The buzz about this soundtrack is almost as colossal as the movie itself. Almost. When news got out that hip hop mogul Jay-Z would be producing the soundtrack for Baz Luhrmann’s film adaptation of The Great Gatsby, music critics and fans of the original novel were eager to find out what direction the rapper would go in. The public was naturally curious as to how a hip hop giant of the 21st century could pull a soundtrack together for a movie set in the Roaring Twenties. Not surprisingly, Jay-Z pulled out the big guns for this project, including wife Beyoncé, Andre 3000, Gotye, The xx, and Florence + the Machine, to name only a few. The addition of the retro-inspired Lana Del Rey, an obviously natural fit for the soundtrack, diversified the set even more.
Like the movie, the soundtrack is a gamble. Most people agree that Jay-Z took an epic risk using modern day hip hop and pop artists for a film that is so symbolic of such a defining time period in our history. Naturally, critical reception of the soundtrack has been mixed. Some critics describe it as a sort of hodgepodge of mismatched tracks that are wildly inappropriate, and far from representative, considering the time period of the original novel’s setting. Fans of the soundtrack beg to differ, instead interpreting it as a carefully crafted fusion of modern day hip hop, jazz, pop, and alternative music that is largely symbolic of the canonized novel. One look at the titles of the tracks Jay-Z chose, such as Goyte’s “Hearts a Mess,” and it’s obvious they were indeed meticulously selected to serve as a musical manifestation of the film’s focal point: the tortured romance of the relentless Jay Gatsby and the always flighty Daisy Buchanan.
As with the film itself, the jury is still out on the soundtrack. Even so, there is no doubting the unmistakable cinematic quality of this soundtrack that Jay-Z was able to capture with his carefully selected musical contributions. The tracklist, while controversial, is undoubtedly worth the buzz. It’s a flawlessly evocative parallel to the film itself, increasingly compelling and climactic from one track to the next. Highlights include the arrestingly haunting “Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Rey, as well as the unexpected, flapper-esque cover of Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” by Emeli Sandé featuring the Bryan Ferry Orchestra.
The Great Gatsby Soundtrack is now available for purchase on iTunes for $15.99.