The Great Gatsby Soundtrack

Baz Luhrmann’s highly anticipated film The Great Gatsby was released this past week along with the film’s star-studded soundtrack.  Though the film, like Fitzgerald’s novel, is set in the 1920’s, the soundtrack features the talents of Florence and the Machine, JAY Z, Beyonce, Lana Del Ray and Gotye to name a few.  For this reason the soundtrack has almost been as long awaited as the film and the album is topping the iTunes charts.  So does it live up to the hype?

The Great Gatsby soundtrack is a mix of a wide range of musical styles and approaches.  Lest we forget that this is a movie soundtrack, the album features a few movie quotes to add some context.  Several of the tracks are hits from this millenium covered by current artists.  Amy Winehouse’ Back to Black is covered by Beyoncé and André 3000.  André’s approach is appropriately ‘sleazy’ with a dubstep feel and Beyoncé’s vocals never disappoint.  However this song is so iconic, that I’m still waiting on this particular version to grow on me.  UK sensation and recent import Emeli Sandé covers Beyoncé’s megahit Crazy in Love.  Though I primarily found that the most successful tracks were current songs that retained the flavor of the 1920’s, I found that Sandé’s take on Crazy in Love skewed a bit too 1920’s.  The frenetic pace of the accompanying Bryan Ferry Orchestra makes Sandé’s vocals sound rushed and the arrangement doesn’t quite work.  In contrast A Little Party Never Killed Nobody, featuring Fergie, Q-Tip and GoonRock, manages to achieve a perfect mix of old and new.  The track features classic jazz elements (in the vein of It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)) alongside the deep bass and synths of a modern club hit; making for a tremendously fun party anthem.

The album also has a fair amount of angst and drama appropriate for Gatsby.  Lana Del Ray’s Young and Beautiful is hauntingly beautiful.  Though this song was written for the film, taken out context it is quite successful.  I can see this track finding life outside of Gatsby.  Florence Welch’s powerful vocals soar on Over the Love.  The accompanying string and backing vocals continue to build through the song for an effect that is best described as epic. 

Overall I find the album to be a bit uneven.  There are some winning tracks, some fun period-like pieces, some intriguing covers and a few emo/new age-like tracks that improve on further listening.  I’d like to note that this album is being reviewed out of context.  One would expect that many of the tracks will be more successful when featured in the film.

Written by Reference Librarian Stephanie.

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