Ah, the soundtrack song. It’s been a very, very long time since the theme to a movie really gripped the pop charts by the collar and refused to let go. (Interestingly, the last such occurrence may be Celine Dion’s undying “My Heart Will Go On,” the theme to 1997’s Titanic, which just broke the $2 billion dollar mark thanks to a 3-D re-release this month.
But Titanic hasn’t enjoyed another weekend atop the box office charts this year like it did for 15 weeks in 1997 and 1998. In fact, there’s a rare bit of stability in Hollywood this month in the form of The Hunger Games. The adaptation of the Suzanne Collins novel has been America’s number one movie for three weeks straight, and the soundtrack even earned a week atop the Billboard charts. (The last time a proper film soundtrack did that was 2009, when The Twilight Saga: New Moon was released.)
The Hunger Games soundtrack features a lot of folksy new tunes from Taylor Swift, The Civil Wars, The Decemberists, The Arcade Fire and more, all produced by T-Bone Burnett (no stranger to soundtrack work, he won a Grammy for producing the soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou? in 2002). One of the more striking tracks from the record, however, doesn’t actually appear on the record.
“Deep in the Meadow (Lullaby)” appeared in the film during a pivotal scene involving two of the protagonists, and fans who bought the album can download for free a version of the tune performed by Sting. Burnett and the ex-Police frontman have collaborated before, on the soundtrack to Cold Mountain, but there’s something really special about this heartbreaking melody as delivered by the still-reedy-voiced 60-year-old singer. The man hasn’t released a pop album in nearly 10 years, yet this haunting track wouldn’t have been out of place next to “Fields of Gold” nearly two decades ago. The track is also available through all major digital retailers, and turns out to be a pleasant surprise for your buck.
Equally surprising in terms of just how horrifying it is would be another new-ish single from an upcoming soundtrack, Pitbull’s “Back in Time” from the forthcoming sci-fi sequel/favorite Mike Duquette punching bag Men in Black 3. Breaking with 15 years of established tradition of having Will Smith come out of retirement to rap some inoffensively silly verses, Mr. Worldwide drops a handful of lazy verses over samples of Mickey & Sylvia’s “Love is Strange.” (Younger fans might remember its inclusion on the soundtrack to Dirty Dancing in 1987.)
Much like every second of footage revealed from the film itself, “Back in Time” seems hastily thrown together and evokes very little imagery of protecting the earth from the scum of the universe. It also presents one of the most insane philosophical quandaries ever bought up in a rap song: “To understand the future/we have to go back in time.” I have no idea what that means, but rest assured I will be pissing off my friends from now until May 25 by inserting that “revelation” into casual conversation.