Paulo Coelho Loves Nadine Labaki’s Where Do We Go Now

I’m not sure if I like the king of cliche making his love for Nadine Labaki’s hit movie, Where Do We Go Now, known but Paulo Coelho took it to twitter just now to let everyone know that he is a fan of Nadine Labaki’s 2011 movie which was a resounding success among audiences, even non-Lebanese ones, – less so among critics.

Coelho even liked the soundtrack, which isn’t hard to imagine as the music is definitely well done.

Paulo Coelho + Where Do We Go Now + Nadine Labaki

Ironically, the situation that sparked Where Do We Go Now happened way too many times in 2012. Hopefully Nadine Labaki won’t bother writing another movie where she invites Lebanese people from different religions (and more generally political) factions to love each other. The now-cliche aspect of Where Do We Go Now notwithstanding, I’m glad for the praise the movie just got even if it doesn’t mean much. I guess this is the first time someone as known as Coelho makes his liking for Lebanese cinema known.

Hopefully some good Lebanese movies see the light of day this year. You can buy Where Do We Go Now on DVD and Blu-Ray if you want to watch it.

The Hunger Games Soundtrack – Album Review

The Hunger Games is probably one of the most anticipated movies of the year. And the movie delivers (read my review). With such standards, the need for a decent soundtrack becomes evident. The album’s producer T-Bone Burnett manages to do what he does best. The award-winning producer has come up with a very coherent album with a specific vibe and feel that doesn’t stray away from the movie’s theme.

While listening to The Hunger Games‘ soundtrack, titled: The Hunger Games (Songs from District 12 and Beyond), you cannot but feel that this is an album that would have stood alone as a credible work without an accompanying movie. The fact that there’s a movie to it is just the cherry on top. It’s a folky, country album. It is mellow, somewhat subdued in parts and also defiant in others. The sound it holds varies between realism and shrieking for liberty. It switches between being soothing and calling for arms.

It is a treat to listen to.

Opening with an eerie battle for strength by Arcade Fire, in a song titled “Abraham’s Daughter,” the bar is set very high for the album. Driven by incessant military beat, the band sings in Biblical terms about the power of sacrifice. It is the song that plays as the movie’s credits start rolling.

The album also features two songs by country superstar Taylor Swift, both of which are not the typical country pop sound she has become known for. Instead, Taylor has decided to let her sound grow on an album that is not hers. On “Safe & Sound” (full review of the song), she’s soothing, telling the character to whom she’s singing to “close your eyes, you’ll be alright. No one can hurt you now. Come morning light, you and I’ll be safe and sound.” On the other offering for Taylor in the album, the song titled “Eyes Open” (full review of the song), she is the exact opposite. “Keep you eyes open,” she incessantly repeats as if her life depended on it.

Grammy-winning folk band The Civil Wars are also present on the album in two songs. The first is a feature on the aforementioned Safe & Sound, the second is one entirely their own called “Kingdom Come”. For a band known for their harmonies, they work their best here. Their harmonies get better as the song progresses. “Run, run, run away. Buy yourself another day. A cold wind’s whispering secrets in your ear. So low only you can hear…. It’ll all be over soon. I’ll be waiting here for you.”

Hip-hop artist Kid Cudi is featured on a song titled “The Ruler and the Killer.” Maroon 5 also contribute a haunting submission titled “Come Away To The Water,” a song that is very different from many of their personal material with lyrics that are dark and haunting. “Come away little lamb, come away to the slaughter. To the ones appointed to see this through. We are coming for you.”

New country band, The Pistol Annies with their frontwoman Miranda Lambert are present on “Run Daddy Run,” a folky song that’s very in the vein of what other country artists had given the soundtrack. It is reminiscent of the movie’s mood as well. “Daddy, can you hear the devil drawing near?” they sing with conviction.

Glen Hansard, known for his more subdued songs such as “Falling Slowly”, is outside of the character he has convinced people of. On the rocking song “Take the Heartland,” he shouts and pleads. “I’m not gonna put my head down. I’ll face it like a Fidel Castro, like a Che Guevara or a Fidel Castro. I’m gonna grab my bow and my life’s one last wish. And I’m gonna take the life and a knife. And I’m gonna shape my way and not fall.”

