“The Hunger Games” has dominated nearly all forms of media, inspiring films, nail polish, games and now a companion album to accompany the film. Featuring some of the biggest artists today alongside some indie artists on the rise and some folk and country artists. From Taylor Swift and Maroon 5 to up-and-comer Jayme Dee (a YouTube singing sensation, now working on her first album) “The Hunger Games (Songs From District 12 and Beyond)” has a range of artists that attests to the book’s ability to draw in people from all walks of life.
By now, I hope you know the premise of “The Hunger Games”. If not, please get out from under your rock and experience life. Basically, the book/film/games/music takes place in a post-war-torn North America known as Panem separated into twelve districts and one capitol. Each year one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district are chosen to fight to the death. The books focuses on Katniss, a 16 year-old from District 12.
While usually background isn’t necessary for a soundtrack, it makes you appreciate the details in the lyrics and music if you know the basic storyline. Because District 12 is basically stuck in the 1930s — meaning they are poor, wear similar clothing and seem to always be covered in dirt — the music is mainly folksy with a smattering of battle themes.
The album begins with the ephemeral “Abraham’s Daughter” by Arcade Fire. While a great song with a very unique sound it doesn’t seem to fit on the album, considering its Biblical roots. An abrupt shift from the rock-meets-military sound leads to a chain of country-folk songs.
Most widely advertised is Taylor Swift’s “Safe and Sound” featuring The Civil Wars. Known widely as Rue’s lullaby by fans, the song’s sound is soft while the chorus blends the voices of The Civil Wars and Taylor Swift to create a hauntingly sweet melody. Swift’s second song on the album “Eyes Open” is less country and almost hits a rock chord as T-Swift vocalizes Katniss’s strength in the arena.
Above and beyond the album’s best songs come from the folk genre, specifically The Punch Brothers’s “Dark Days”, Neko Case’s “Nothing to Remember” and Jayme Dee’s “Rules”. Folk seems to be the perfect genre District 12 and “The Hunger Games” in general due to its earthy feel. “Nothing To Remember” is by far the most upbeat of all songs on the album, a feat considering the heavy subject matter of the books. Case’s airy voice evokes a mountain-breeze feeling of freshness that many of the other artists on the album lack while the upbeat tune is perfect for a drive with the windows down.
But, of course, a film built around a teenage slaughter needs a few battle anthems as well, including a stunner by Kid Cudi. “The Ruler and the Killer” has a gritty and raw power of electric guitar mixed with ominous lyrics seemingly written by evil President Snow himself.
Overall the album has immense replayability and only a couple of must-skip songs (“Daughter’s Lament” only needs one listen and then you’ll get it) even if you don’t like “The Hunger Games”. Though only some of the artists wrote the songs they sing — Adam Levine of Maroon 5 openly admitted he’s never read the books while Taylor is a huge fan — the album becomes even more interesting with multiple listens as you pick up on the “Hunger Games” details.