hunger games mockingjay part 1 soundtrackEvery year for the past few years, a new "Hunger Games" movie has been unleashed on the world and those releases have come complete with a slew of tie-in merchandise, cunningly synergistic and essential in the studio's desire to build hype and awareness around the young-adult novel adaptations (which star Jennifer Lawrence and are based on books by Suzanne Collins, of course).

But the soundtracks to the films have become mini-events in and of themselves, able to build the kind of fervor the movies usually do (with just as much anticipation and speculation). We attended the junket for next week's "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1"over the weekend, and were handed a copy of the brand-new album (out now physically and digitally) and figured we should rundown the album properly. So here we go!

(Sorry, streaming versions of the songs weren't available for all tracks!)

1. "Meltdown" – Stromae featuring Lorde, Pusha T, Q-Tip and HAIM
First thing that you'll notice about this jumped-up hip-hop track (anchored by 29-year-old Belgium hip hop sensation Stromae), is that the chorus is sung by Lorde, the teenage whiz who also serves as this soundtrack album's executive producer and "curator." (How cool is that?) This track, which is upbeat but still somehow sinister, sometimes feels like too much of a good thing (and we'd be damned to place where, exactly, our girls from HAIM are in this cacophony -- oh, maybe that's them at the end). Still, it has an infectious beat, it's always great to hear Q-Tip, even if he's trying to allude to the movie in a clumsy way (he says something about an arrow). Overall: "very good."


2. "Dead Air" – CHVRCHES
A new song by CHVRCHES (pronounced churches, dad) is reason enough to celebrate. But this song is really, really great, with a terrific chorus ("We are we are just dead air") draped across a slinky beat and crunchy synths. Also, this song has the general vibe of sounding like something Katniss would listening to while stoking her revolutionary urges. These guys really are the best.


3. "Scream My Name" – Tove Lo
Just to quickly make note of something, Swedish pop singer/songwriter Tove Lo put out one of the very best albums of the year, in "Queen of the Clouds." She seems to be making inroads into the American mainstream, even if the album is a little rougher and more sexual than most of the pop music you hear on the radio ("Like Em Young" played in the background of last week's "The New Girl"). This is probably her biggest exposure yet, and that's great -- the song is super dark and has a violent edge, which is perfect for the bleakness of "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1." And while you feel there were some concessions made (her frequent use of the F-word is "faded out," which is a weird punch pulled for a franchise built around the idea of children murdering other children). Still, this is a great song by one of the most exciting new artists in popular music. Here here!


4. "Kingdom" – Charli XCX featuring Simon Le Bon
Another dystopian party jam, this time courtesy of British pop star Charli XCX (whose "Boom Clap" was the centerpiece of another YA soundtrack from earlier this year, "The Fault in Our Stars"). The whimsical, music box melody comes courtesy of co-songwriter Rostam Batmanjlij from Vampire Weekend and right when Charli's childlike delivery becomes too much, Simon Le Bon from Duran Duran comes in and absolutely kills it. He would have been a great participant in the Hunger Games.


5. "All My Love" – Major Lazer featuring Ariana Grande
This was the "mystery song" that, when the album was announced, was left off the official track list. Now that it's been revealed to be a team-up between super-producer Diplo, in his electro-reggae moniker Major Lazer, and American pop star, well, it's pretty exciting. It's a perfect mixture of the pair's sensibilities, with Grande's high-pitched belting mixed perfectly with a pseudo-island flavor (it builds to a wonderful climax). It's unexpectedly sexy, too, perfect for the club or that make-out session that accompanies your Saturday night date to "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1."


6. "Lost Souls" – Raury
Raury is an 18-year-old kid from Atlanta who has been compared to "Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1" monarch Lorde, played his songs for such heavy-hitters as Kanye West and SBTRKT and who self-released an album of original material earlier this year. In other words, he is very much the music world's "next big thing," and this moody R&B joint, with its tribal drums and scratchy vocal, is perfect for the world of "The Hunger Games" and for breaking him through to the mainstream. It's very understandable why Lorde plucked him from obscurity.


