A Look Back at the Stellar ‘Hunger Games’ Soundtrack–Plus, Our Favorite Songs

A movie needs many components to fall into place for it to be great. The acting needs to be great. The writing needs to be great. Most importantly–by our standards at least–the soundtrack needs to be great.

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As The Hunger Games prequel, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, arrives in theaters, we think it apt to take a look back at the stellar soundtrack that was created for the first film in the series. The collection of folkie tunes packs quite a punch. Given that the main character, Katniss Everdeen, is supposed to hail from Appalachia, there is something distinctly southern about the album.

The project drew in a splashy list of names, including Arcade Fire, Taylor Swift, The Civil Wars, Kid Cudi, Pistol Annies, and more. The essence of the dystopian film was harvested and injected into each of the 16 tracks, creating the perfect needle-drops to accompany all the action. A flashback of Katniss’ late father? “Run Daddy Run” by Pistol Annies is sure to evoke his memory. Katniss saving her sister’s life? “Safe & Sound” by Taylor Swift and The Civil Wars will be the perfect tonic for that heart-wrenching moment.

Listening to this album is like watching the movie through a different sense. Instead of ingesting the storyline through your eyes, you’ll make up your own mental images while feeling all the same emotions that the film evokes via these expertly crafted songs.

Below is a rundown of our favorite songs on the album and why we think they’re great.

1. “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder,” The Secret Sisters

Muscle Shoals, Alabama, natives The Secret Sisters are behind one of the most powerful songs on the soundtrack, “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder.” The song offers a sweet assuage amid hard times. Though our own trials and tribulations likely don’t hold a resemblance to those of Katniss and Co., the song is still a heartwarming message to latch onto amid struggle.

2. “Safe & Sound,” Taylor Swift and The Civil Wars

Taylor Swift flexed her country roots alongside The Civil Wars for one of her contributions to this soundtrack, “Safe & Sound.” The trio’s harmonies feel almost machine-made for how warping and hypnotizing they are. Swift thought enough of the track to add it to her rerecording roster. The reduxed version is just as stunning.

3. “Run Daddy Run,” Pistols Annies

Pistol Annies–Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, and Angaleena Presley–lent their stunning synchronicity to this soundtrack with “Run Daddy Run.” Daddy can you hear the devil drawing near / Like a bullet from a gun, run daddy run, they sing in a tight and powerful harmony. The song has a haunting musicality, which is perfect for its morose lyricism.

4. “The Ruler And the Killer,” Kid Cudi

“The Ruler And the Killer” is perhaps the most departing moment on the album. While most of the tracks have a folkie feel to them, this track is all rock and roll. When I talk you should listen / All of you belong to me, Kid Cudi drawls out. It’s a welcomed change of pace amongst the largely steady album.

[RELATED: The 20 Best Kid Cudi Quotes]

5. “Eyes Open” (Taylor Swift)

Swift’s second contribution to the soundtrack, “Eyes Open,” could find a comfortable home on any one of her albums. It’s a pop anthem most aligned with her sonic direction on Red or Speak Now. One of the final songs on the soundtrack, “Eyes Open” helps to close out this project with a bang.

Photo: ‘The Hunger Games’ soundtrack cover

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