CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Last year's soundtrack to the first "Hunger Games" film, "The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond," was the best-selling soundtrack of 2012. As such, the sequel's soundtrack, "Catching Fire," has a lot to live up to. Thankfully, it does.
The album contains a 90/10 split of indie and mainstream artists: Coldplay, Of Monsters and Men, Sia, The National, Christina Aguilera, The Weeknd, Imagine Dragons, Lorde, The Lumineers, Ellie Goulding, Patti Smith and Santigold.
In addition, the deluxe edition includes extra songs by Mikky Ekko, Phantogram and Antony and the Johnsons. They're well worth the few extra bucks you'll have to dish out.
The album is fantastic and much better than the first. Despite the wide array of artists, the songs all fit together nicely, and the album's general tone manages to capture and evoke feelings of rebellion and liberation -- the themes of "Catching Fire." It's chock-full of emotionally-charged, dramatic ballads that are as empowering as they are somber.
The album standouts come from Sia, Christina Aguilera, The Weeknd, Imagine Dragons and Lorde.
"Elastic Heart" (featuring The Weeknd and Diplo) is reminiscent of Sia's best-known hit, "Titanium" with David Guetta. Like "Titanium," it's a catchy and cinematic track of empowerment. The Weeknd offers fantastic vocals that compliment Sia's.
Aguilera's "We Remain" accomplishes the album's focus of empowerment best. It's an extremely motivating pop power ballad that captures the essence of strength and hope of the series' protagonist, Katniss. Aguilera's trademark vocals suit the song's message and strong lyrics well.
The Weeknd gets his own chance to shine with "Devil May Cry." The thumping percussion and background vocals that accompany his smooth voice produce an eerie effect, creating a sense of melancholy.
Since this is a soundtrack for a film aimed at young adults, Imagine Dragons is contractually obligated to make an appearance. Even though "Who We Are" sounds too much like the band's typical flair, it's welcomed. The most energetic song on the album, it gives a much-needed tonal break.
Lorde completely steals the show with her unique cover of Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World." Both her vocals and the production create an absolute haunting atmosphere, stripping away the classic's cheerful tone. It's either a statement on the issues of war and violence the series raises or, with Lorde sounding almost mocking in tone, a satirical take on the concept of wanting power -- possibly both.The "Catching Fire" soundtrack is one of the best albums this year. While "Hunger Games" fans will obviously love it, those who aren't into the franchise should also pick it up. The album's wide variety of artists and quality songs can be enjoyed by anyone.