Various Artists ⎢Music From Baz Luhrmann’s Film: The Great Gatsby ⎢Water Tower / Interscope ⎢US Release Date: May 7, 2013
Constructing a soundtrack that not only creates a solid musical backdrop for the film as well as doubling as an enjoyable compilation is no easy task. Because of this, soundtracks themselves often get mixed reviews, even if they more than execute there purpose in the films they accompany. Music From Baz Luhrmann’s Film: The Great Gatsby is an album that will impress some, perhaps many, but it isn’t a definitive slam dunk either. While it isn’t a ‘FAIL’, it is has its triumphs and its flawed moments.
Opening cut “100$ Bill” arrives care of the album’s producer himself, Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter. A solid way to open, it isn’t the greatest set of rhymes Hov ever assembled, but it is good enough to have you nodding one’s head. A pleasant surprise arrives in an updated cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” performed by André 3000 and Beyoncé. While the soulfulness that Amy Winehouse has been reduced given the electro/hip-hop interpretation, the additional spaciness and restraint conveys its own emotion. Purists who were fans of the original may be highly skeptical, but it is a clever interpretation.
Will.i.am’s gimmicky “Bang Bang” reappears from his #willpower album. Where “Bang Bang” was a total miss there, the “Charleston”/ “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” sampling cut makes contextual sense given the setting of the film. That said, the cut still is all over the place and too lengthy. Fergie, Q-Tip, and Goonrock have better luck on “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)”. That said, the cut is corny and is one of those ‘love it or hate it deals’. Balance is reestablished via Lana del Rey’s centerpiece single “Young and Beautiful”. The cut is exactly what you would expect from its chanteuse – rich in sound, somewhat drawn out, and somewhat indulgent. Lana del Rey may always received mixed reviews artistically, but “Young and Beautiful” is one of the album’s better tracks.
“Love Is The Drug”, performed by Bryan Ferry with The Bryan Ferry Orchestra is no better than average, with the production sounding a bit shoddy. “Over The Love”, performed soulful indie-pop/rock Florence + The Machine provides some atonement, but doesn’t give Florence Welch the ‘home run’ she’s had with material from her albums. It’s interesting and Welch definitely commands and delivers, but it lacks ‘finesse’ you might say. “Where the Wind Blows” is a solid cut, performed by Coco O. Sampling “Oh! You Have No Idea” performed by Sophie Tucker, “Where the Wind Blows” again bridges old and new, much like Baz Luhrmann’s film(s) in general. The rising Emeli Sandé performs with The Bryan Ferry Orchestra on a cover of Beyoncé’s hip-hop album “Crazy in Love”. While Sandé may not have the same swagger Beyoncé did back in 2003, she performs capably. The production is certainly stronger than that of “Love is the Drug”.
The pace changes at track ten. The xx add some alt-appeal on “Together”, a mysterious, enthralling number. Gotye’s “Hearts A Mess” reappears from his 2006 album Like Drawing Blood, which received proper release in 2013. Although lengthy at over six minutes, it definitely eclipses some other, less heralded cuts. Jack White covers U2 capably on “Love Is Blindness”, but still there is no air of ‘the second coming’ by any means. Nero slow down some momentum on “Into the Past”, which has some great ideas, but is a bit of a bore ultimately. Sia closes with one of the more triumphant cuts of the soundtrack, “Kill and Run”. “Kill and Run” leaves the listener with a more favorable impression than they would have had with a less thrilling track.
Overall, Music From Baz Luhrmann’s Film: The Great Gatsby is good (average, perhaps slightly above), but not ‘elite’. There are plenty of good moments throughout, but still some leave more to be desired. Even some of the best cuts leave room for skepticism. Good, not exceptional.
Favorites: “100$ Bill”; “Back To Black”; “Young and Beautiful”; “Kill and Run”
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