The Yellow Flicker Beat of Lorde’s Heart

Today was the debut of the first song on the Mockingjay Part 1 companion album, “Yellow Flicker Beat.” Lorde had given some teases of the first few lines of the song, with marble princesses, scars of silver and gold, and blood made of rubies. This made some wonder if the song was about Johanna (the marble statue in the early Capitol video) or Effie with her ties to the Capitol. I was very much hoping that would not be the case. This is the first song, and presumably the first song that will play over the end credits. It needs to fit the tone of the whole movie, and needs to be about Katniss’s journey.

Well the good news is that the song is indeed inspired by Katniss’s experiences. Lorde is a big fan of the books, and in her interview with KROQ today explained how she tried to get into Katniss’s head with this song.

Basically I wrote the song specifically for the movie, it wasn’t something that I had to draft up previously. I reread the books, and I just wanted to tap into everything that Katniss is feeling in that film and what’s the crazy stuff that goes on. One of the things that happened in the book which to me felt like this crazy turning point was her best friend Peeta tries to kill her, he’s been brainwashed and tries to strangle her. It just felt like something so irreparable and something that the characters couldn’t turn back from. I felt like Katniss was like ‘okay, I’m taking names. I’m coming for blood. You don’t do these types of things to my friends and family and get away with it.’ I just wanted to make something kind of dark and haunting.

We all have different tastes in music. If you’re a fan of Lorde, you probably love “Yellow Flicker Beat” because it’s very much a Lorde song. Lorde’s voice and musical style worked for Catching Fire on the cover of “Everybody Wants To Rule The World.” It was dark and powerful and fit well with the tone of the film. I wouldn’t have liked that song to be at the end credits, but it was a fine addition to the soundtrack.

yellow flicker beatWith “Yellow Flicker Beat,” we have an original Lorde song, written about how Katniss is feeling in this movie. There’s a darkness to the song, which is appropriate, so why am I not loving this?

I think the lyrics, especially at the beginning are very out of step with Katniss. She would never describe herself on these terms. That’s why people were confused about what this song was about with those initial teases. And the buzzing uhhhhhhh running in the background is a bit distracting, unless she’s trying to hint to us that Katniss is doing some kind of mediation while hiding away from the perils in her mind. Doubt it, though. I think it’s just Lorde trying to create some layers to the song and it not working well.

If you weren’t told this was about Katniss in Mockingjay, would you make the connection? Would it make any fan-made playlists? Sure, it’s got the obligatory reference to fire, and later lyrics of “this is the start of how it all ends/they used to shout my name now they whisper it” ring true , but the marble, silver, gold, rubies, red, orange yellow flicker beat language– that’s Lorde imagery. It’s Lorde being way more expressive than Katniss would ever be about her situation. The pop beat that takes over the song halfway through makes it catchy but also distracts you from the initial seriousness of the song. Who cares about problems? Now I feel like dancin’.

Soooo, what’s wrong with that? Isn’t that what happens in soundtracks “inspired by” the motion picture. Lorde doesn’t have to channel Katniss 100% to do right by the song. And a song more purely staying with Katniss’s experience might be a little boring. In the KROQ interview she acknowledges the challenge of writing for soundtracks.

You can’t take that many leaps, it becomes your song and not their song so it was definitely about keeping in that mindset and just thinking about ‘What would Katniss do?

I think Lorde genuinely tried to make this a song about Katniss, but it became more a song about Lorde, and the kind of music she likes to make. And that would still be an ok thing to have on the Mockingjay Part 1 soundtrack. People like her songs and it would help album sales. But this song is supposed to be more than that. It’s the debut single from the soundtrack, and presumably will be the first song to play during the end credits. So after we’ve ended with whatever cliffhanger Francis Lawrence decided to go with, this song is going to play. That’s what makes me nervous. I want the song to make the end that much more powerful. Without seeing the whole film, we can’t completely know how well this song works, but I’m worried.

I worry a lot though, so I’ll just add it to the long list.

JJ

 

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9 comments

  1. Correct me if I’m wrong. Safe and Sound was the main song for The Hunger Games, but the movie ended and the credits played with Abraham’s daughter.
    I speak for myself, despite loving safe and sound, ending with Abraham’s daughter was something I did not expect and made an amazing ending. But if they continue the patern of Catching Fire we will probably have the film ending and the logo/mockingjay changing if that happens then the song won’t have much effect as Abraham’s daughter.
    But anyway I didn’t like yellow flicker beat either :/

    1. You’re right about Safe and Sound being the main single and Abraham’s Daughter playing over the credits. I thought Abraham’s Daughter was a great end credits song, so I was very happy.

      While we can’t know for sure, this article implies that she’s doing the end credits song. http://www.billboard.com/articles/festivals/lollapalooza-festival/6205835/lorde-talks-mockingjay-weird-al-and-new-music-at-lollapalooza Is she doing more than one song? Again, surprises happen, but if they follow CF’s pattern then this song is it.

