The soundtrack of Baz Luhrmann’s newest project, a much-hyped film adaptation of one of the most popular classic reads of all time – The Great Gatsby – was officially released yesterday. With almost half of the songs in the album already aired on SoundCloud prior to the official release, the internet has been set a-buzzing for weeks with discussions about the materials. But the public interest is not only on the songs so much as the figures behind the scenes. Jay-Z and Luhrmann teamed up for one of the most exciting collaborations ever in the world of fine art: the king of hip hop with the king of cinematic theater. Pile on the fact that the movie is set on the twenties, a jazz era, just draws on more attention from the public who are curious on how the duo is going to translate the spirit of the time depicted in the book – ripe with drama, conflicts, affairs, outrageous lifestyle, and of course, jazz – into a modern 21st century soundtrack. The result is these 14 tracks of new music and covers, which boasts an impressive roster of musicians – pretty much anyone who’s who in the music industry right now.
1. “100$ Bill” (performed by Jay-Z)
This is the only straight-up rap song in the album, done by Jay-Z himself. It features parts of the movie – snippets of conversation by the characters – and Jay-Z’s rap about money and “the decade of decadence.” Heavy with beat and echoing choir, this first track shows the rapper’s influence in the album front and center.
2. “Back to Black” (performed by Beyoncé and André 3000)
I was very excited when I knew that Back to Black made the cut to be featured on this album. Not so much when I figured out that it wouldn’t be sung solo by Beyoncé. Now, the newly arranged song itself is a sensual, haunting piece of electronic gorgeousness – a very different take from the original. But the effect is kind of ruined by André 3000’s weird, auto-tuned voice, which is too bad since Beyoncé’s voice fits perfectly with the atmosphere of the song.
3. “Bang Bang” (performed by will.i.am)
The weakest song in the album for me, lyrics-wise. But the song itself is a fun marriage of techno and jazz. It opens up with sax before transitioning into a full techno attack, a typical production of will.i.am. You can hear him scatting in the bridge – a nice surprise. Who knows will.i.am. can scat so well?
4. “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)” (performed by Fergie, Q-Tip and GoonRock)
Another member of Black Eyed Peas that made her way to this prestigious list. The atmosphere of the song is pretty similar to the previous track – a little more dancey perhaps – with some parts imitating Rihanna’s “We Found Love” in terms of suspense building. Fergie’s voice lends the song the much-needed boost of power and modern flair.
5. “Young and Beautiful” (performed by Lana Del Rey)
The album winds down a little bit with this song, a nice change of pace from all the beats and techno assaults. Lana del Rey, the darling of indie pop songs contributed the lead single for this album and well, she delivered the goods. The girl specializes in sadcore, with voice that sounds like it’s coming from another time. She sings somberly about looking back at life after experiencing everything that it can offer, whether she will still be loved when she is no longer young and beautiful. Another gorgeous production from one of the most fascinating additions in pop industry now.
6. “Love Is the Drug” (performed by Bryan Ferry with The Bryan Ferry Orchestra)
One of my favorite tracks in the album. Bryan Ferry’s quiet, smoky voice fills the quintessential jazz song perfectly, while bits of sax playing languidly at the back gives a playful atmosphere for the song.
7. “Over the Love” (performed by Florence and the Machine)
Her trademark of a powerful voice reverberates through this song – a piece about salvation and separation from love – and will send shivers down your spine every time it’s played. This song evokes a reverent feeling, commanded by Florence’s chanting and the echoing choir.
8. “Where the Wind Blows” (performed by Coco O. of Quadron)
I am not familiar with Coco O.’s works, but her voice is a reminiscent of Duffy’s – the lesser nasal version. The track itself played like a nursery song – with a short piano part playing in an unending loop – while the beats thrown in save it from sounding completely like one.
9. “Crazy in Love” (performed by Emeli Sandé and The Bryan Ferry Orchestra)
Beyoncé’s hit sung swing style. This version is repetitive and fast-paced, which can be a complete hit or miss for most people. Emeli sounds perfect as always, but I am not really sure about the arrangement of the song. It’s too static and renders the song to be anticlimactic.
10. “Together” (performed by The xx)
Being a big fan of The XX, I wasn’t disappointed with their latest work for the Great Gatsby. This eerie, haunting song further solidifies the XX’s position as the producer of evocative, gorgeous pieces of music that are pared down to their most simplistic nature. But I am curious on how this song will fit in the movie, as it is not jazzy in the least.
11. “Hearts a Mess” (performed by Gotye)
My favorite track of the bunch. A quirky song heavy on the percussion – some of the instruments I can’t even identified – paired with Gotye singing forlornly about the desperation to connect with someone he loves. The melodies and rhythms used deliver a reggae touch to the song.
12. “Love Is Blindness” (performed by Jack White)
The ultimate rock song in the album, aptly sung by Jack White. A U2 cover of the same title, Jack’s arrangement is more bluesy by incorporating a lot of electric guitar and wailing style of singing – as what would be expected from the front man of The White Stripes.
13. “Into the Past” (performed by Nero)
This techno extravagant song is exquisite: a futuristic piece filled with Nero’s delicate falsetto looping in and out of the staccato beats, creating a dreamy atmosphere that will entrance the listeners. Put on this song and just get lost in it. The type of song I can listen to for hours.
14. “Kill and Run” (performed by Sia Furler)
A beautiful ballad – almost Adele-esque at times – that showcases Sia’s gravelly voice to perfection. This song starts off quiet and unassuming, before soaring through the high notes and reaching the climax of the song, and finishes with the tinkling of piano. It is created to elicit high emotion from the listeners and it achieves the purpose very well.
Now that you have known the range of diversity that this album has to offer, how could you not be tempted to watch the movie, even just for the sake of seeing how these pieces will fit in it?
This album is having a heavy rotation in my playlist now, and the listening experience gets better every time. Easy listening this album is not (some of the songs will take a while to get used to them) but I love that fact. Jay-Z has created one of the most memorable soundtracks of all time and I tip my invisible hat off for his boldness.
Overall, a fascinating album with the exception of a couple less lustrous tones. 8 out of 10.
P.S: The album can be streamed at its entirety here: