The soundtrack of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby was never going to have an easy task; it must somehow transmit the ethereality of 1920s American decadence while simultaneously indulging contemporary appetites for extravagence. Luhrmann and Jay Z together have brought in an artistic cast worthy of The Expendables, with heavyweights in every corner. They aren’t allowed to dominate, however, as they are centred on the themes and the plot of The Great Gatsby.
The first track, Jay Z’s new ‘100$ bill’ is written for the film, with “yellow cars” running through the lyrics. Its expertly crafted line “History don’t repeat itself it rhymes, 1929 still” links irrevocably the excesses of the 20s with today’s, while the driving pulse of the track really adds a sense of pace. Lana Del Rey’s ‘Young and Beautiful’ invokes the lurking ruin of this system with her line “Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful?”.
Jazz and soul runs through the soundtrack, with will.i.am, Coco O. and Fergie using jazz samples to effectively set the dance scenes in a 20s context. The Bryan Ferry Orchestra backs Emeli Sande well, and then Bryan Ferry himself in the album’s most explicitly period song.
The main complaint is that ‘100$ Bill’ is however by far the heaviest hitting song of the set, a strong start leaving one expecting an engagement and tone that the rest don’t quite live up to, with an entirely forgettable final four songs. The jazz influences seem to be a vague gesture towards previous eras as opposed to any real attempt to bring authenticity.
However it’s an enjoyable soundtrack incapable of causing offense, with Florence and the Machine and The XX in particular providing typically strong singles. Don’t pay too much attention to the soundtrack, it won’t improve your experience of the film; just enjoy the music.
Track to download: 100$ Bill