Mid-travelogue, a post about the Great Gatsby soundtrack, because I read it once too many times as a child, and it's the most quintessentially American novel I could think of while searching for American novels to read before my trip to the US. And because it's releasing soon and I love Leo diCaprio and Tobey Maguire and I'm pumped up to watch it. Even if it's in 3D.
The songlist itself is roughly separated into two halves: songs to listen to on days you just want to feel sorry for your life and songs that you could make while on crack and in the mood to party.
That said, it's not all bad.
For one, it's the perfect soundtrack to associate with Gatsby's life. All that mad partying masking the awful screams of a broken heart that doesn't want to step out of the vortex of its own doing. Yes, that's how it sounds, with the RandomDeadPerson feat. Jay Z mixings, Lana del Ray weeping her heart out, and the squeaky guy from Gotye on the same soundtrack. It (sort of) makes sense for a movie soundtrack to have happy songs for the first half of the movie while everything's going good, and sad songs for the part where the hero is crying over a girl he can't have and ruining his life with alcohol. But what these songs try to capture in 'raw'ness, they lose in good musical taste. More times than not, the album puts out the kind of songs you'd expect to hear in the basement of an alternative club in London's dirtiest, most wannabe punk neighbourhood: generic soft ambient music tenderfooting a low wail that turns into screaming that you wish would stop (at least when his voice breaks thrice successively). Maybe that's the cloying, darkness-creeping-up-inside-you-till-you-want-to-break-your-body kind of feeling they were going for. If so, then yes, it works.
Other than that, it just seems like the kind of album that was put together by the kind of sixteen-year-old kids with fluorescent orange skinny jeans and coiffed updos that the movie industry occasionally sends around to stand awkwardly on red carpets as musical geniuses. No matter how many phony music producers the big guys try to convince to stake their bets on these "next big thing[s]", or how many indie chicks they try to draw in for a mildly obsessive fan-following, these kids are not virtuousos, they're just kids with serious developmental issues.
Soundtracks are usually just one part of a far more complex whole, and I haven't seen the movie yet, so I won't stake my bets till I see how it all looks together. With a soundtrack like this, you need to have absolutely mind-blowing direction, and there certainly is great scope for the dreamy cinemascapes and dark pop scenes that almost materialise when you're listening to the album a song at a time. So I have high hopes for what the music directors plan to do with it. But let's wait and watch.
A final word? There are some people who like to listen to music that sounds like Brownian motion on three different drugs at the same time. And some people who like the distinct buzz of a hangover of a night you were so gone you're not sure you had sex with a fucked-up person or not. For those people, the Gatsby soundtrack is spot on. There are others who like soundtracks not for the music but for what they evoke (either within you or from the movie), and for them, this is one to watch. And then there are those people who aren't interested in listening to entire albums (or reading long, angsty reviews like this one) and are just looking for new songs to add to their playlists. I recommend you download "Bang Bang" by will.i.am, "Love is the Drug" by Bryan Ferry & the Bryan Ferry Orchestra, and "No Church in the Wild" by Jay Z and Kanye West (feat Frank Ocean & The-Dream), [Edit: and the haunting Young and Beautiful by Lana del Ray] and leave it at that.
The Great Gatsby soundtrack is a daring album, for all the different elements it mixes and how. If it's any indication of how the movie is going to be, it's working. I'm booking tickets tonight.