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Music Review: Taylor Swift, The Civil Wars, and The Hunger Games [Soundtrack]

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It seems that The Hunger Games film adaptation has stumbled upon every possible way to create major media buzz and (most likely) make box office millions. Riding the wave of popularity that the book series has received, The Hunger Games film is destined to be huge. Not only does the film boast Oscar nominated actress Jennifer Lawrence as its leading lady, have two promised sequels already in the making, and have the cult following of its dedicated book readers, it also features an impressive lineup on its soundtrack. Alongside tracks by The Decemberists and Arcade Fire, The Hunger Games soundtrack features pop superstar Taylor Swift’s collaboration with indie folk band The Civil Wars.

Swift’s collaborative song “Safe and Sound” was released on iTunes on Christmas Eve, reaching number one on iTunes in just 12 hours and Twitter trending at the number two spot worldwide. While much of the song’s popularity can surely be attributed to Swift’s uber following and the movie’s huge hype, the song is nonetheless very, very good. With twangy slide guitar and airy vocals, Swift and The Civil Wars create a song that is very different from the pop princess’ norm. The beautifully understated emotional lyrics are accompanied effortlessly by gentle folk/country chords. Simply put, this song just isn’t what you would expect from Swift, and everyone seems to love it.

If you’re going to this song for Swift’s traditional gossip spiel about her latest boy crush, you’ll have to wait for her next album. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not at all ashamed to say that I’m a diehard Taylor fan and that her three albums are likely the most listened to albums on my iPod (right behind Bob Dylan and Third Eye Blind).The lyrics of this song are simple and straightforward, resonating strongly with the somber tone of the narrative. The film is dark and gloomy, set in a post apocalyptic world where teens must fight to the death each year.

With this, the dissonance between the dreary ambiance of the film and Swift’s soft, light voice is both appealing and off-putting all at the same time. Swift’s voice trembles ethereally throughout the ballad, imparting words of hope when the listener already knows that the scene is more than likely hopeless.

Swift paces alongside the guitar: “You’ll be alright/No one can hurt you now/Come morning light/You and I will be safe and sound.” This sound and subject matter is entirely more mature for Swift and her traditional audience. Whether it is just the creative direction of the film that has pushed Swift in this way or it is a glimpse of a more mature sound for Taylor, we’ll have to wait to see.

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