As a die-hard Panemaniac, I am always excited for the release of anything Hunger Games-related. This list includes (but is by no means limited to) films, shirts, halloween costumes, posters, signed books, Katniss Barbie dolls, bedspreads and yes, music.
The soundtracks for the Hunger Games films are unique in that they are comprised not of music used in the movies, but music about the books. The first soundtrack, released in 2012, was titled “The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond,” and beautifully captured the darkness and grit of author Suzanne Collins’ fictional nation Panem. The new album, a supplement to the film “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and released Nov. 19, works and succeeds much in the same way.
While the first album featured a lot of sparse country and folk tracks, sung by artists like Miranda Lambert and Carolina Chocolate Drops, the second soundtrack exchanges the heavy Appalachian inflection of the first for something a little broader and much darker, with varied styles and numerous big-name artists.
The opening track, “Atlas,” a piano-heavy number by Coldplay, sets the tone for the rest of the album, with brooding verses and a build to a sweeping chorus. The song walks a thin line between grimness and cautious optimism, and this balance is maintained throughout the album.
Other standouts include “Silhouettes,” a dark, breathy number by Of Monsters and Men rounded out with war drums and trumpets, and “Elastic Heart” by Sia, featuring The Weeknd and Diplo. This song, an homage to Collins’ complex heroine, gains its strength from a pounding, synthetic beat layered under Sia’s smoky vocals, effortlessly conjuring the desperation and resilience of Katniss Everdeen. Another standout track is “Gale Song,” a delicate, twanging number by the Lumineers that throws back wonderfully to the Appalachian roots of the first album.
While this album is full of great songs, by far the runaway success of the Catching Fire soundtrack is Christina Aguilera’s “We Remain.” This haunting ballad soars and dips, crescendos and collapses, leaving listeners at the mercy of Aguilera’s gorgeous vocals and the steady drum beats. The song paints the picture of love in wartime so effectively that, at least for me, it elicited a physical response. Tears. Goosebumps. The works.
Like every other track on the album, ‘We Remain” is immediately applicable to Collins’ epic, but also has a core of universality, conjuring images of Katniss and Panem, but also of the universal human experience. This album, like its predecessor, adds a dimension of intense reality to the books and films but also draws listeners in, making them feel like a part of Panem’s story. In all, the “Catching Fire” soundtrack is darkly transportive, anxiety-provoking, and heart-breaking, but also fervently hopeful. A musical experience not to be missed.