Review Summary: Not as good as the movie, but still an adequate auditory companion for those enthralled by the Hunger Games trilogy.
To find a series that has caused this
kind of a frenzy – bordering on downright pandemonium - you would probably have to go back to the commencement of the Twilight saga in 2008. Ever since the mass media caught wind of there being a film adaptation to the popular Hunger Games
novel series, there has been everything from T-shirts to calendars fresh off the press for mass consumption. The target audience was so eager that they ate it right up before the movie even hit theaters. Sure, you could argue that their enthusiasm was a result of the books’ success, but even considering how excellent they were, oftentimes quality writing fails to translate onto the big screen. Critical reactions to the first film have been generally positive, so even though it appears that fans’ good faith has been rewarded, it still says something about the nature of consumerism in our society. And that brings me to my next point – what
exactly is this soundtrack? None of the songs were used during the movie, save a select few that were obligatorily played back as the ending credits rolled. It is different from the score – and yes, it appears to be just another shameless cash-grab for a series that has in its first week already accumulated a worldwide total of just under three hundred and sixty-five million dollars. With that said, does the overwhelming success of the movie and a lack of integration of the actual songs automatically make the soundtrack a throwaway? To many it just might. However, the official soundtrack to The Hunger Games
still possesses plenty of redeeming moments, perhaps giving even the most cynical ear a reason to give the compilation a chance.
The Hunger Games
’ soundtrack is a star-studded affair, featuring the likes of Arcade Fire, Taylor Swift, Kid Cudi, The Decemberists, Maroon 5, Miranda Lambert, and The Civil Wars. Despite the diversity in terms of the musical approach of each artist, the soundtrack is surprisingly cohesive. Taylor Swift is noticeably toned down, sounding as somber as ever on ‘Safe & Sound’, while Arcade Fire abandons their grandiose personality for a shadowy, tribal introduction in ‘Abraham’s Daughter.’ Kid Cudi contributes one of the most memorable performances here, with the sinister ‘The Ruler And The Killer’ – a track whose passion exudes the “girl on fire” phrase frequently used to describe the heroine Katniss. Overall, the tempo of the album is rather bleak and downtrodden…possibly as a result of the morbid nature of the “games” that spark so much emotion during the plot of the film. One track that manages to spark something more upbeat, however, is ‘One Engine’ - an offering by The Decemberists that is clearly in more of a rock n’ roll vein than the rest of the disc. But the bottom line is that a quick glance at the list of artists composing the soundtrack may be misleading, resulting in false assertions about the musical direction of the album. It is anything but cheerful and lighthearted, thus making it an appropriate depiction of The Hunger Games
despite the songs’ virtual absence in the movie itself.
A few surprises also make headway, most notably the progressive bluegrass band Punch Brothers, along with the old-time string band The Carolina Chocolate Drops and acoustic songstress Birdy. Punch Brothers’ contribution, entitled ‘Dark Days’, swells with a heart-warming chorus to a background of mandolins, banjos, and even a fiddle. Its atmosphere, along with efforts from Swift and The Civil Wars, brings a country tinge to the soundtrack without abandoning its dark, foreboding theme. ‘Daughter’s Lament’ is a vocal-centric contribution, although The Carolina Chocolate Drops still make their identity heard through a beautiful string serenade that complements the singer’s voice perfectly. Birdy ends the entire experience with haunting pianos, rolling thunderous drum beats, and a voice so captivating that the closer ‘Just A Game’ will be sure to resonate with you long after the runtime has expired. From start to finish, and even in the vast shadow of far more established artists, there are enough gems worth discovering to make The Hunger Games
’ soundtrack a worthwhile endeavor for those in search of something fresh and completely unique.
In the end, The Hunger Games
is still a simple case of commercial exploitation. The songs have nothing to do with the movie, at best attempting to portray the mood as an entirely separate entity. But the strange thing is that it sort of works. None of these songs will top the charts, and none of them are very immediate, but they work together like a well-oiled machine that delivers a relatively accurate depiction of how you might feel while reading the book or watching the film. If you are one of the suckers who rushed out to get this soundtrack either before or immediately after the movie, this might be one scenario where being taken advantage of actually feels kind of good.