Anyone feeling hungry right now?

Sarah Contreras

“You’ve gotta hear this one song; it will change your life, I swear.”

It was with that line that the soundtrack to 2004’s Garden State became bigger than the film itself. The soundtrack earned itself an Oscar, while the film garnered barely any true critical attention. Many people, myself included, cherish the collection of songs to this day but have become apathetic to the movie. Indie kids swooned, and those who never thought to pick up an Iron & Wine album suddenly became the band’s biggest fan.

If there is any doubt that a soundtrack can be just as important to popular culture as movies, then all you have to do is look back into music history. Soundtracks have a long background of sometimes eclipsing the popularity of the movie they support. There are many young men and women who have never watched Dirty Dancing, but can sing you “Time of My Life” on cue, and who doesn’t know every soaring note of Titanic’s titanic hit, “My Heart Will Go On”?

Soundtracks also allow musical artists room to expand the horizons of fans both old and new. Daft Punk showed off its signature sound, and also its aptitude for orchestral scores on the soundtrack for 2010’s Tron: Legacy, while both Paramore and Death Cab for Cutie got a little more angsty and a whole lot more mainstream with their contributions to the Twilight soundtracks (“I Caught Myself” and “Meet Me on The Equinox,” respectively).

“I think soundtracks are important because aside from orchestral pieces, they let certain artists do stand-alone work – such as Aerosmith’s ‘I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing,’” said senior English major Chris Pantelis. “They let artists branch out and experiment.”

The reason I’m pointing all of this out is because there is a new killer soundtrack on the scene, and I wonder whether or not it will receive the same amount – or even more attention than – as the film it’s married to. The Hunger Games (Songs From District 12 and Beyond) hit shelves this week, and I must say, it’s pretty great. Helmed by Grammy and Oscar-winning producer T-Bone Burnett, the 16-song collection effectively conveys the dark, grimy and brutal world of The Hunger Games. The pop and sparkle of other YA movie franchises is nowhere to be found; instead, listeners will be enticed and perhaps a bit disturbed by the themes of war, death, hopelessness and martyrdom.

That’s not to say that the album is alienating. Familiar, popular names such as Taylor Swift and Maroon 5 appear to anchor down the teenage draw, while still laying the foundation for a more somber experience. And for those who aren’t “into” mainstream names, The Decemberists and The Arcade Fire are there to please their fan base and gain more followers.

It’s an arduous task, creating an effective soundtrack. Zach Braff notoriously handpicked every track on the Garden State album, editing and re-editing his picks until the fully conveyed the emotions his characters experienced onscreen. Even if you aren’t enamored with the art and importance of the soundtrack, you have to admit that you can’t always escape their influences.

“I don’t necessarily think of soundtracks as important,” said Jamie Petersen, senior English and communicative disorders major, “But I know sometimes I buy songs I wouldn’t normally buy because I hear it in a movie.”

So when you head out to see The Hunger Games in theaters this weekend, consider the songs you’ll hear while the credits roll. After all, you never know when a song will indeed change your life.