The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond

cover image for The Hunger Games SoundtrackBurnett, T. Bone (producer). (2012) The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond. New York, NY: Universal Republic Records.


The 15 songs on The Hunger Games movie soundtrack do not come from the film itself, although three are played during the credits, rather they are all original songs inspired by the movie and recorded by a diverse group of artists.

Critical Evaluation:

It’s tempting to dismiss this soundtrack as merely being a marketing gimmick, since it’s hardly a proper soundtrack.  Actually listening to the songs does not give that impression.  The goal was to make money, obviously, but the songs stay true to the themes and mood of the movie and make me think more of author’s writing playlists or creations from talented fans.  Some, like Miranda Lambert’s Run Daddy Run sound much like the kind of folk music that might be sung in District 12, while more modern rock songs like Kid Cudi’s The Ruler and the Killer capture the anger and despair of the games themselves.  And I must guiltily confess to tearing up more than once while listening to Taylor Swift, whose Safe and Sound deliberately evokes both Peeta’s injury and Rue’s final moments.  The Hunger Games soundtrack may have initially made waves because of it’s ties to the popular movie and series, but it is the songs themselves, haunting and true to the spirit of the story, that continue to make this a popular album.

Reader’s Annotation:

15 haunting and original songs inspired by the girl who was on fire.

Author Information:



Booktalking Ideas:

NA  (although quite a bit of them would work as poetry to be read aloud)

Reading Level/Target Age:


Possible Controversy:

For popular music, it’s very mild, especially considering the topic.

Reasons for Choosing This Title:

Friends kept talking about how great this was, and I found it strange at first that this film would have a soundtrack.


Miley Cyrus

cover image for Can't Be TamedCyrus, M., Armato, A., James, T., & Karaoglu, D. (2010) Who Own My Heart [Recorded by Miley Cyrus].  On Can’t Be Tamed [mp3].  Hollywood, CA: Hollywood Records.

Cyrus, M., Armato, A., James, T., Neumann, P., & Pompetzki, M.  (2010) Can’t Be Tamed [Recorded by Miley Cyrus].  On Can’t Be Tamed [mp3].  Hollywood, CA: Hollywood Records.

Cyrus, M. & Shanks, J.  (2010) Stay [Recorded by Miley Cyrus].  On Can’t Be Tamed [mp3].  Hollywood, CA: Hollywood Records.

[I wish I could just send you to this post at Tiger Beatdown in lieu of an actual review, as theirs will always be the much better review to read, but I can’t really turn in someone else’s blog post for my homework.  So here goes…]

After trashing the last couple of musicians, I’m now going to have to admit that I actually enjoyed Cyrus’ songs.   They still feel very extra shiny polished in a way that smells of lots and lots people working on Miley Cyrus, The Star.*  But.  They are actually interesting and, despite the being more mature songs, are also the kinds of things I’d like tween girls to be thinking about.

Yeah, I know, that’s not exactly an uncontroversial statement.  Now, I’m not really talking younger tweens here, and it’s clear that Miley has become more of a teen artist than a tween artist as she has moved into adulthood herself.


Granted, Stay is a pretty typical love ballad, but it’s also more musically sophisticated than, for example, Everclear’s offerings.  Who Owns My Heart had mine from the first though – talking about the difference between desire and love?  In a ways that also suggests she’s pondering if any love would ever be worth living up her artistic passions?  The lyrics are definitely more mature (although, when is rock not about sex?) but the questions are ones I want (older) tweens asking themselves.

And then there’s Can’t be Tamed.  Of course there’s going to be adults that are made uneasy by adolescents declaring their independence.  Especially when you throw “girls” and “sex” into the mix. I’m not really all that thrilled about tween girls thinking they need to be sexy, sexy to rebel myself.  At the same time, the fact that we seem to continually try to control girls’ sexuality rather than guide them is part of what led to this song and video, as is the idea that for girls, “sexually available” = “adult.”  So it seems to me that it’s very appropriate for older tweens to be listening to Miley – and for the adults in their lives to be engaging in conversations with them about why they think Miley is rebelling the way that she is.

Best for ages 13-16

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*right, so, probably shouldn’t have reread Sady and Amanda’s post right before writing this.


cover image for EverlifeGerrard, M., Origliasso, J., Origlasso, L., & Nevil, R. (2007) Faded [Recorded by Everlife]. On Everlife. Buena Vista, CA: Buena Vista Records

Gorely, A., & Farren, C. (2007) Static [Recorded by Everlife].  On Everlife. Buena Vista, CA: Buena Vista Records

Gerrard, M., Hezlep, A., Ross, J., & Ross, S. (2007) Find Yourself in You [Recorded by Everlife]. On Everlife. Buena Vista, CA: Buena Vista Records


Angst! Drama! Rebellion!

