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.
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.