A proper soundtrack should supplement the film it originates from, helping to tell the story through song by capturing the tone of the movie or otherwise represent it with the songs chosen. Very rarely does a soundtrack expand on the original storyline into an adventure of its own, able to stand strong as its own entity but also doubling up with its movie for complete domination. The original soundtrack for The Hunger Games does just this with a complete album of songs made specifically with the movie in mind.
While the movie itself is classified as a sci-fi, action/drama film inspired by the first book in the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, the music isn’t what would normally be expected. The soundtrack is a predominately folky arrangement of songs by artists like The Civil Wars, the Secret Sisters and the commanding voice of Neko Case. In fact, many of the album’s more familiar and mainstream acts who are known for their respective sounds offer up something completely different for this. Take Maroon 5, for example, known for their funk-influenced pop. Adam Levine‘s unmistakeable vocals front a yearning, earnest ballad in Come Away To The Water, with folk roots and accompanied vocals by newcomer Rozzi Crane. Taylor Swift drops the innocent schoolgirl image for something much more organic and (dare I say) mature, on her collaboration with recent Grammy winners The Civil Wars on Safe And Sound – easily the best song Taylor has ever laid her hands on. The Decemberists add punch to their normally acoustic and folk-rock sound on One Engine while Glen Hansard, known for his role in the movie and soundtrack for Once as well as the folk duo The Swell Season, completely rocks out on Take The Heartland.
Glen’s track might be the one misstep on this otherwise superb record. Unnecessarily noisy and out of place both in relation to the rest of the soundtrack and the movie itself. Even Kid Kudi, whose name sticks out like a sore thumb amongst the others, fits in with his electronic-meets-psychedelic The Ruler And The Killer – an appropriate song during the initial training scenes in the movie.
The Arcade Fire provide perhaps the most conquering moments at the very beginning of the album (and the beginning of the movie credits) with their militant, trance-like Abraham’s Daughter, with vocals done by Régine Chassagne. Sung, as if by a brainwashed society who have accepted their fate, it tells the tale of young lives sacrificed, and stands out as not only the soundtrack’s best but one of the band’s best as well.
There are few movie soundtracks that can have a lengthy shelf-life rather than floundering into a quick irrelevance but The Hunger Games may be amongst them. It has the rare likelihood of carrying on beyond the theatre-life of the movie it represents. Produced by legendary studio magician T-Bone Burnett, the man behind the last soundtrack to take on an extended life of its own, O Brother, Where Art Thou, The Hunger Games soundtrack could very well end up breathing new life into the concept of the movie soundtrack with its carefully selected group of artists and well-crafted songs that actually fit the movie. Whether anything Hunger Games appeals to you or not, this soundtrack album works beyond it on its own level.
1. Abraham’s Daughter – Arcade Fire
2. Tomorrow Will Be Kinder – Secret Sisters
3. Nothing to Remember – Neko Case
4. Safe And Sound – Taylor Swift featuring The Civil Wars
5. The Ruler And The Killer – Kid Cudi
6. Dark Days – Punch Brothers
7. One Engine – The Decemberists
8. Daughter’s Lament – Carolina Chocolate Drops
9. Kingdom Come – The Civil Wars
10. Take The Heartland – Glen Hansard
11. Come Away To The Water – Maroon 5 featuring Rozzi Crane
12. Run Daddy Run – Miranda Lambert featuring Pistol Annies
13. Rules – Jayme Dee
14. Eyes Open – Taylor Swift
15. Lover Is Childlike – The Low Anthem
16. Just A Game – Birdy