Music review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

As a stand-alone collection of music, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire works well enough.

The New Zealand singer Lorde’s rendition of Everybody Wants to Rule the World is a standout in soundtrack of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Dan Himbrechts / EPA
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Various Artists

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

(Republic / Island)


When fantasy novels morph into movies, a soundtrack studded with tunes by rock and indie acts has become de rigueur. Paramount Pictures turned to music by the likes of Muse and Thom Yorke for film adaptations of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga, and Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is similarly wise to the audience-broadening appeal of popular sounds.

An adaptation of the second book in the American author Suzanne Collins’s adored trilogy about the teenager Katniss Everdeen’s adventures in the post-apocalyptic nation of Panem, the film also has a “proper” orchestral score by the veteran composer James Newton Howard. One wonders how he feels about Coldplay, The National, Christina Aguilera and the rest gatecrashing his gig.

It’s interesting, too, to note that the British singer Ed Sheeran wrote three songs especially for Catching Fire, all of which were rejected by Lionsgate. When placing one tune in a major movie can earn an artist upwards of US$300,000 (Dh1.1 million) – and help them tap a new demographic – everybody wants to muscle in.

If there’s a welcome shoo-in here, it’s the gifted New Zealand singer and songwriter Lorde. At 17, she has a strength and tangible independence that chimes with that of Everdeen and her sombre take on Tears for Fears’ Everybody Wants to Rule the World does have something of the post-apocalyptic about it.

Capital Letter, a rolling acoustic guitar-driven affair by the very commanding Patti Smith is also striking and together with The Lumineers’ fine dust-bowl ballad Gale Song, it harks back to the more traditionalist-sounding tracks of The Hunger Games, the film adaptation of the first book in Collins’s trilogy, where the songs were vetted by the music producer T-Bone Burnett.

In Catching Fire, Coldplay are instantly recognisable as themselves on the decent piano ballad Atlas. Elsewhere, Christina Aguilera’s voice still sounds impressively Olympian on We Remain, but the song is no classic. The envelope-pushing, such as it is, falls mostly to Las Vegas’s Imagine Dragons, whose tribal, percussion-heavy backing track on Who We Are conjures the production on (fairly) recent records by Beyoncé.

Having watched the film, you could argue that the Lumineers’ track aside, none of the songs seem especially synonymous with the scenes they accompany and that kind of dovetailing is surely what effective music placement should be about. However, as a stand-alone music collection, Catching Fire works well enough.

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