Friday, May 3, 2013

The Great Gatsby Sound Track Blends 1920s and Modern Styles

By Alyssa Hamilton

The room is filled with music and laughter coming from the most affluent and social figures imaginable. Illicit champagne is in the glass of each party-goer; all are gathered in a mansion across from the green lights on the far side of the bay. Nearby, the eyes of Dr. TJ Eckleburg watch the dancers and flappers spin the night away in the arms of strangers, speaking easy in the moonlight. A man, impeccably dressed, watches the party rumbling around him, hoping that a specific young woman is an attendant that night. But as his eyes search the room, he realizes that she has failed to see the wealth of happiness he's raised across the bay.

Many will recognize this roaring scene as a party held by Jay Gatsby from the book The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. But soon, this will be reimagined in a new film adaptation directed and produced by Baz Luhrmann, to be released on May 10. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway, and Carey Mulligan as Daisy Bachanan. The film is expected to do very well in the box office upon its release, with its ensemble cast and the well-known nature of the book upon which it is based.

But something almost as interesting and anticipated as the film is the accompanying soundtrack.

To be released on May 7, the soundtrack was produced by American rapper Jay Z and features a variety of artists such as Lana del Rey, Florence + the Machine, The xx,, and Gotye, among others. The track listing includes both covers of songs and original pieces, such as the lead single “Young and Beautiful” by Lana del Rey.

The song was co-written by Lana del Rey and Baz Luhrmann to ensure that the song fit both the mood of the movie and the style of the artist. The song is typically Lana del Rey, with muted strings and percussions and the crooning vocal style favored by the singer. In the chorus, del Rey asks in her sultry style, “Will you still love me/when I’m no longer/young and beautiful?” The song is a reflection of the romantic relationship between Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby, who were torn apart by war and materialism. The lyrics also paint familiar images of del Rey’s aesthetic, creating lush scenes with hints of depravity lurking in her words, in addition to pleas to divine beings. The song most definitely fits the atmosphere of a doomed love shared by the two characters.

Another original song featured on the soundtrack is “Over the Love” by Florence + the Machine. The song, written by lead singer of the group Florence Welch, is told from the point of view of Daisy. Many of the symbols of the novel are featured in the song, such as the yellow dress worn by Daisy, the green light, and the Long Island Sound between East and West Egg, where she and Gatsby live respectively. The music, like that of the Lana del Rey song, features piano, strings, and percussion, but in this piece has a grander, more epic feeling that is typical of the style of Florence + the Machine. The vocals unleash the sheer power of Welch’s voice in the chorus, creating this sense of tremendous, swelling emotion felt by the novel’s character.

Another song on the soundtrack is a cover of the Amy Winehouse song “Back to Black” performed by Beyonce and Andre 3000. The original song was very jazzy in nature, and while it somewhat retains that feel, it has been modernized by a synthesizer playing the bassline. The music features minimal synthesizers, percussion, and electric guitar, with much of the focus on the vocals provided first by Andre 3000 and then Beyonce. The melody line is played with by the singers, however is still recognizable. The overall feeling of the track is darker, suiting the brooding undertones of the plot and relationship between Gatsby and Daisy.

All fourteen tracks, which add up to almost an hour of music, were selected to blend modern musical styles, Roaring Twenties ideas, and facets of the novel to enhance the film, featuring both popular artists and some that aren’t so wide-known. The soundtrack has something to offer everyone, whether they are lovers of the book,  appreciators of music, or even just looking for something new to listen to. It’s safe to say that it will make just as big a splash as the movie will upon its release.

Alyssa Hamilton is a freshman at Saint Thomas Aquinas College. She is majoring in English and would like to minor in Communication Arts and Writing. Upon graduation, she hopes to earn her living as a writer or be involved in the publishing industry.

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