Young singer Birdy, known for her cover of Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love,” concludes the album with the chilling “Just a Game.” “There comes you to keep me safe from harm. There comes you to take me in your arms. Is it just a game? I don’t know. Is it just a game? I don’t know” she pleads.

The album also features many other artists such as The Decemberists, The Secret Sisters, Neko Case, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, Punch Brothers, Jayme Dee and The Low Anthem. All of the 16 songs that make up the album help create a great companion for The Hunger Games.

After watching the movie, you cannot but be certain that The Hunger Games‘ soundtrack fits the movie perfectly. While listening to the songs, you can close your eyes and imagine Katniss struggling for her life, arming her bow and shooting at her enemies. And in a way, the soundtrack does that. It shoots at musical conformity by giving you a composite sound different from most of the music you hear nowadays. And that is always certainly welcomed.


The tracklist:

1. Arcade Fire, “Abraham’s Daughter”
2. The Secret Sisters, “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder”
3. Neko Case, “Nothing To Remember”
4. Taylor Swift, “Safe & Sound ft. The Civil Wars”
5. Kid Cudi, “The Ruler and The Killer”
6. Punch Brothers, “Dark Days”
7. The Decemberists, “One Engine”
8. The Carolina Chocolate Drops, “Daughter’s Lament”
9. The Civil Wars, “Kingdom Come”
10. Glen Hansard, “Take The Heartland”
11. Maroon 5 ft. Rozzi Crane, “Come Away To The Water”
12. Miranda Lambert, “Run Daddy Run feat. Pistol Annies”
13. Jayme Dee, “Rules”
14. Taylor Swift, “Eyes Open”
15. The Low Anthem, “Lover Is Childlike”
16. Birdy, “Just A Game”


Eyes Open (Single Review & Lyrics) – Taylor Swift [The Hunger Games Soundtrack]

Taylor Swift’s second submission to The Hunger Games‘ soundtrack album has just been released, ahead of the movie’s release in theaters next week.

Where Safe & Sound was a reassuring song in the face of distress and fear, Eyes Open is the opposite in theme. Where the former tells a story of safety, the latter, with its prominent guitar, is almost the total opposite. And for a movie & book like The Hunger Games (my review of the book), Eyes Open is way more fitting. It has the energy, thrill and rush of the story all wrapped up in 4 minutes.

The song starts with Taylor reminiscing about the days when things were safe, when the characters were children, playing with wooden swords. But their carefree days have now been replaced with a cruel world – one where they have to keep their eyes open in order to survive: “Playing soldiers, just pretending… In backyards, winning battles with our wooden swords. But now we’ve stepped into a cruel world...”

Meanwhile, everyone’s waiting for them to fail, to breakdown and watch the fallout. So she urges them to keep their eyes open even when they’re asleep: “Everybody’s waiting for you to breakdown. Everybody’s watching to see the fallout. Even when you’re sleeping, sleeping, keep your eyes open

I can imagine the song being played in the movie just before the tributes are taken into the arena because every single lyric uttered by Taylor fits that moment perfectly. “But turn around, they’ve surrounded you. It’s a showdown, and nobody comes to save you now.” According to Taylor, the song is a symbolization of Katniss’ rebellion against the Capitol. The song shows that as well.

The lyrics are so on point, in fact, that you can’t but think of Katniss and the other tributes preparing to run as the countdown to The Hunger Games dies down when you hear Taylor sing: “Keep your feet ready, heartbeat steady. Keep your eyes open. Keep your aim locked. The night goes dark, keep your eyes open.”

The melody is very catchy. It builds up, all to the backdrop of a strong guitar sound, before the song culminates in repetitions of “keep your eyes open” for further emphasis and eventually stops, as it should, right on top. There’s no outro cue. The song stops the way it starts, suddenly, because when the character’s lives are at stake, the only way a song describing the situation would work is by it being sudden and urgent.

When it comes to Taylor Swift’s songs, she might be the only person able to sing them convincingly. Her vocal performance is always not perfect but the little flaws help to add to the song’s overall feel. When it comes to Eyes Open, the cracks here and there in Taylor’s voice contribute to the song’s overall mood of absolute urgency.

