Like other young adult book series turned into blockbuster franchises, it's easy to tell that The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a more lavish affair than its predecessor just by looking at its soundtrack, which features some of pop and rock's biggest names. Coldplay opens the album with the typically sweeping and earnest "Atlas," while Christina Aguilera's "We Remain" delivers the empowered balladry she's been known for since "Beautiful" (it also sounds a lot like Alicia Keys' "Girl on Fire," which seemed like a natural fit for this album). The album also includes several of the artists who defined 2013: Lorde turns the wry paranoia of Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" into something more obviously dark and creepy. Meanwhile, Imagine Dragons take the lumbering thrust of their hit "Radioactive" in a slightly more complex but still fist-pumping direction on "Who We Are," while the Lumineers' "Gale Song" evokes the first Hunger Games soundtrack. Aside from this track and the acoustic leanings of the National's "Lean" and Of Monsters and Men's "Silhouettes," Catching Fire downplays the bluegrass and folk elements of The Hunger Games. While this is somewhat disappointing, it also makes sense: the series' second installment focuses on the decadent Capitol, the hardships facing Panem as a whole, and the tournament's diabolical arena rather than the Appalachian-like District 12. Grimly anthemic songs like the Weeknd's "Devil May Cry" express the life-or-death struggles of The Hunger Games' characters in and outside of the tournament, but some of the best moments, such as Ellie Goulding's sparkly "Mirror" and Santigold's taut "Shooting Arrows at the Sky," allow some hope to peek through its brooding. However, if the album was a competition to the death, Patti Smith's "Capitol Letter," which turns The Hunger Games' themes and imagery into what sounds like a timeless lament, would be the survivor. Even if every track here isn't quite as inspired as this song, or the music from the first movie, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a solidly entertaining soundtrack.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares