With the immense popularity of The Hunger Games, expectations were high for producer T-Bone Burnett’s March 20 release of the soundtrack, The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond.
Despite the album’s vast array of well-known artists such as Arcade Fire, The Decemberists, Kid Cudi and Taylor Swift, Burnett managed to keep the 16-track album as cohesive as if it featured a single artist.
With such a range of current artists contributing, the alternative soundtrack certainly opposes the fantasy and adventure genre norms – trading classical orchestras for modern rock and folk bands.
The majority of the artists represent facets of folk music, meaning banjos and acoustic guitars help tie together the album in an overarching feel of nostalgia.
Simultaneously, artists without any background in folk, like Kid Cudi are still able to contribute adequately to the overall album. With a career in alternative hip-hop for increasingly mainstream audiences, his one track on this album, “The Ruler and the Killer,” is quite a shift. While repetitive, it works for Kid Cudi and seems fitting for many of the scenes from the book series.
The album begins with the uplifting and folksy “Abraham’s Daughter” by Arcade Fire. The listener starts off believing there is hope for family, but the final track “Just a Game” by Birdy leaves listeners with a sense of impending doom.
The soundtrack accurately portrays the film’s tone in District 12, as it captures the feel of a war-torn, poverty-stricken region of North America. District 12 sits on what is today the Appalachian region, a center of folk music throughout history. As such, the album digs into American culture, returning to the roots of music with folk from all corners of the nation. For a series that is supposed to take place sometime in America’s future, it creates an authentic sound.
This album takes some very different artists and makes them into a cohesive unit, an impressive feat that warrants strong applause.