Characteristic of a Baz Luhrmann production, the director’s remake of the ever popular book-turned-movie The Great Gatsby is expected to bring an old-meets-modern charm à la Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet in which guns replaced swords and love potions were substituted for love potions. It would be a shame if this expectation was not met, but if the soundtrack to The Great Gatsby is any indication, the eclectic taste of Mr. Luhrmann is sure to shine through in this film.
Listening to the soundtrack in track order takes the listener on a jazzy smooth journey though an interesting mix of artists, from Jay-Z to The xx. Jay-Z’s “100$ Bill” kicks off the soundtrack with a prolific swagger and edge while very subtly infusing a bit of the old jazz sound. The soundtrack continues this feel with a cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” by Andre 3000 and Beyoncé, “Bang Bang” by will.i.am, and “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)” featuring Fergie + Q Tip + GoonRock, each of which uniquely captures the dancehall nightclub flare of the roaring ’20s with electronic, dance, and hip hop-centric beats.
The soundtrack then quickly dishes out a morning-after-the-party cold dose of reality with “Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Rey kicking off this distinct change of pace. Her haunting and lyrical voice takes the listener away from the jazz club and toward the complexities of relationships. “Love is the Drug” by Bryan Ferry with The Bryan Ferry Orchestra, “Over the Love” by Florence + The Machine, and “Crazy in Love” sung by Emeli Sande and performed by The Bryan Ferry Orchestra dive into the out-of-control yet simultaneously concrete nature of infatuation and love.
The second half of the soundtrack speaks well to the first, balancing the wild nature of the jazz life and the cerebral, internal struggles of romance. The soundtrack ends with the moving track “Kill and Run” by Sia, which ties the narrative of the entire album together. The lyrics “Try to make out your move / but my brain doesn’t want to / silent call for you / what have I done to you?” echoes with a somber realization of where the journey ends.
While admittedly, as some have already pointed out, the soundtrack lacks a Hans Zimmer-esque score, the chosen tracks fit well together, and if listened through entirely, they play out into a subtle linear narrative, which is something the producer of the album, Jay-Z, does so well.
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