7. "Yellow Flicker Beat" – Lorde
This is the album's first single and the first proper appearance from our curator-in-chief. Considering how wonderful Lorde's wordplay always is (sample lyric: "I'm smoother than marble cut from the store") and how perfectly her gloomy, bristly electronic sound fits in with "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1," the results are as dazzling as you'd expect. The "Yellow Flicker Beat" that sparks her heart has a wonderfully woozy back-beat that sounds like an emergency alert vehicle getting to the scene of a downed spacecraft, her voice sounding even more velvety than it did on her debut album. And this isn't the last you'll hear of this song on the album, either.


8. "The Leap" – Tinashe
Tinashe is a 21-year-old pop star on the rise, but this song is definitely fails to take-off. The low-point of the album so far. If this song was entered into the gladiatorial arena of the Hunger Games, it'd be the first to go.


9. "Plan the Escape" – Bat for Lashes
This is a cover of a song by New York artist Ryan Lott (better known as Sun Lox) by British singer-songwriter Bat for Lashes. It's a really wonderful cover, practically dripping in atmosphere. But you kind of have to wonder, did Lorde enlist Bat for Lashes for this because she simply ran out of time? Because we'd kind of rather hear that version.


10. "Original Beast" – Grace Jones
More tribal beats courtesy of Grace Jones. Yes, that Grace Jones. We suppose that being able to curate an intensely anticipated soundtrack album means being able to reach out to some of your heroes, like Grace Jones. The song isn't great, but the appeal of Jones has always kind of baffled us. This is quite skippable.

11. "Flicker (Kanye West Rework)" – Kanye West
While West is still busy tinkering with whatever the follow-up to last year's blisteringly brilliant "Yeezus" is, he at least will contribute a remix to this album, working over Lorde's big number. (Lorde has said that West is, like Jones, a hero.) West somehow intensifies and darkens a song that already sounds like a starless night sky. This is just as essential as the original version, more stripped down and less bouncy but every bit as enjoyable.


12. "Animal" – XOV
Not sure who XOV is or where they come from, it sounds very electro-indie from the likes of this song. The song itself isn't half-bad, but it's not particularly memorable. Lyrics like "You be the prey and I'll be the predator" see the band trying to appropriate the essence of "The Hunger Games" while double-underlining the central metaphor. Still, it's handsomely produced and fits with the rest of the album remarkably well. We get it, Lorde!


13. "This Is Not a Game" – The Chemical Brothers, featuring Miguel
This might be our favorite song on the entire album. It's a nifty collaboration between legendary British electronic music act The Chemical Brothers and American R&B treasure Miguel, with a vocal sample courtesy of our Lorde and savior (she coos, simply, "There it is"), with a goldenly gilded beat and terrific vocals from Miguel. This is a turn-the-car-stereo-all-the-way-up jam. It's noisy and oppressive and sounds like the dystopia, in a big, hands-in-the-air way. We would have loved any new music from The Chemical Brothers or Miguel, the fact that they are here together, in a song that mixes harsh beats with subtle orchestration, is more than our tiny hearts can handle.


14. "Ladder Song" – Lorde
Lorde is back for one more song! This time it's a cover of a Bright Eyes song. And it is amazing. It's a perfectly lovelorn album-closer, acting like the perfect accompaniment to the film's heartbreaking cliffhanger (no, we're not giving you any details, you freak). Delicate and haunting, this is the perfect mixture of artist and material and makes you understand what an immaculate collection this really is. Way to go, Lorde.


"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1" opens nationwide November 21. The soundtrack is out now.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1
PG-132014
Based on 46 critics

Katniss finds herself in District 13, fighting to save Peeta and a nation moved by her courage. Read More

categories Movies, Reviews