May 16th sees the UK general release of the latest Baz Luhrmann movie, The Great Gatsby. Gatsby is the story of Nick Carraway during the roaring 20s and how he becomes a not so casual observer of the lifestyles of the rich and fabulous in Long Island, mainly the life of the newly wealthy Jay Gatsby. As Luhrmann’s filmic interpretation of the novel by celebrated American author F. Scott Fitzgerald has yet to be seen we here at MTTM are relying on the music of the movie to help us gain a better understanding as to what to expect.
With other Luhrmann productions – Romeo and Juliet, Strictly Ballroom and Moulin Rouge – we know that he is very shrewd in using music wisely to help set the mood, the pace, the scene and the idea of a movie. He and his musical team place songs so well in a score that they often become an omniscient character, a narrator even to the story. Therefore, naturally our curiosity has been piqued.
The soundtrack opens with Jay-Z’s 100$ Bill and is laced with dialogue of the film, rather confusingly Mr Carter mentions events and people that didn’t actually exist during the 1920s which makes the song stick out for all the wrong reasons.
Jay-Z’s other half attempted to cover Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black featuring Andre 3000; again this is confusing and you cannot help but feel that the raw gritty desperation of Winehouse’s original may have suited the soundtrack more rather than Beyonce’s breathy vocals and Andre 3000 recently developed stutter. The third track on the album offers something by way of what we expect from Gatsby. Will.i.am’s Bang Bang at least offers a modern take on a Charlston sound.
Highlights of the album include Lana Del Rey’s Young and Beautiful; the lyrics reflect the mood of the story and Del Rey’s vocals complement the song – there is a subtle and quiet desperation to be heard. Emeli Sande’s cover of Beyonce’s Crazy in Love seriously lends it sound well to the soundtrack; the arrangement with added brass section almost reeks of jazz and liqueur and it is a splendid contribution. Jack White’s Love is Blindness is scintillatingly epic. The squealing guitars are so out of place with the time period but the intensity and the passion are overwhelming.
Overall the album does not meet nor does it exceed expectations. The soundtracks to previous Luhrmann films have been more memorable. One can only hope that when the sound is heard accompanying the film that it blends together much more seamlessly as the soundtrack alone does not clearly produce a definitive emotion.