With box office smashes such as Titanic and Inception under his belt, it’s no wonder that any movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio is destined to be a hit. The Great Gatsby is no exception to this. Also starring Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan, in just over a month, this almost two and a half hour spectacle has already grossed $136 million at the box office.
Set in the glamorous, roaring 1920s, the story of The Great Gatsby is told by Nick Carraway (Maguire), a Midwestern war veteran who finds himself fascinated by the lavish lifestyle and mysterious past of his eccentric neighbor, Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio). A great deal of that past has to do with Carraway’s cousin, Daisy Buchanan (Mulligan), who Gatsby was once madly in love with. As the story unfolds, it is revealed that Gatsby’s extravagant lifestyle and wild parties are an attempt to impress Daisy in the hopes that she will one day reappear at his doorstep. With the help of Carraway, they are reunited and begin an affair, which inevitably sets off a chain of events leading to an unfortunate downward spiral for the entire cast of characters.
Director Baz Luhrmann truly captures and reflects the prosperous nature of the decade with costumes, props, and scenery. “Gatsby” is both a treat for the eyes and ears. The characters in the film are constantly dressed extravagantly in outlandish and flashy outfits. The women are always seen with fabulous flapper hairstyles, and big bold make-up. We also get an accurate depiction of 1920s memorabilia: cars, decor, and New York City before it was the sprawling metropolis it is today. The film is one big explosion of color that is difficult not to find alluring.
However, the cherry on top is definitely the delightful and unique soundtrack to the film. Executive producers Jay-Z and The Bullitts tapped big names such as Beyonce, Will.I.Am and Lana Del Rey to record contemporary pop and rap songs with a hint of classical and jazz, which were popular in the 1920s. Each song on the soundtrack is a creative fusion of the electronically created beats of 2013 and the smooth sounds of a 1920s orchestra. This brilliant and creative idea enabled the soundtrack to assimilate into the 21st century while still representing the decade depicted on screen.
A prime example is Will.I.Am’s “Bang Bang,” which encorporates his usual sound (a pulsing electronic beat and his unmistakable voice) with the best-known song of the ‘20s, The Charleston, as the background music. A similar combination can be heard in Fergie, Q-Tip & GoonRock’s “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody” – a contemporary dance hit with the prominent sound of a saxophone throughout and Fergie’s smooth classical voice that almost resembles 1920s singer, Adelaide Hall. It is no surprise that Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful” fits perfectly onto the soundtrack. Del Rey is best known for her retro pin-up girl look and somber, dreary vocals, which are well showcased in this song and certainly exemplifies the music of the 1920s. “No Church in the Wild” by the popular duo Jay-Z and Kanye West is a rather unusual choice for this soundtrack. The song resembles some of the pair’s earlier radio hits, yet still somehow manages to be suitable when played during scenes set in a decade ages before rap music even existed. The key element is the style of singing, which with the help of Frank Ocean and The Dream, is reminiscent of the jazz style of music that was popular back then. Finally, Emeli Sande and the Bryan Ferry Orchestra put a retro spin on Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love.” This version has a slower tempo than the original and the music is composed solely of horns and woodwinds, giving it that 1920s big band feel.
The Great Gatsby soundtrack is available on iTunes. The deluxe version contains 21 unique tracks including the ones described above.
Purchase the Great Gatsby Soundtrack on Amazon