. Some of it works, some not so much. Even if it doesn't work as an album I think some of the songs I don't enjoy much will translate well on screen. My example for this will be will.i.am's “Bang Bang.” It's super catchy and his voice matches the tone of the song really well for part of the track. A snippet of this track would work wonders to support the era... then the dance music drops in and destroys the song and the feel in an instant.
The women of the album nail every track though. Lana Del Rey and Florence have particularly excellent songs. Rey's “Young and Beautiful” is one of those haunting love ballads that sticks with you – her voice was made to be on this soundtrack. Florence’s track, “Over The Love,” once again shows she has one of the best voices out there. On top of that, Sia, who I've always had a soft spot for since hearing “Breathe Me,” has the least era specific track, I read on NME.com "it sounds more like a James Bond theme" and I agree, but it is a fantastic track, one that ends the album really well too.
The one that surprised me was “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)” by Fergie, featuring Q-Tip, GoonRock. Fergie’s voice fits so wonderfully into the era, yet still feels like she's in the new millennium. This is a party song that samples Duke Ellington with dubstep and high-hats, an odd combination that works wonders - at least to my ears. The revamped “Crazy in Love” by Emeli Sande, in a foxtrot style, failed for me, but is still good, it is just trying too hard to stay within the 1920s confines and does not embrace the new era like the rest of the album. They may have chosen to do this as it is the most direct recreation and probably used almost in its entirety in the film (my assumption).
Jack White is also superb, but then again when is he not?
On my first listen I didn't enjoy the Jay-Z track "$100 Bill" with his chopped and screwed take on getting rich, which is prefaced by some "great" Gatsby dialogue to start the album and explain the era yet comparing it to ours.
Of course some of the tracks are clunkers. Cough… cough… Gotye.
Overall I did enjoy the album. But it did take me a couple of listens before I really got into it. Check out some of the songs on YouTube before buying it would be my suggestion, as the Gatsby soundtrack may not be for everyone.