Hunger Games Soundtrack News: First single ideal or ironic?

Since I am a Gregorian, at least with respect to calendars, this time of year usually pulls me away from my duties here, so these are very overdue thoughts on the new Hunger Games soundtrack news. The first release from the soundtrack is Taylor Swift, along with the group The Civil Wars, performing “Safe and Sound.” Not only is this quite a bit early for soundtrack music to appear for a March film, but the song, and its musicians, also provide fuel for our on-going conversation about The Hunger Games as self-referential popular culture artifact. Join me after the jump for my thoughts along those lines.

I’ve been quite interested in the film’s soundtrack ever since word that legendary producer (and traditional music maestro) T Bone Burnett would be producing the soundtrack. I had been hoping for edgy traditional musicians, perhaps along the lines of Jack White or the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Taylor Swift should come as no surprise though; she’s immensely popular, and undeniably likeable (except for people who just enjoy disliking anyone so gosh-darn likeable). To sell the soundtrack, there needs to be a big-name headliner to push the first single. Nashville darling Swift is just the ticket for that, as “Safe and Sound” zoomed to the top of itunes downloads within 24 hours of Swift’s announcement, via Tweet, about its release.

On the edgy side, Swift is joined on the song by the haunting voices of duo The Civil Wars (yes, I like their name as well as their penchant for murder ballads). Together with Burnett, the three artists crafted the song, the lyrics of which are:
I remember tears streaming down your face
When I said, I’ll never let you go
When all those shadows almost killed your light
I remember you said,
Don’t leave me here alone
But all that’s dead and gone and passed tonight

Just close your eyes
The sun is going down
You’ll be alright
No one can hurt you now
Come morning light
You and I’ll be safe and sound
Don’t you dare look out your window darling
Everything’s on fire
The war outside our door keeps raging on
Hold onto this lullaby
Even when the music’s gone

Just close your eyes
The sun is going down
You’ll be alright
No one can hurt you now
Come morning light
You and I’ll be safe and sound

Just close your eyes
You’ll be alright
Come morning light,
You and I’ll be safe and sound…
These evocative lyrics and the equally powerful tune could fit nicely as Rue’s “lullaby,” which Katniss sings over her flower-strewn corpse, but Jennifer Lawrence has also recorded vocals for the soundtrack, and it seems more likely that she’ll be singing the lullaby. It’s not clear how much familiarity Swift or her co-writers actually have with the novel, but the lyrics are promising, echoing many of the story’s moments, particularly Katniss’s promise to the Mockingjays that Rue, felled by Marvel’s spear is “good and safe.” Rue, who is one of the only tributes who undoubtedly never kills another, is indeed “good,” and, once she is no longer in the Arena or in her native (and brutal) District 11, she is safe.

Though the song is guaranteed to be a hit with Swift’s star power, there is a profound irony of her selection as the performer on the initial release for the soundtrack. Swift was actually the performer I had in mind for the uber-glamorous Glimmer from District 1 (of course, I do not think Swift is a cold-blooded killer; but she certainly fits the physical description). She is also a very talented but also very well-marketed musician, rather like a Tribute in her gorgeous costumes, staged and scheduled appearances, and the fact that she, like all musicians, must please both her handlers and her fans or she will be doomed.

Other musicians who have songs on the album are Arcade Fire with “Horn of Plenty” and The Decemberists with “One Engine,” both of which have very clear connections to the story of the Hunger Games

Although the music sounds exciting, there has been an unpleasant echo of the Capitol’s style in the recording of the soundtrack. The American Federation of Musicians has protested the movie and Lionsgate for the decision to record the soundtrack in Europe to avoid paying the kind of benefits that are required by AMF musicians. The protests indicate that someone at the AFM is well aware of the way in which Suzanne Collins uses her story to reveal the ways in which our own culture could easily become the Panem of her dystopian future.

As we hear more about the forthcoming soundtrack, I’ll be interested to know how the other songs match up with the novel and if the business practices of the movie Game Makers continue to match up with the Capitol.

Thanks to James and Autumn for the heads up!


  1. I believe this will be Katniss’ love theme song that will play at various times in original movie and proposed sequels.

    The lyrics hold true for:
    Katniss to Prim before the reaping
    Rue death scene
    First games Katniss and Peeta in the cave
    Katniss and Peeta sleeping together on the train
    Katniss holding Gale’s hands while he’s unconscious after the whipping
    From Peeta’s point of view after warning about the attack on 13
    Sleeping in Capitol tunnels/Tigris’ basement

    They could just play the melody during the quieter scenes and then turn up the guitars at the end during the action. I can see Katniss racing to the Feast to get Peeta’s medicine during the height of the strumming.

  2. Arabella Figg says

    The song had me in tears, and I watched (finally) the official trailer after that, and liked (!) what I saw.

    I’m guessing Swift’s version will be played over the credits, if not in the film. Or Lawrence can sing it in the film and Swift for the credits. But it doesn’t have the feel of Rue’s lullaby (and weren’t there different words for that?)

    We saw The Artist last weekend (run, do not walk, to see this wonderful film) and as I stood in front of the HG poster, all the feelings I had when reading the first book came back, that it was one of the most compelling books I’d ever read, and that I had to get others to read it, which I did.

    I’m strongly drawn to see the film, but am still not sure I can bear it. I’ll just have to see.

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