Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Great Soundtrack of The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

The soundtrack for the film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby received mixed reviews of compliments and criticism, but still managed to debut at number two on the Billboard charts when it was released in 2013. Produced by Baz Luhrman and Jay-Z, the soundtrack also featured the vocals of artists like Sia, Beyoncé, and Florence and the Machine. This plays in to the appeal of ethos, for the brand of the film is heavily influenced by those involved in the creation of it. Not only are very popular and well-known individuals contributing, some of the songs they contributed were written just for the film, too. Both new music and cover versions made up the twenty-one-song soundtrack.
The epic party scene in which Nick Carraway first enters Jay Gatsby’s extravagant home features the song “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody.” Just hearing the title made me realize two things. One, it’s ironic because (SPOILER ALERT) two characters are actually killed. And two, the title alludes to the fact that Gatsby throws lots of parties and that partying is the norm, which is very apparent throughout the film. Music is important for this scene because a party without music wouldn’t be a party, thus appealing to logos. The appeal of logos is also apparent through the lyrics. Characteristic of the style of the 20s is the ‘do-wop’, which is utilized in the song and the mention of speak-easies.  The actual sound of the song is more focused on pathos and ethos rather than logos, though. The song helps appeal to pathos because it creates the atmosphere of excitement experienced at parties. The beat matches the energy of the party, but the electric and hip-hop sounding track would more likely be heard in a modern day club rather than a 1920s party. In addition, there are parts of the song that are rapped, which one would not hear in the 20s. This is where the producers attempted to make the film more contemporary, while sacrificing some of the integrity of the era. The only hint that the scene takes place in the past is the dress of the characters and the incorporation of the saxophone in certain parts.

In another well-known scene of the film, Jay and Daisy spend time together on his estate with the Lana del Rey hit “Young and Beautiful” playing in the background. The song was written specifically for the film by a popular artist, which adds to the appeal of ethos. There is still dialogue between the characters even while the song is playing, so instead of the music being the main focus of the scene, it simply pushes the action forward and helps illustrate the pathos of the situation. Despite their apparent happiness and laughter, the music is haunting and somber which demonstrates Daisy’s apprehension of whether or not their love can last. The lyrics also go hand in hand with the dialogue; Gatsby states that Daisy “looks like she could be on the cover of vogue,” and Daisy wants to know if he will still love her even when she doesn’t look like that. Logos is evident in the fact that the lyrics are relevant to their situation and pathos in that the audience gets a glimpse into Jay and Daisy’s love story. They can feel what they’ve been through and the haziness of what is to come.

Personally, I enjoyed the soundtrack for the film and appreciated the new takes on older songs as well as the new ones created for the film. Although the setting takes place in the Roaring Twenties, the contemporary hip-hop sound catches the same energy that jazz created in the 1920s. Thus, the combination of eras of music makes the film what some would say more relevant, while others believe it to be inaccurate in terms of the period. What I have observed is that the image and relevance of the film is more important than being period appropriate. In The Great Gatsby, music serves the purpose of bringing a new element that adds excitement to a rather old story.

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