All of which, unfortunately, sounds much less sincere when it comes pre-packaged.  Find Yourself in You is upbeat, but full of shallow “go you!” lyrics and got on my nerves pretty quickly.  Faded is much better; it reminds me a bit of Michelle Branch – if she wrote lyrics that sounded more like P!nk.  It will likely also resonate with many tweens who feel pressured – by parents, friends, teachers, etc. – to act or be a certain way, or who don’t feel like they have a voice.  Which is pretty much all of them.  Static is a little more mature, it’s about a relationship falling apart, but it’s also more generally about not feeling heard, like Faded.

The themes feel more teen than tween, but the presentation is more tween than teen, so…

Best for ages 11-15.


Artist website:

Jonas Brothers


photo of the Jonas brothers doing monkey hear, monkey see, monkey do

Jonas, N., Jonas, J., & Jonas, K.  (2007) When You Look Me in the Eyes.  On When You Look Me in the Eyes. Burbank, CA: Hollywood Records.

Jonas, N., Jonas, J., & Jonas, K.  (2008) Burnin’ Up.  On A Little Bit Longer. Burbank, CA: Hollywood Records.

Jonas, N., Jonas, J., & Jonas, K.  (2008) Lovebug.  On A Little Bit Longer. Burbank, CA: Hollywood Records.


[Just for the record, when I was 13, I was totally into New Kids on the Block.  Which means both that my music judgement is not to be trusted, and that I do not judge anyone for the music they like.]

I don’t know if it’s just me, but Burnin’ Up sounds like it wants to be a Janet Jackson dance mix from the early 90’s and When You Look Me in the Eyes sounds like a poor imitation of a power rock ballad from the late 90’s.  On the other hand, while Lovebug is possibly trying a bit too hard (especially the clearly scripted studio talk), it actually sounds rather nice and relatively original.  (No, I don’t always go for the catchy tunes.  I’m just a sucker for peppy, slightly quirky, pop rock.)

I don’t understand the popularity the Jonas Brothers any better having listened to some of their songs*, but I might possibly keep Lovebug on my playlist.  If I can find a version that doesn’t have them talking about pizza and parties.

Best for ages 9-14


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*having listened to Hangin’ Tough recently, after not having heard it for decades, I do have to say they’ve got NKOTB beat hands down, though.

Taylor Swift

cover image for Taylor Swift's album Speak Now

Swift, T.  (2008).  Love Story. On Fearless [mp3].  Nashville, TN : Big Machine.

Swift, T. (2010).  Back to December.  On Speak Now [mp3].  Nashville, TN : Big Machine.

Swift, T. (2010).  Speak Now.  On Speak Now [mp3].  Nashville, TN : Big Machine.


[I know nothing about music.  I listen to it, but I’ve never been an audiophile and I have no idea how to go about writing a review for music, so these music reviews are mostly going to be really random and informal.]

Not having heard anything by Swift before (er, not while knowing it was her, in any case)  I pretty much tried to pick the most popular songs of hers (according to iTunes) that stood out when I listened to the clips.  Even so, my first impressions of the first few songs were “bland” – with the exception of Speak Now, which was catchy from the start.   The other two started to grow on me some as I listened to them on repeat, the chorus in Back to December and ? in Love Story, but generally they still feel very forgettable.  Both the music and the lyrics of Back to December and Love Story seem rather typical to me (love, break-ups, loneliness, controlling parents, etc.).

Speak Now is a little more interesting, the tune is bouncier and while it’s again about love, it’s more specifically about Swift interrupting a wedding The Graduate style.  It’s a rather self-centered wish-fulfillment story with plenty of mean girl type lyrics about the bride.  Still, it’s definitely catchy – did I mention that? – and while it may not challenge some of the more harmful cultural attitudes, it’s hardly the worse perpetuation of them either.  Personally, I found the idea that Juliet should be saved from being told what to do by running away with Romeo to be more disturbing – how are you going to get away from being controlled by running to someone else, rather than standing up for yourself? Or, at the very least, running away simply because you need to, not because a boy is waiting for you?

I dunno that I’d ever recommend Swift to anyone, but I’d definitely make sure her albums were in my collection.  Younger tweens may still like the music, but the lyrics are unlikely to appeal to them, and they are going to be less able to criticize the unhealthier part of them.

Best for ages 13-16

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