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Aural Fixation: What Does District 12 Sound Like? A Look at ‘The Hunger Games’ Soundtrack

By  · Published on February 23rd, 2012

With yesterday’s announcement that tickets for The Hunger Games were officially on sale (and billboards for the films starting to pop up), Mockingjays everywhere rushed to their computers to buy their ticket to finally watch Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss), Liam Hemsworth (Gale) and Josh Hutcherson (Peeta) bring the book series to the big screen. As we get closer to The Hunger Games release, we also got the film’s full soundtrack listing which revealed the artists that would be creating the musical landscape of Panem.

Poised to be one of the next huge book-to-screen franchises, scoring a spot on the soundtrack was a coveted position and the artists that made the final track listing do not disappoint. The stripped-down sound of artists like singer/songwriter Glen Hansard (best known as the other half of The Swell Season) and alt-rock band The Decemberists (whose track “One Engine” is already available) are what you would expect from the series about a desolate world in which children are forced to fight each other to the death. But much like Breaking Dawn’s surprising soundtrack listing, The Hunger Games also features unexpected choices like hip-hop’s Kid Cudi and bluegrass from Punch Brothers.

Having a slightly eclectic mix of music will not only help to keep the soundtrack sounding fresh, it works as a nice nod to Panem itself – a world that has been broken up into different (but distinct) districts who each have their own voice and specialty. Tracks with titles such as “The Ruler and The Killer” (Kid Cudi) and “Dark Days” (Punch Brothers) should not only help mix up the overall sound of the film, but remind us what the Hunger Games are all about – survival. The world of the Hunger Games is, at its heart, terrifying and while upbeat artists like Maroon 5 are featured here, I hope they also help to create a tone of constant unease where one’s guard must always be up.

Taylor Swift and Neko Case are the big winners here, each scoring two songs on the soundtrack with Swift getting the additional honor of the film’s first single with her song “Safe & Sound” which also features the haunting vocals and guitar refrains of The Civil Wars. Swift sets the tone here with a song that is both stripped down and haunting, but (in true Swift style) also includes lyrics that help set the stage for how bleak things can (and will) get for our tributes.

Movieline’s Jen Yamato made a good point a few weeks back when the single first dropped that Swift, who sings as though she herself were Katniss, should instead simply reflect on her perspective of Katniss’ situation, as Taylor Swift. While I agree with Yamato’s point, I was encouraged when seeing the stark look and feel of the music video for the song and hope that this style carries through to the film itself. The Hunger Games, while popular, is difficult material that has children not just fighting, but killing one another in the name of sport. No matter how popular or talented the artists on the soundtrack may be, in the end, conveying this tone of desperation and fury will be key in taking the story from the pages of the books into theaters.

Avid Hunger Games fans will probably be disappointed to see the one song that is mentioned in the books absent here – “Rue’s Lullaby” as sung by Katniss. While having such a well-known song with Lawrence on the credit would probably have given away too much or distracted from the more mainstream artists making up the soundtrack, I do hope that this is not an indication that this song (and this scene) will be absent in the final film.

As a fan of the series, I have naturally been anticipating the film’s release and with the soundtrack listing now available, we can begin to guess which song will play over which scene and how that particular artist will shape the emotions that run high even before the first tribute name is called out at the Reaping. While the order songs appear on a soundtrack is not necessarily the order they appear in the film, I am most excited to hear what Jayme Dee’s folk style brings to the track “Rules.” Listed as the final song on the soundtrack, it seems this song may be the one that will coincide with the end of the games, but the beginning of a whole new battle. With the ominous title “Rules,” we can be sure of one thing: with Katniss at the helm, they are sure to be broken, no matter who is singing.

The soundtrack for The Hunger Games will be available through Republic on March 20th:

  1. “Safe & Sound” – Taylor Swift featuring The Civil Wars
  2. “Eyes Open” – Taylor Swift
  3. “Abraham’s Daughter” – Arcade Fire
  4. “Come Away” – Maroon 5 featuring Rozzi Crane
  5. “The Ruler and The Killer” – Kid Cudi
  6. “Run Daddy Run” – Miranda Lambert featuring Pistol Annies
  7. “Kingdom Come” – Neko Case
  8. “One Engine” – The Decemberists
  9. “Take The Heartland” – Glen Hansard
  10. “Lover Is Childlike” – The Low Anthem
  11. “Dark Days” – Punch Brothers
  12. “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder” – The Secret Sisters
  13. “The Daughter’s Lament” – The Carolina Chocolate Drops
  14. “Nothing to Remember” – Neko Case
  15. “Just a Game” – Birdy
  16. “Rules” – Jayme Dee

Is there a track you are most looking forward to from the soundtrack? Is there an artist you thought would be perfect for the series that was overlooked here?

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