Jay Gatsby’s life, according to the product-placing new movie, was a celebration of glitz that would have delighted any rapper: Moet & Chandon champagne, Brooks Brothers blazers, Tiffany baubles. Gold Rolls-Royce covered in bikini models presumably just out of shot.
Small wonder, then, that the film soundtrack, released just before the Leonardo DiCaprio picture itself, is executive-produced by the king of bling, Jay-Z. As he fires into the lead number, “100$ Bill,” we may ask what 2013 hip-hop has to do with Gatsby’s Roaring Twenties.
It’s a commercial shotgun marriage that threatens to go awry, damaging the credibility of both the movie and the brands. (After all, Gatsby is a shady character who comes to a bad end and whose wealth is linked to bootlegging. The product placements might not benefit from the association.)
Fitzgerald’s character is easy to picture dancing the Charleston. He would never listen to will.i.am doing “Bang Bang” or “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)” as performed by Fergie, Q-Tip and GoonRock. He would be baffled by Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black,” which is murdered by rapper Andre 3000 in a duet with Jay-Z’s wife Beyonce.
There are better moments away from the rap, such as the Bryan Ferry Orchestra’s version of “Love Is the Drug,” first included in the underrated “Jazz Age” CD from last year. Emeli Sande and Jack White also turn in worthy performances.
The soundtrack’s highlight is the single by Lana Del Rey, “Young and Beautiful.” It’s another of her lush orchestral ballads, this time with a nicely direct lyric: “Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful?”
If it were all this good, “Music From Baz Luhrmann’s Film ‘The Great Gatsby’” would be ****. In the event, it’s barely *.
Fortunately for rock fans, the month has got off to a better start with Vampire Weekend’s “Modern Vampires of the City.”
The band started off at Columbia University, New York, writing geeky songs about Oxford commas and mansard roofs. Now it has got a little more mainstream without losing its edge.
There are lovely pop tunes married to hard-hitting lyrics: “There’s a headstone right in front of you/ And everyone I know.” Rating: ****.
Iggy Pop wears a dynamite belt and stands in a gun’s sights for the cover of “Ready to Die.” The title is misleading because the fired-up rocker hardly looks ready to quit.
The advertiser of insurance is 66 years old and has mortality on his mind after the death of Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton. James Williamson, who hasn’t played in years, returns to the band and manages to revive his “Raw Power” thrash attack.
The best track is “The Departed,” a crooned elegy to Asheton. The music mainly speeds along at 100 mph with vocals snarled on top. “Burn,” “Sex & Money” and “Gun” are as basic as their titles. This beats the Stooges’ last, “The Weirdness” from 2007. Yet it’s far from their finest moment. Rating: **.
What the Stars Mean: ***** Exceptional **** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Poor (No stars) Worthless
(Mark Beech writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
Muse highlights include Greg Evans and Craig Seligman on movies; Jason Harper on cars; Rich Jaroslovsky on tech and Lance Esplund on U.S. art.