  2. Everyone has a different experience while reading the books, this is Lorde’s interpretation, so who are we to say it’s not appropriate? I don’t really agree with your claim that Katniss would not describe herself the way she does in the song, but that is a matter of opinion. Personally I love the song, it is far superior than anything that has been put on the two previous soundtracks (except maybe Safe and Sound). The song is haunting, and Lorde’s vocals give it just the right amount of underlying pain that we all know Katniss experiences all throughout Mockingjay. Red, Orange, Yellow flicker beat sparking up my heart! Can’t you feel your heart racing just saying that line, the feeling that at any moment you could die, that life is combustible and no one is safe?! This song is golden!

  3. For some reason, the part where the song gains the pop-y beat reminds me of the credits song to the Bourne series.

    “This made some wonder if the song was about Johanna (the marble statue in the early Capitol video) or Effie with her ties to the Capitol.”
    Or it could be how others have crafted her into something a bit more than human? *shrugs*

    The one line I do like in there is the one about how her “necklace is a rope…”

    Considering the tone of how the song begins, and assuming that it’s the first one in the credits, I’m suspecting that the film is not going to end on a cheerful or hopeful note.

  4. I like Lorde and her music so I do like the song, but I agree with what you say, it is a Lorde song. Other movie theme songs like Adele’s Skyfall or Lana Del Rey’s version of “Once Upon a Dream”, try to mix the artist’s style with the movie’s style, you have what the artist is offering but you also have the main spirit of the movie represented (I think in Skyfall it’s super clear). The Hunger Games style is a bit difficult to point out because there’s been many people involved in the soundtrack, but I think in the first movie album there was a clear pattern; for example, if you listen to the Maroon 5 song you clearly see it’s not what Maroon 5 usually does but it’s mixed with the kind of music they wanted for the identity of the movie. This song is, as we said, a Lorde song, not a “Lorde meets The Hunger Games song”, so I like it because I like Lorde’s music, but as soon as I heard it, I thought people who don’t listen to her are not necessarily going to like it (much like when Vikings used Lorde’s Glory and Gore as the promo song, people who don’t like her music or aren’t familiar with it thought it was underwhelming for the series). The thing is, as much as I love Lorde, and I really do, the fact that she’s in charge of the whole thing this time, of picking everything out, (unlike the case with Safe and Sound and Abraham’s Daughter being in the credits) is a bit scary, especially after hearing this. Because I love Lorde, but if I want a Lorde album, I get a Lorde album, for a Hunger Games album I don’t want another Lorde album. I don’t know if she has the experience to take on the entire job and make it a clear mix of styles, she’s really young and really fresh in the industry. I know I’ll probably like what she puts out because I like her music, but I don’t know if it’ll be “Hunger Games” enough, so to speak.

  5. I actually love the song minus the weird humming, but it’s mostly cause me and my 10 year old daughter already love Lorde. That said, I actually prefer credits to roll with score, so I didn’t like Abraham’s Daughter playing or Atlas (though how funny that now Jennifer is dating Chris Martin) playing on the credits.

    I do think the lyrics fit well, particularly the finger prison part. And I do like “This is the start of how it all ends” for a credits song if it has to be that way.

  6. Well, I didn’t find this style of music really “Hunger Games” enough either, and I certainly prefer “Safe and Sound” by leaps and bounds. However, I don’t have as much of a problem with the “applicability” of the lyrics, though that might be because I’m not that familiar with Lorde’s music, perhaps if I was I’d be more in agreement that “this is more about Lorde than Katniss”.

    Sure, Katniss would never compare herself to precious gems out loud, there certainly IS a “bird in a gilded cage” aspect to her stay in D13. And one of the reasons she’s not included in the Peeta rescue (the scene that apparently inspired Lorde) is because she’s a “valuable asset” D13 doesn’t want to risk. And the latter part of the song seems to be an allusion to Katniss’s rather nihilistic determination to go kill Snow and die, though the music doesn’t quite go along with that grim mood.

    Haymitch’s comment in the trailer that Peeta is the Capitol’s weapon the “same way you’re ours” was quite chilling to me, because while Katniss isn’t really a prisoner and not coerced by force into collaborating with D13 the way Peeta is forced into collaborating with the Capitol, while she did technically have a choice at first, from the moment Coin puts her on notice that “I step a toe out of line and we’re all dead”, she pretty much didn’t. That’s the first clue we get that Coin isn’t much different from Snow, both use implicit threats to loved ones to ensure people’s cooperation.

    Note that Safe and Sound had it’s own ambiguities as well. Who was Katniss singing to, really? Prim? Rue? Peeta? I think that was left purposefully vague, and captured where she was at that point in the story, focused on protecting her loved ones. In MJ, that protective side of her is still present, but there is a more destructive, vengeful, aggressive side of her too that is shown, the side that is somewhat similar to Gale, a side she ultimately rejects, I think. (Shooting Coin could be interpreted as both vengeful and protective, but if she’d shot Snow instead that would’ve been pure vengeance, as he really was little threat to anyone at that point, but Coin still was).

    So…won’t exactly be buying this single myself, but I think that they lyrics are more relevant than it may appear at first glance.

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