Review: Music from Baz Luhrmann’s Film The Great Gatsby

I was never a Leonardo DiCaprio fan. However, I must admit I’ve seen some of his movies. I’ve seen The Basketball Diaries when I was younger. I’ve seen Titanic instead of learning French (because what’s a French teacher supposed to do but play Titanic for us?). I’ve seen Inception and I even paid for it (what a total waste of money!). And I’ve seen Django, as you probably know by now.

My latest visits to the cinema introduced me to the spectacular trailer for The Great Gatsby, played by no other than Leo. At first, I was like „meh”, but I remembered the songs on the trailer and also the great visuals. So I kept it in mind, trying to ignore the fact that DiCaprio makes another dull appearance. With every visit to the cinema, I grew more and more impatient and now I must admit that The Great Gatsby is a must see, even for me.

Here in Romania I’ll have to wait few more days, since the official date for its premiere is 17th May. Meanwhile, I’ll have to enjoy the greatest soundtrack I’ve ever layed my ears on. This year, at least.

Titled Music from Baz Luhrmann’s Film The Great Gatsby and released through Interscope Records on May 6th, the album was produced by Baz Luhrmann and Anton Monsted, while Jay-Z served as the album’s executive producer. When you hear that Jay-Z is involved in a project, you automatically know that it’s going to be good. And also I have to praise the multi-talented director Baz Luhrmann for his involvement in producing the album.

I’ll have to quote Wikipedia for some precious information regarding the work that Luhrmann and Jay-Z did together.

„translating the Jazz Age sensibility of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel into the musical equivalents of our own times, through the blending of hip-hop, traditional jazz and other contemporary musical textures”

On his approach to the project, Luhrmann said: „The question for me in approaching Gatsby was how to elicit from our audience the same level of excitement and pop cultural immediacy toward the world that Fitzgerald did for his audience? And in our age, the energy of jazz is caught in the energy of hip-hop.”

A supergroup-like pack of artists recorded songs for the album, including Lana Del Rey, Florence and the Machine, Jay-Z, The xx,, Beyoncé, André 3000, Bryan Ferry, and many more. It is quite the crowd!

Del Rey said of her experience contributing to the project:

„It was an honor to work with Baz Lurhmann on his amazing adaptation of one of the most extraordinary books ever written. The movie is highly glamorous and exciting; Rick Nowels and I were thrilled to write the song for the film.”

Focused on decadence and love and triangles, this whole soundtrack transposes (I guess, I haven’t seen the) movie in a modern way of thinking, while keeping the 20s close. It is a mixture of hip hop and jazz and electronica and indie with slow ballads (performed by Sia and Lana Del Rey) and heartbreaking lyrics. Samples of lines from the actual movie can be heard as standalone tracks or at the beginning of some songs (ie: Jay-Z’s 100$ Bill). Florence & The Machine scores yet another song for a movie (after Heavy in Your Arms from The Twilight Saga: Eclipse and Breath of Life for Snow White and the Huntsman) and this time it takes baroque to a whole new level.

The Deluxe edition of the soundtrack includes:

100$ Bill by Jay-Z, with an intro spoken by Leo’s carachter, it is a classic rap song, nothing out of the ordinary for the music mogul. (7/10)

Back To Black by Beyonce & Andre 3000 is maybe the worst cover song on this soundtrack. Andre 3000 doesn’t manage to salvage this one, even with all his charisma. Beyonce’s vocals give me the impression she wants to be the black Lana Del Rey, but she has no chance to occupy that spot. (6/10)

Young And Beautiful sung by Lana Del Rey is another haunting piece by the wild songstress, chanting forever and ever the lyrics „Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful?”, echoing Daisy’s desperation. The orchestra brings out emotions hidden deep inside of you, and Lana’s voice, so soothing and shy, empowers you. (10/10)

Love Is Blindness covered by Jack White (originally by U2) has a rough sound, emphasized by White’s voice and guitars. I am glad that they didn’t chose this one as a lead single. (6/10)

Crazy in Love by the collective effort of Emeli Sande and The Bryan Ferry Orchestra is one of the best covers I’ve heard in years (this seems a little much, until you find out I kinda hate covers and remixes). Emeli Sande is one of the best female vocalists of 2012, and also a very good songwriter. With The Bryan Ferry Orchestra she manages to bring class (and also a lot of jazz) to Beyonce’s classic debut song. (10/10)

Bang Bang. I couldn’t believe that this song was performed by the actual He makes such bad music lately, it’s hard to believe it’s even him. If you want jazz and Louis Armstrong and (apparently) EDM and electropop, you came to the right song. It also preserves the vocabulary of a real life hip hopper, so +1 for being funny too. (9/10)

I Like Large Parties spoken by Elizabeth Debicki (who plays Jordan) is next aaaaaand… It’s gone. (in the true spirit of internet memes). I won’t rate this one.

