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‘The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes’ Paints A Perfect Picture of Panem

By Maryjane Perez | 11 December 2023

Author’s note: It’s best to listen to this soundtrack after seeing the film as context is needed to fully appreciate each song. 

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes Soundtrack
Via @thehungergames on Instagram

The Hunger Games franchise is back with a brand new film and soundtrack, both of which offer a unique new perspective into the world of Panem. This soundtrack impressively guides listeners through the story of Coriolanus Snow, better known as President Snow, and Lucy Gray. These tracks are more folk and country inspired than previous Hunger Games soundtracks, but it works well with the story’s setting. 

The soundtrack opens with “Can’t Catch Me Now,” a delicate yet powerful ballad from Olivia Rodrigo. It introduces soft guitars and ascending strings to accompany Rodrigo’s haunting lyricism and impassioned vocals. Rodrigo captures the story from Lucy Gray’s perspective, giving listeners a unique glimpse, as the movie is centered around Coriolanus Snow. Without spoiling anything, the lyric,  “I’m in the trees, I’m in the breeze / My footsteps on the ground / You’ll see my face in every place / But you can’t catch me now” aligns perfectly with a scene from the movie. Definitely one of my favorites from the soundtrack. 

Next up is Rachel Zegler’s version of the most iconic song of the Hunger Games franchise, “The Hanging Tree.” At first I was hesitant to accept this version of the song because Jennifer Lawrence’s version is nostalgic. After seeing the film, I would argue that Lawrence’s performance is more haunting—a chilling chant accompanied by a chorus that emphasizes the impact of the song in the world of Panem. That being said, Zegler’s vocals are very strong and it is interesting to hear the song take on a folk sound. 

“Wool” from Flatland Cavalry is a gloomy song written specifically for the film. It features prominent guitar plucks, strings, and lyrics that beautifully capture the essence of the Coriolanus Snow. “Longin’ to be faithful, wantin’ to be kind / Now you howl at the moon when the wolf starts callin’” conveys Snow’s struggle with falling into dark and corrupt tendencies. 

Zegler’s tracks “Nothing You Can’t Take From Me” and “The Old Therefore / Singing at Snakes” are specifically tied to scenes from the film. Both songs reflect Lucy Gray’s resilience during the reaping and her time in the games. Her ability to produce such strong and well enunciated vocals is very refreshing and impressive. 

Sierra Ferrel’s “The Garden” is a great addition to the soundtrack. The slight accent to her words and the bouncy guitars solidify the country sound. This song inspires a hopeful feeling that tributes and citizens of the districts seem to carry throughout the games. “Bury Me Beneath The Willow” also ties together the overall sound. It’s a traditional ballad folk song that Molly Tuttle revitalized for the soundtrack. 

“The Ballad of Lucy Gray Baird” is my favorite from Zegler. It has a theatrical feel that may not appeal to everyone, but I think it works really well. The song features subtle guitar plucks allowing her vocals to be the focal point. “Pure As The Driven Snow '' is another track that gives us another opportunity to hear Zegler’s incredible voice. It does an excellent job of showcasing her range as she switches from gritty vocals to more operatic sound. 

 “Lucy Gray' (Part 1)”, and “Lucy Gray (Part 2)” tell the story of Lucy Gray’s character and experiences. What stands out about these tracks is Zegler’s vocals. She delivers a very beautiful and compelling a cappella performance for both songs. It’s amazing to hear the depth that her voice carries. She is a true performer. Though these tracks don’t necessarily further the development of the film, they provide more insight of Lucy Gray being a fleeting character.

The influence of traditional country music can be found in “Cabin Song” by Billy Strings, “Keep On The Sunny Side” by Josie Hope Hall & The Covey Band, and “District 12 Stomp” by The Covey Band. These tracks feature feverish guitar, upbeat vocals, and energetic stomps that make it easy to imagine yourself in the scene. The Covey Band is a group of musicians that travel throughout the districts to perform; Lucy Gray is part of this band. 

“Burn Me Once” by Bella White and “Winter’s Come and Gone” by Charles Wesley Godwin offer a slower paced and acoustic listening experience. As most songs on the soundtrack, the use of guitar is prominent. White’s vocals are unique as she falls into almost a whisper at the end of some verses. Godwin’s vocals are a bit more strong with a slight gravelly tinge. 

The soundtrack has a sound that I don’t usually gravitate towards, but I found myself captivated by the storytelling nonetheless. Zegler’s vocals really shine through—I think I will listen back to her songs the most, along with Rodrigo’s. Overall it is a beautifully curated soundtrack with a colorful soundscape that allows listeners to envision Panem through the lens of music, which is an incredible thing to be able to do. It's definitely worthy of at least one full listen through.


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