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The Great Gatsby Soundtrack: Various Artists

great gatsbyThe Great Gatsby Soundtrack
Various Artists
(Water Tower Music/Interscope)

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The soundtrack to the film version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 book classic, The Great Gatsby, is an amalgamation of decadence, style and substance. Opening track “100$ Bill” features rap mogul Jay-Z (who also executive produced the score) speaking on power and the cost to have it; followed by the “currently ubiquitous” Beyoncé on the Amy Winehouse cover “Back to Black,” where NPR describes her vocals as getting stuck in the 1950s, “sounding far more like a torch singer than a blues queen.” But I digress.

Directed by Baz Luhrman (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge), The Great Gatsby follows Jay Gatsby, a nouveau riche guy that we know little about in the beginning, but as the story unfolds, there is much revealed. The soundtrack could have been released on its own merit, but serves as the perfect backdrop to the aloof Mr. Gatsby. A mash-up of genres from hip-hop and rock, to the jazz age and pop, so much so that in order to appreciate the flow of the music, I think that one must be a fan of music. Because it’s not a hip-hop album, it is an album that is influenced by hip-hop, showing how much the genre appears in rock, Top 40 and dance music.

It features songs by not only Jay-Z and Beyoncé, along with André 3000, but producer will.i.am (“Bang Bang”), his Black Eyed Pea bandmate Fergie, alongside rapper Q-Tip and LMFAO producer Goonrock (“A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)”), in addition to indie rock band Florence + The Machine on “Over the Love.” It’s equally hard to not like an album when 67-year old Bryan Ferry sings the jazzy “Love Is the Drug” on a project that features newcomers like singer-songwriter Lana Del Ray on “Young and Beautiful,” British soul singer Emeli Sandé on the Bey cover “Crazy in Love” and Coco O. (from Danish electro soul duo Quadron) on “Where the Wind Blows.”

I can admit, though I don’t remember reading The Great Gatsby book in high school, I did see the film before reviewing this album, and they do complement one another. Over-the-top parties, decadence, power, class struggles, love, obsession, madness and tragedy were depicted well in the movie, and I feel that energy within the soundtrack. However, I will admit that hearing hip-hop in a movie-taking place in the 1920’s was a bit ambitious. But I get the juxtaposition by Luhrman, the desire to expose a newer generation to a film that many are just discovering, and hip-hop may be one of the best ways to accomplish it. I also get that music is a universal language. Hopefully, others will get that too.

Recommended spin: “Young and Beautiful.”

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About ND McCray

ND McCray is a former Brooklynite, now St. Louis-based writer, penning pieces on arts, culture and other stuff.
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