A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got) made me mistake Fergie for a black fat dude. It has additional vocals by Q Tip & GoonRock. It has swing, hip-hop and dubstep, all in one, with Fergie’s powerhouse vocals. She’s so underused in The Black Eyed Peas! (9/10)

Love Is The Drug by Bryan Ferry with The Bryan Ferry Orchestra starts off like an old Sinatra song, but after a few notes you recognize Ferry’s unmistakeable vocals. I am an old fan of Roxy Music, but this version of the song, with its jazzy-jazz and bass and sleazy strings make „oohs” go „oooooooohs”. (10/10)

Can’t Repeat the Past? it’s a dialogue between Leo and Tobey Maguire (yes, Spidey is in this one!).

Hearts A Mess by the Belgian-Australian revelation of 2012, Gotye, is plain boring. Worst. Original. Song. On. The. Album. (1/10) sorry, I’ll +1 this, cause of the jazzy side of it. (2/10)

Where The Wind Blows by Coco O. of Quadron. Piano is strong with this one, but it seems quite repetitive and the voice of Coco O. is quite boring. So this song is not quite it needed to be. (2/10)

The Green Light. Dialogue, apparently.

No Church in the Wild by the Carter Army. Jay-Z and Kanye West featuring Frank Ocean and The-Dream. Best combo on the album (found only on the Deluxe edition). Frank Ocean’s emotion, with Jay-Z’s roughness and Kanye’s straighforwardness. Favorite lyrics? Kanye’s, of course. (11/10)

Coke on her black skin made a stripe like a zebra
I call that jungle fever
You will not control the threesome
Just roll the weed up until I get me some
We formed a new religion
No sins as long as there’s permission’
And deception is the only felony
So never f-ck nobody wit’out tellin’ me
Sunglasses and Advil
Last night was mad real
Sun comin’ up, 5 a.m.
I wonder if they got cabs still
Thinkin’ ’bout the girl in all-leopard
Who was rubbin’ the wood like Kiki Shepard
Two tattooes, one read “No Apologies”
The other said “Love is cursed by monogamy”
That’s somethin’ that the pastor don’t preach
That’s somethin’ that a teacher can’t teach
When we die, the money we can’t keep
But we prolly spend it all ’cause the pain ain’t cheap

Over The Love by Florence + The Machine and I am speachless. I don’t know where to begin explaining this song and I am pretty sure I don’t want to. It has such a power, fueled by Florence’s angelic voice, and it builds up constantly towards the end of the song, filled with book refferences. (10/10)

Together is an overhyped material by the legendary band The xx. I was expecting more from them, I’m guessing this is the „dark” side of the album, but I’m not seeing it. The paino saves it, though, only barely. (5/10)

Into the Past by Nero was the revelation of the album. At first, I confused Nero with Neo (a band that visited our country back in 2008, at the second edition of B’estfest). Slow-tempo and dubstep-ey, the song has an eerie feeling to it. It hears like it’s from the future, blending perfectly with what Lana and Florence and Sia do on this album. (9/10) (I am not very coherent with this one, because I don’t usually listen to this kind of music.)

Kill and Run by Sia wanted to bring more emotion and sensitivity to the album. After you get past by the combo of soothing voice and killing suggestions, you may like it. Or maybe not. For me, it was not. (6/10)

Over the Love (Of You) by Florence and the Machine and SBTRKT is a different take on the said song, remixed and given an electronic sound, but keeping the same rhythm as on the original. (8/10)

Young and Beautiful (DH Orchestral Version) by Lana Del Rey feels, at first, like a waste of time. With little differences applied to the beautiful original, it is a more string-ey version of the song. (9/10)

Gatsby Believed in the Green Light. Dialogue. Stupid dialogue.

For those of you who are keen on seeing the movie, listen to the soundtrack. For those of you who are Jay-Z fans, or Florence fans, or The xx fans, or Jack White fans, listen to the soundtrack. For those of you who love music, listen to the soundtrack.

It’s commercial and all that, but it’s also great.