Despite desperately trying to connect with its audience, Music from Baz Luhrmann’s Film The Great Gatsby is a scattered attempt to cover all musical bases, leaving you wanting something more cohesive and unified.
Baz Luhrmann’s soundtracks are renowned for their ‘essential hits’ nature so it makes sense that he would turn to entertainment zeitgeist machine, Jay-Z, in capturing the multifarious music styles relevant to contemporary listeners.
Naturally, Jay-Z opens the soundtrack with ‘100$Bill’. Establishing himself as an elder statesmen intimately familiar with Gatsby’s story of decadent tragedy, Hova raps about going “numb until I can’t feel” with a subdued delivery. Lana Del Ray does her pouty best on ‘Young and Beautiful’ and Jack White’s bombastic cover of U2’s ‘Love Is Blindness’ whirrs violently, with fervent guitar solos and howling vocals.
Staying true to Luhrmann’s manic cinematic vision, the soundtrack is full of contrasts. Bryan Ferry adds sensuous crooner touches to the jazz-flavoured appropriation of his classic ‘Love is the Drug’. The ‘party’ atmosphere starts on will.i.am’s ‘Bang Bang’, a misguided attempt at jazzed-up electro that demonstrates why Pitbull and jazz should never be combined. ‘A Little Party Never Killed Nobody’ featuring Fergie and Q-Tip raves like a Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards Afterparty – insipid dubstep-lite drop included.
The soundtrack is more effective at capturing Gatsby’s tragic core, notably Andre 3000 and Beyonce’s cover of Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black. Andre 3000’s vacant vocals and Beyonce’s hushed laments lend pathos, while washing over sultry guitars and spaced-out R&B production. The xx’s ‘Together’ continues the R&B ambience until crashing out on a wave of dramatic strings. Gotye’s ‘Heart’s a Mess’ marries inner suffering with grand(er) musical arrangements and proffers the most pertinent line on the soundtrack: “I’m just desperate to connect”; ironically, this pinpoints the soundtrack’s problem.
BY LARRY LAI
The Great Gatsby Soundtrack is out now on Interscope.