Various Artists: The Great Gatsby Soundtrack

[8 May 2013]

By Logan Smithson

It’s time for a new film adaptation of the The Great Gatsby, old sport, and with it comes a soundtrack executive produced by Jay-Z. Being the fifth visual rendition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most famous novel, the story of The Great Gatsby is familiar to most. However, the 2013 version of the film has the big names behind it and a big budget to ensure that it brings the ostentatious world of Jay Gatsby to life like never before. The soundtrack is backed by names equally as big to the music industry as Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire are to cinema, promising to live up to the scale of the film it accompanies.

The soundtrack features a mix of “Old Money” and “New Money”, with established artists like Beyoncé and Jack White, along the newer faces of Florence + the Machine and the xx. The important thing for a soundtrack to do is maintain a cohesive sound: a general theme to piece things together and make it sound like a single piece of work rather than a collection of songs. The Great Gatsby Soundtrack accomplishes this feat. While the artists come from a variety of genres and backgrounds, they work together in a way that fits.

The Great Gatsby Soundtrack does its job of capturing the sound of the Roaring ‘20s. A fusion of horns brings the era to life with a modern twist. Jazzy melodies are captured by the Bryan Ferry Orchestra. Some songs certainly have a neo-soul vibe going, reminiscent of the late Amy Winehouse. There’s even a cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” present on the soundtrack. Andre 3000 and Beyoncé put a distinguishable spin on the song, with a slowed tempo and heavier instrumentation. Though the cover doesn’t top Winehouse’s original, it is good in its own right and feels right at home on Gatsby. Besides, who doesn’t love hearing Andre 3000’s voice?

Oddly enough, an old Beyoncé song appears on the soundtrack, but not as performed by Beyoncé. Rather, it’s a cover of “Crazy In Love” by Emeli Sandé with a redone instrumental from the Bryan Ferry Orchestra. Unlike “Back to Black”, this cover doesn’t bring much to the table. The jazzy attempt at Beyoncé’s 2003 hit single just ends up sounding sloppy and is missing strong, charismatic vocals to support it. A few missteps such as this one hold The Great Gatsby Soundtrack back. Other problems include poor attempts at commercial success. Back-to-back duds from will.i.am and Fergie break the flow of the soundtrack. Not even Q-Tip can save the Fergie track.

The good news is that Gatsby enjoys its moments of glory. Jay-Z shows why he’s regarded as one of the best to ever do it on his contribution, “100$ Bill”. Jay raps with a commanding flow over a beat as powerful as something from Watch the Throne with its own hint of ‘20s “Jazz Age” vibe. Combining personal experience with references to the subject material, Hova drops a pair of verses that will be quoted for months to come. It’s hard not to smile every time you hear “Who wanna become my 100th problem?”. The soulful Lana Del Rey administers another high point for the soundtrack with “Young and Beautiful”, which packs strong lyrics and a strong orchestral backing. Florence + the Machine provide what may be the biggest track of the soundtrack. “Over the Love” is a chilling spectacle that has the potential to create a strong atmosphere for the film.

Gatsby manages to avoid the major mistake that many soundtracks have, which is not keeping a uniform style throughout the album. At the same time, The Great Gatsby Soundtrack also offers variation, though it comes at a small price. Some of the artists that get a share of the spotlight don’t live up to the standout performances of the album. Regardless, this is a soundtrack worthy of a good film. The best tracks from the soundtrack will be able to enhance the mood of the upcoming movie if utilized properly, and fans of the film will no doubt enjoy taking a piece of the movie with them and letting it be the soundtrack to their own life.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/171152-various-artists-the-great-gatsby/