‘Great Gatsby’ soundtrack brings a modern twist to the 1920’s

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year then you should know about Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel “The Great Gatsby.” The film has been out in theaters for about two weeks and has been getting mixed reviews. The soundtrack, however? I guarantee it’s one of the best film soundtracks you will hear this year.

Development for “The Great Gatsby” had been going on for years. The idea of turning it into a Broadway play had even been tossed around, and in 2008 it was confirmed that Baz Luhrmann would be taking over as director. However, when it came to the soundtrack Luhrmann turned to his go-to composer Craig Armstrong and executive music supervisor Anton Monsted. Jay Z signed on as the co-executive producer and spent two years working with Luhrmann and his team to put out one of the best soundtracks that has been used in a Baz Luhrmann film.

The soundtrack as a whole is amazing. The producers managed to address the themes of decadence, love and excess that are in the story. Musically, the album is all over the place. It’s the music of the roaring 20’s with a modern twist. Elements of hip-hop, rock, electronic dance music; jazz and swing are blended together in a way that doesn’t make it sound cheesy or forced together.

One standout track on the album is “Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Rey. Her vocals are haunting and emotional. The music has a somber sound to it that matches certain scenes in the film perfectly. Another thing that I liked about this song was that the instrumentation was simple and how the instruments were layered in the song. Overall, this song was a perfect fit for the film and one of the best songs on the soundtrack.

I’ll admit “Young and Beautiful” surprised me because I’m not a big Lana Del Rey fan. I thought that her last two releases were boring and frankly, her whole “daddy, hold me, pale, moonlight, Pepsi cola” thing didn’t really reel me in. However, if her next release is anything like “Young and Beautiful” then she will definitely have a place in my iTunes library.

Another standout track is “Over the Love” by Florence + the Machine. This song was written from the perspective of Daisy Buchanan, Jay Gatsby’s longtime crush. There are also mentions of certain things in the novel like the green light that appears on a dock outside of Daisy’s house and the yellow dress she wears. Musically, this song is a baroque pop ballad with hints of soul, which matches Florence Welch’s voice perfectly. The vocals on this song are powerful and emotional. The lyrics were beautifully written and really capture Daisy’s struggle between Gatsby and her husband, Tom. This song was a hit overall and one of the best songs on the soundtrack.

But of course, with the good always come the bad and this soundtrack only really had one thing that was wrong with it. That thing is the Andre 3000 and Beyoncé cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black.” This cover is just wrong on almost all levels. It is hands down the worst song on the album and the worst song that Beyoncé has ever been a part of.

“Back to Black” doesn’t need a down tempo EDM wobble, chopped and screwed beats, and weird vocal arrangements. I understand that they wanted this song to be emotional and reimagine it in a unique way but it just did not work in their favor. Instead, they turned one of Amy Winehouse’s best songs into a pile of emotionless EDM crap.

All the producers would have needed to do was slow down the tempo, slightly rearrange the music and let Beyoncé do her thing without Andre 3000. I can almost guarantee that if the producers did that they would have had one of the best songs on the soundtrack and not have the travesty that is on millions of iPods across the country.

All that being said, this was an excellent soundtrack. Baz Luhrmann has an awesome gift of picking out songs that perfectly fit his movies. Just like the songs from his “Romeo + Juliet” and “Moulin Rouge!” soundtracks, the songs on “The Great Gatsby” soundtrack perfectly enhances the story rather than take away from it. If you were to get any soundtrack from the summer movie season, then I highly recommend this one. You won’t be disappointed.

For even more tracks, check out the deluxe version of the soundtrack which includes an orchestral version of “Young and Beautiful,” a remix of “Over the Love” by SBTRKT and dialogue from the film; including one of Tobey Maguire reciting his lines over a brilliant instrumental.

“The Great Gatsby” is in theaters everywhere and the standard and deluxe versions of the soundtrack are available on iTunes.

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‘Great Gatsby’ soundtrack brings a modern twist to the 1920’s