Choosing the tracks for “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” soundtrack (various artists, Republic) must have been a mini-Hunger Games in itself after the wild success of the first film. The victors offer a mix of indie and mainstream, adding a rounded, energetic and emotional dimension to the film.
The 12 tributes (15 on the deluxe edition) of album No. 2 battle it out to discover who puts out the edgiest, yet accessible, song in homage to the story. One can see a shift in tone from the first film’s T Bone Burnett-produced soundtrack from folky melancholy to a slicker, more eccentric offering supervised by Alexandra Patsavas.
A few traces from the original DNA remain with such tracks as the folky “Lean” by The National, “Devil May Cry” by The Weeknd and the dulcet tones of “Gale Song” by The Lumineers. In the lead single “Atlas,” from British rockers Coldplay, a low simmer of resignation boils over into anger. It’s a resounding anthem to fighting against oppression and feeling the weight of the world on one’s shoulders. Christina Aguilera adds to the film’s mainstream cred with her powerful vocals on the catchy “We Remain.”
But the indie performers modulate their voices in a different direction — instead of reassuring, revolutionary tones they all go eerie synth. Teen sensation Lorde does an underwater-sounding cover of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” that takes its original cheerful spirit and twists it into a macabre warning. Australian Sia convincingly taps into the best of tribal pop on “Elastic Heart,” featuring The Weeknd and Diplo, while Ellie Goulding goes all angelic sci-fi electro in “Mirror.”
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There’s no clear victor on this record, apart from the fan.