Noted “Tom Hiddleston as F. Scott Fitzgerald” enthusiast Meghan O’Keefe and I take on The Great Gatsby and debate each track on this epic soundtrack. How did Beyonce do on her cover of Amy Winehouse? How does Florence Welch compare to Lana Del Rey and Sia?
1. Jay-Z, “100$ Bill”
SL: A solid rap track from Hova. The movie dialogue is the only thing that derails the song. It’s distracting, whereas everything else (from the horns, “$100 bill” repeats) all makes sense. 3 1/2 out of 5
MO: I actually like the movie dialogue because I enjoy motion pictures. I also like that they’re quotes from the book because it’s fun to imagine F. Scott Fitzgerald writing lines like, “Her voice is full of money,” with the dream that a rapper and entrepreneur in 2013 would one day incorporate them into his song. “The book is great, Zelda, but it’s missing one thing!” “What?” “The dialogue should be set to a style of music that hasn’t been invented yet!” “What?” “Are you drunk?” “Of course!” “Okay.” But I also give it a 3 1/2 out of 5 because it’s good, but not great, but also not terrible.
2. Beyoncé and André 3000, “Back to Black”
SL: This is the biggest disappointment on the soundtrack. With everyone hunger for new music, Beyonce should have gone with an original instead of trying to take on and failing to bring new life to one of Amy Winehouse’s best songs. 1 out of 5
MO: I think the arrangement of this is sleepy and practically smothers the angst out of the song. Also, Beyonce lives such a perfect life that she can’t convey the same bitter pain in her voice that Amy could. Boo. Also 1 out of 5.
3. will.i.am, “Bang Bang”
SL: Finally a solid track from will.i.am that doesn’t go heavy on the electronic sounds or rely on too many gimmicks (say like a faux-Brit accent from Britney Spears). The rapper has fun with the jazz sounds and keeps it simple and fun. 4 out of 5
MO: This song terrifies me because I enjoy it so much. This is the artist I’ve always wanted will.i.am to be without knowing it (and I’m convinced the back up singer is Britney Spears doing a faux-flapper accent). 3 out of 5.
4. Fergie, Q-Tip and GoonRock, “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)”
SL: Fergie is a polarizing singer at times. Fun and catchy on some songs, garish and loud and others. Here, she’s all over the place but the track fails to get the party started. 1/2 out of 5
MO: I actually really like this song! I enjoy garish things! I will happily go to this party with my friends: glitter, gin and Liza Minelli. 4 out of 5.
5. Lana Del Rey, “Young and Beautiful”
SL: The soundtrack’s first single makes good use of Lana Del Rey. The gangsta Nancy Sinatra cleans up nicely and delivers proper send up to her moniker showing more here than her previous singles. 3 1/2 out of 5
MO: The song has a dreamy haze about it. It reminds me less of Baz Luhrmann’s style and evokes more of Francis Ford Coppola’s romantic take on the book. The lyrics are lovelorn, and equally hopeful and pessimistic about the outcome of Gatsby and Daisy’s love affair. I like the bells, too. (Those are bells, right?) 4 out of 5.
6. Bryan Ferry with The Bryan Ferry Orchestra, “Love Is the Drug”
SL: Bryan Ferry is one of the few male singers on this soundtrack. His tenor is a nice change of pace from all the ladies of love. This is a solid speakeasy number that keeps the groove going. 3 out of 5
MO: I don’t think this song is any way a massive stand out on the album, but it’s keeping the embers of the Jazz Age mood alive. 3 out of 5.
7. Florence and the Machine, “Over the Love”
SL: The best and worst part about this song is how much of a Florence track it sounds like. I would have loved to see her take more of a risk here. Instead we get a a B-side from her Ceremonials LP. 3 out of 5
MO: I’m a massive Florence fan and this song is such a disappointment to me. I agree it feels like a B-side from Ceremonials, but her B-sides are usually experimental and bold. This song is not only playing it safe, but is too on the nose for me. Still, it’s not a bad song…I’ve just heard it before. 3 out of 5.
8. Coco O. of Quadron, “Where the Wind Blows”
SL: On this track, Coco has the pleasure of channeling Lina and other singers that combine old school jazz sounds with modern R&B. It’s a fun, light track. 4 out of 5
MO: I think this might actually be my favorite song on the soundtrack. It’s a perfect blend of old and new and the lyrics feel like they could be from a modern single woman stalking the town or a fresh faced flapper Charleston-ing in a pool of champagne. 5 out of 5.
9. Emeli Sandé and The Bryan Ferry Orchestra, “Crazy in Love”
SL: Emeli probably gets to have the most fun on this soundtrack: she gets to tackle Beyonce’s first solo single. Whereas Beyonce failed to do much with her cover, Emeli manages to have fun and infuse a jazzy flair to the track that feels like an homage rather than a attempt to outdo the queen. 3 1/2 out of 5
MO: There’s something sweeter and more wistful about Emeli’s delivery of this song than Beyonce’s that’s rather delightful. A fine cover. 4 out of 5.
10. The xx, “Together”
SL: This tragic track from The xx is hypnotizing as it is dramatic. It may be what you’d come to expect from the duo but it’s not as sleepy as “Angels” and some of their other new tracks. 4 1/2 out of 5
MO: There’s a part of me that recognizes that this song is a legitimately good song that I should enjoy and admire and there’s another part of me that is angry that the dance-y and jazzy part of the soundtrack is done. I’m the asshole who likes Gatsby’s beautiful shirts and lavish parties more than the tragedy. 3 out of 5.
11. Gotye, “Hearts a Mess”
SL: “Hearts a Mess” comes from the singer’s 2006 album. It’s a decent track but nothing as lively or catchy as his breakthrough single, “Somebody That I Used Know.” 2 out of 5
MO: This song is too long. (Is that a valid critique?) Seriously, though, it’s too long. It starts off pleasant enough, but by the end I’m tired of Gotye’s voice. It sounds like he’s whining. (Am I whining now?) 1 out of 5.
12. Jack White, “Love Is Blindness”
SL: Another cover here but if there’s one artist I trust to take on U2 it’s Jack White. While most artists tend to go the acoustic route when covering this track, White remains faithful to the song’s harder edge and The Edge’s guitar solo. 3 out of 5
MO: I really like this cover. It’s not only an incredibly gritty arrangement, but White’s voice pulses with romance and rage. 4 out of 5.
13. Nero, “Into the Past”
SL: Playing in the background of a Baz Luhrmann flick, I can see how this song would add to the impact of the movie. But as a song, it doesn’t do anything for me. 1 1/2 out of 5
MO: It definitely has a “background music” quality to it–I think it comes from the hushed singing voice. However, the more I listen to it, I enjoy it. 3 out of 5.
14. Sia, “Kill and Run”
SL: Easily the best track on the album. With three singers battling it out for the tragic love song on this album, Sia comes out on top. Her song is more cinematic than Florence’s and her vocals are more lively than Lana’s. It’s a strong finish to the soundtrack. 5 out of 5
MO: Well, Sia is Sia. She’s sensational. I think I prefer Lana’s tune at the moment because it’s slightly poppier, but the more I listen to “Kill & Run,” the more it grows on me. It’s definitely the most accomplished and beautiful track on the album. I’m not putting it on repeat quite yet, but I could see it happening. 4 out of 5