(Universal Republic Records)
Soundtracks are a strange science. Films like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire stick to instrumental scores, so the songs collected on their soundtracks serve as companions to the main work. Since the Hunger Games trilogy was originally written for a young adult audience, it stands to reason that the soundtrack for Catching Fire would feature today’s top artists.
What results is a record that only works in parts. Christina Aguilera’s “We Remain” is a total misfire with clichéd lyrics, and if any of her Voice contestants tried the growls she employs, she would rightfully scold them for it. Hot new artist Lorde sticks to her electro-tinged, gothic pop, but when covering a classic like “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” it’s just too creepy.
Fortunately there are some really enjoyable songs here. Imagine Dragons have a stomping, energetic style that suits a story of war and survival, while The Lumineers bring a delicate touch to District 12 with their “Gale Song.” Of course, the best surprise is Patti Smith’s contribution. A fan of the franchise, Smith litters “Capitol Letter” with references from the books. From the first notes and her whispered “Katniss,” it’s clear that she will deliver the rebellious spirit that defines Katniss Everdeen.
As an overall work, this soundtrack is not cohesive and tries too hard to be commercial, which is ironic given what Katniss fights against in The Hunger Games. If you’re a fan of any of the featured artists, it may be worth a listen to you. Otherwise, stick to the books and movies.