At the heart of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” amid the turbulent prosperity and cultural shifts of the 1920s, is a love story. It’s also a period piece, a fact that Baz Luhrmann skirts in his new film adaptation of the 1925 novel.
Its soundtrack, curated by Jay-Z, is a similarly fantastical reimagining of that era, putting ’20s jazz in the modern context of pop and hip-hop. A cavalcade of stars are on board, from Jay-Z and Jack White to Beyoncé and Florence + the Machine. Oddly enough, the one thing the soundtrack is missing is heart. Oh, and soul, too.
So much of the music is a digital wasteland, either stark enough to come off as cold (the xx’s “Together,” Gotye’s “Hearts a Mess”) or so throbbing it’s hollow (will.i.am’s “Bang Bang,” a disastrous sendup of jazz replete with a Louis Armstrong impersonation).
Recast as a duet between Beyoncé and André 3000, Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” is stripped of its emotional core until it’s rendered an electronic bag of bones. Beyoncé at least sticks to the melody; André 3000 sounds like a robot on the fritz. (In a wink-wink nod to Beyoncé, British singer Emeli Sandé covers “Crazy in Love” with an assist from the Bryan Ferry Orchestra, giving it a fox-trot treatment that worked much better when the Puppini Sisters did it a couple of years ago.)
A few artists manage to reflect the tenderness that bubbles beneath the movie’s story line. Lana del Rey, whose retro aesthetic, in both appearance and musical terms, is suitably wistful and forlorn on “Young and Beautiful.” White’s rendition of U2’s “Love Is Blindness” is initially reverent before the former White Stripes frontman grows increasingly rabid. Finally, a spike on an album that otherwise flatlines. (Out now)
ESSENTIAL “Love Is Blindness”
James Reed can be reached at email@example.com.