Release Date: Nov 19, 2013
Record label: Island
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Soundtracks, Stage & Screen
Like other young adult book series turned into blockbuster franchises, it's easy to tell that The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a more lavish affair than its predecessor just by looking at its soundtrack, which features some of pop and rock's biggest names. Coldplay opens the album with the typically sweeping and earnest "Atlas," while Christina Aguilera's "We Remain" delivers the empowered balladry she's been known for since "Beautiful" (it also sounds a lot like Alicia Keys' "Girl on Fire," which seemed like a natural fit for this album). The album also includes several of the artists who defined 2013: Lorde turns the wry paranoia of Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" into something more obviously dark and creepy.
The artists featured on the soundtrack to The Hunger Games: Catching Fire are a representative cross-section of the current vogue in pop, indie, and EDM, with a few veteran ringers tossed in for good measure. From the camp of new-folk twaddle, Of Monsters and Men leads the twee charge with “Silhouettes,” reminiscent of the Cranberries in their austere perma-frown period, with martial drums and ominous strings lightly dipped in feedback, and a tune that goes nowhere. Imagine Dragons' “Who We Are” performs nearly the same trick, minus the tasteful fuzz and plus some tribal-sounding drums.
The soundtrack for The Hunger Games featured the subtitle Songs From District 12 and Beyond. This was a nice reference to the film itself, but it also evoked the folky, rabble-rousing bands like Arcade Fire, The Decemberists, The Low Anthem, and others that were included within. This time around, however, there’s no subtitle for the soundtrack; the film’s own Catching Fire title takes precedence, and the songs are made to match.
Phil Collins has retired, but his legacy endures in the new Hunger Games soundtrack, which channels his recipe for Eighties melodrama: synth strings, croaked vocals, crashing drums. (Even Lorde's cover of Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" sounds like she'd rather be singing "Against All Odds.") Apparent Hunger Games superfan Patti Smith does better with the Katniss-worshipping "Capital Letter," and Santigold contributes a blatant cop of "I Know There's Something Going On," a 1982 hit by Abba's Frida – produced and drummed by Phil Collins. Come back, Phil.
As a snapshot of this moment in pop music, the 12 songs on the soundtrack to "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" are emotional, love-obsessed and heavy on strum and rhythm. Like the first installment, the music represented on "Catching Fire" isn't necessarily in the movie. Rather, this collection is "inspired" by the film and delivers a loving imaginary soundtrack to a generation of PG-13ers living for Nov.