1. Jay-Z is on cruise control with the sneering, chest-beating “100$ Bill.” The stutter-step, electro-rap track connects Jigga’s well-worn, drug-dealing narrative to his transformation into respectable, world-beating mogul with the come-up of such past American icons as Joseph Kennedy (the bootlegger turned feared patriarch of the most famous political family dynasty in U.S. history). It’s Shawn Carter 101 stuff. It works, but the replay value struggles to catch up.
2. It’s official. Please avoid covering the late Amy Winehouse if you are unable to project her heartbreaking anguish. Yes, Andre 3000’s and Beyonce’s version of the tortured British songstress’ startling 2006 single “Back To Black” is credible. The ‘60s pop string orchestration of the first version is exchanged for a meatier, keyboard-fueled, big beat groove. But Bey sounds way too pristine on this track. And at this point, while 3 Stacks has earned the right to sing his email messages if he so chooses, it’s his otherworldly rhyming that makes him an icon. Arguably this is the soundtrack’s weakest link.
3. Oddly enough this album picks up with a will.i.am number. “Bang Bang” samples the “The Charleston,” the 1923 international hit that fueled the roaring '20s dance craze. On paper it sounds a bit cheesy. Yet it’s actually a pretty clever, whimsical, high-energy dance workout that makes you forgive the uber producer’s current omnipresent annoyance—the Justin Bieber featured “Power.”
4. Why does the Fergie-Q-Tip-GoonRock collaboration, “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got),” sound like one of those mid ‘90s, poppy house music anthems that got nonstop play on New York’s Z100 radio station?
5. Haunting, ethereal, gorgeous… Lana Del Ray’s “Young And Beautiful,” the first single from the Gatsby soundtrack, stands as a startling representation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s mighty telling of jazz age excess, brazen decadence, and love lost. Now if only Del Rey could translate that gripping vocal beauty to the live stage.