Movie Soundtrack Wednesday #4: The Great Gatsby (2013)

The music was a fundamental element in the conception of ‘The Great Gatsby’ (2013), directed by Baz Luhrmann, as it is easy to imagine; not only from the inspiration and variety of the music that is always possible to detect from the creations of the Australian filmmaker, but also because music, in this case, serves – more than ever – to make tangible the romantic, melancholic and humanly contradictory message of the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The protagonist of the novel-inspired movie is Jay Gatsby (portrayed with a breathtaking performance by the incredible Leonardo DiCaprio), a mysterious and fascinating man, characterized by an extraordinary inclination to hope and a rare sensibility, that makes him able to perceive every slightest vibration in people, sensing their intentions and thoughts. A capacity, however, completely dormant when it comes to his relationship with Daisy (Carey Mulligan), the only woman he dreams of, his forever impossible love from his youth, that Gatsby is determined to regain.

The movie is accompanied by the dynamic soundtrack, that follows a main theme, which is lost in the opulence of the first part of the film but emerges in the second one, the most dramatic and exciting section of the movie, when the tragic beauty of the protagonist shines in the images, sounds and the enchanting phrasing of Fitzgerald.

Baz Luhrmann and Jay-Z at the ‘The Great Gatsby’ Premiere

Released at the beginning of May 2013, the soundtrack of ‘The Great Gatsby’ – produced by Baz Luhrmann and Anton Monsted along with executive producer Jay-Z – includes many famous singers who have lent their voice for unreleased tracks or for reinterpretations of famous songs (from Young and Beautiful by Lana del Rey to the chat Back to Black by Beyoncè feat. Andre 3000), and features artists like Lana Del Rey, Florence and the Machine, Jay-Z, Nero, Sia, and will.i.am.

It was up to the famous musician and music producer supervising the multifaceted soundtrack of ‘The Great Gatsby’ to make it memorable, and we can for sure say that the result obtained was certainly powerful: ‘The Great Gatsby’ soundtrack seems to be an extraordinary melding of vintage and contemporary sounds, a huge accomplishment for Jay-Z and Luhrmann, whose goal was to ‘translate Jazz Age sensibilities’ into something that can speak to the modern listener.

In the magmatic collection that accompanies us in the incredible rollercoaster of emotions that is Jay Gatsby’s life, there are a couple tracks of Jay-Z, (like No Church in the Wild and 100$ Bill), but the highlight is the mash-up of very different genres and atmospheres, from Bryan Ferry to Lana Del Rey, from George Gershwin to (the QUEEN) Beyoncé Knowles.

The story is set in the early ’20s, but the music mixes quite freely, as I previously mentioned, between hip hop and jazz, electronic and charleston, alternative rock and Gershwin. The soundtrack is smartly assembled with an eye to the charts, and in fact – when the movie came out – it had been been up there to the top 10 of the Billboard chart for weeks. It’s really a melting-pot of different genres, but – for the most refined listeners that are able to perceive the real message behind the score – it’s not only that: it’s a journey through music history.

From Fergie, Q-Tip and GoonRock’s A Little Party Never Killed Nobody, to the charleston that turns into electro of will.i.am’s Bang Bang, which is the song that accompanies us through one of the protagonists’ insane parties, with fireworks that unleash the masses.

Lana Del Rey provides the main love theme with her single Young and Beautiful (that makes me cry everytime I listen to it). It is exactly what you’d expect a Lana Del Rey song called Young and Beautiful to sound like, and it is also exactly what you’d expect Gatsby and Daisy’s love story to sound like, in a sense: it’s haunting, melancholic and sad ballad that mirrors the Gatsby-Daisy romance, in all its up and downs, in all its heartache and moments of heartwarming happiness.

An unusual, but alluring version of Back to Black from Beyoncé and André 3000 is a pretty good representation of the ongoing  theme of the movie, the reminder that everything is not what it seems. A highlight track, that is for sure one of the showstoppers of the soundtrack, and you will agree with me just after seeing the title of the song (which is a mainstay in music’s history) and Beyoncé’s name all in the same sentence.

Even better is Jack White’s take on Love is Blindness by U2, giving it a torrid and violent blues sound, which is totally in his style. Bryan Ferry also plays a jazzy version of “his” Love Is the Drug and he then unleashes in Crazy in Love by Beyoncé, accompanied by the voice of Emeli Sandé. The XX that with their Together contribute with the most gloomy and minimalist song of the album, while the grand finale is entrusted to the amazing voice of the singer Sia, with Kill and Run.

If episodes like those of Gotye (Hearts a Mess, which you can hear during the credits) and Nero (Into the Past) are undoubtedly less significant and memorable than those previously mentioned, Coco O. is instead among the goodies of the soundtrack, providing us with another savory mixture of decadent and electronic atmospheres, during which you can not fail to dance.

Billboard had predicted that the album would debut at number two on the Billboard 200 chart with the first week of sales with over 100,000 copies: it sold 137,000 in the first week. 119,000 copies of the total ones sold in the first week were given by downloads that brought the album immediately to number one on the digital album chart, and that’s also why it got the record of best week of digital sales for a soundtrack.

You can listen to ‘The Great Gatsby’ playlist here:

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