Some lyrics discuss drug use. Smatterings of muted profanities.
Ah, The Hunger Games, a wildly successful books series that has now not only grown into a collection of films, but albums of music inspired by said films. Just in case anyone is unclear on that count, again, music inspired by the films, not music that is actually in the films. For the music that is actually in the films, one would need to seek out the official score. More on that at the end of this review!
The Hunger Games movies have always been accompanied by artists who have been approached to sing/write a song that was inspired by the movie. The previous attempts at this have had contributions from The Civil Wars, Arcade Fire, Birdy, and Taylor Swift, and were met very positive receptions. Does the music inspired by Mockingjay follow this trend of using some slightly lesser-known talent to produce a collection of songs that are worth a listen or two? Let’s dive in.
The greatest presence on this album is Lorde, with two-and-a-half solo songs—one being a “rework” and the other a collaboration. “Meltdown,” the first track, features her along with artists Stromae, Pusha T, Q-Tip, and Haim. Before you say anything, I also think those names sound dumb. Sadly, the song is even dumber than the names. It sounds like your stereotypical top-40 pop song with some rap in the mixture. Throw in references to drugs such as ecstasy, and we’ve got about as generic a song as you can make in today’s market. I fail to see how “Meltdown” was inspired by The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt. 1.
When Lorde breaks away from her… interesting friends in “Meltdown,” we have “Yellow Flicker Beat.” The strange name refers to flames in one’s heart, so we thankfully have a song that makes sense on an album related to The Hunger Games. As for it’s musical merits, “Yellow Flicker Beat” is alright. Lorde’s unique and bluesy voice puts the listener in a mood appropriate for subject of the song, but the spell is broken when the drums come in with each chorus. The song could have been much better, but it seems as though the producers of this album were going more for radio-appeal than actual artistic excellence. Surprisingly, a version of the song that keeps the beat much slower and has some interesting reverb is included on the album and entitled “Flicker (Kanye West Rework).” I believe this is the first time in my life I have appreciated something Kanye West has done. Finally, Lorde’s last song is entitled “Ladder Song.” It is an eerie track and very appropriate to atmosphere present throughout The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt. 1, and one of my favorite of the entire album.
We eventually get a breath of fresh air with a delightful track entitled “Dead Air” from indie band CHVRCHES. The song has an 80’s sound to it, and we should thank the producers of the album for giving exposure to such a great indie band. However, I can’t help but feel that this song and a few others like it are marred by the amount of mediocre music with which they are juxtaposed. One such sub-par song is “Scream My Name” by Tove Lo (the singer of the wildly popular single “Habits”). It’s cookie-cutter pop with frequent silenced f-words in every chorus. Another big-name on this album is Ariana Grande, and she collaborates with an individual going by the moniker “Major Lazer” to give us a song full of sounds that feel as though they are physically assaulting your eardrums. It’s a dance song, a genre that for some strange reason Grande has felt the need to enter, but not one that anyone who values their sanity would listen to.
“The Leap” by Tinashe, “Animal” by XOV, and “This Is Not A Game” by The Chemical Brothers and Miguel are simply not worth anyone’s time. I’ve come to the conclusion that any song entitled “Animal” or “Animals” is most likely terrible, and XOV confirmed my theory. “Lost Souls” by Raury, “Plan the Escape (Son Lux Cover)” by Bat for Lashes, and “Original Beast” by Grace Jones may be appealing to some, but are all quite odd. These are not bad songs from an artistic perspective, but drawing from information about general music tastes they may not be enticing to most.
I would like to first inform Republic Records of the definition for the word “soundtrack”:
The Bottom Line
While this album attempts to follow the success of prior successes with music inspired by Hunger Games films, the truly great songs are tarnished by tracks from radio-centric singers including Ariana Grande and Tove Lo.