Overall, Eyes Open is a great addition to Taylor’s repertoire. She shows her great songwriting abilities by the way she turns phrases and creates scenes in simple words, making it seem effortless in the process. I can’t wait to hear it in the movie.


The Lyrics:

Everybody’s waiting
Everybody’s watching
Even when you’re sleeping
So keep your eyes open

The tricky thing is yesterday we were just children
Playing soldiers, just pretending
Dreaming dreams with happy endings
In backyards, winning battles with our wooden swords
But now we’ve stepped into a cruel world
Where everybody stands to keep score

Keep your eyes open

Everybody’s waiting for you to breakdown
Everybody’s watching to see the fallout
Even when you’re sleeping, sleeping
Keep your eyes open
Keep your eyes open
Keep your eyes open

So here you are, two steps ahead and staying on guard
Every lesson forms a new scar
They never thought you’d make it this far
But turn around, they’ve surrounded you
It’s a showdown, and nobody comes to save you now
But you’ve got something they don’t
Yeah you’ve got something they don’t
You’ve just gotta keep your eyes open

Everybody’s waiting for you to breakdown
Everybody’s watching to see the fallout
Even when you’re sleeping, sleeping
Keep your eyes open
Keep your eyes open
Keep your eyes open

Keep your feet ready
Heartbeat steady
Keep your eyes open
Keep your aim locked
The night goes dark
Keep your eyes open

Everybody’s waiting for you to breakdown
Everybody’s watching to see the fallout
Even when you’re sleeping, sleeping

Keep your eyes open
Keep your eyes open
Keep your eyes open
Keep your eyes open

You can listen to Eyes Open here. I’ll post a YouTube link the moment Taylor’s label tones down the video-removing frenzy.

Safe & Sound (From “The Hunger Games” Soundtrack) [feat. The Civil Wars] (Single Review) – Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift’s Christmas present for her fans arrived in the form of a song titled “Safe & Sound,” which is serving as the lead single for one of 2012’s most anticipated movies: The Hunger Games.

The song opens with a guitar playing to which Swift sings eerie breathiness: “I remember tears streaming down your face when I said, I’ll never let you go, when all those shadows almost killed your light. I remember you said don’t leave me here alone. But all that’s dead and gone and passed tonight.”

The moment Swift utters the first note, you know this isn’t like any song she has written before and it’s a very welcome departure from her previous works to a more mature, mellow musical sound.

“Just close your eyes, the sun is going down. You’ll be alright, no one can hurt you now. Come morning light, you and I will be safe and sound” Swift sings on the chorus, with the hums of The Civil Wars, who are featured with her on the song, in the background only serving to increase the overall tense atmosphere of the song and make it more fitting of the movie it will be part of.

For those who don’t know, The Hunger Games is based on a book of the same title and is set in a post apocalyptic world where there is very little hope, very little potential for a better life and where the young people of that world have to kill each other for the entertainment of their ruthless governing Capitol as part of the Hunger Games. Once you have that in your mind, it’s very easy to see how this song fits perfectly that atmosphere. You can easily imagine the characters of the book sitting around a campfire and singing this to maybe bring nonexistent strength to their spirit.

Don’t you dare look out your window, darling everything’s on fire. The war outside our door keeps raging on. Hold onto this lullaby even when the music’s gone,” Swift sings on the second verse with slightly more strength to echo a buildup in the song teller’s morale. The vocals are layered and icy while trying to echo the building fire inside. It simply works.

The Civil Wars are more pronounced on the second verse onwards as their provide beautiful harmonies to Taylor’s singing, providing an eerie echo that resonates with the overall ethereal atmosphere painted in the song, adding to the folky sound the song has.

Safe & Sound is dark. Safe & Sound is anything but safe and sound for a singer who has become more known for her tween hits than her better songs that never see the light of day on radio. Safe & Sound is here to show that Taylor Swift is truly one of this generation’s best songwriters – one who is able to craft an idea into a song that can fascinate you. She uses beautiful imagery and manages to create musical hooks out of the gloomiest of songs. Safe & Sound is no exception to that rule. Safe & Sound is the most grown-up Taylor Swift has ever been on song. This is one of the few songs she has where she doesn’t talk about boys, love, fairytales and broken romances. This is a song about life, about hardships – and she pulls it off brilliantly.