Lucy Gray Baird, played by Rachel Zegler, bows at her Reaping in the trailer for The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

I’ve Been Listening to ‘Can’t Catch Me Now’ on Repeat and I Still Can’t Get Over How Perfect It Is

She IS in the trees and she IS in the breeze!

The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is almost upon us, and I personally can’t wait. No other piece of YA dystopia has come even close to The Hunger Games—a movie tetralogy based on the book trilogy of the same name by author Suzanne Collins—and its message remains poignant and hard-hitting even today. 

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The same goes for its prequel, which tells the story of the 10th Hunger Games, the first ones that start to shift from a “simple” execution to keep the Districts in check and turn into a larger spectacle, and of a young Coriolanus Snow, who will be the President of Panem years later when a sixteen-year-old girl from District 12 will volunteer to save her little sister and ignite a long-awaited revolution in the process.

Not that the 74th Hunger Games will be the first in which Snow has to deal with a girl from District 12. In the Games which take up a good chunk of the plot of The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, young Snow (played in the movie by Tim Blythe) is assigned to mentor the female tribute from the very last District—Lucy Gray Baird (played by Rachel Zegler), a singer and performer who will have a massive impact on his life.

And it’s precisely on Lucy Gray Baird that the folk-rock theme song for The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, “Can’t Catch Me Now,” focuses. Written and performed by Olivia Rodrigo, released on November 3 with the music video following on November 13, it truly perfectly captures the spirit of both the story and Lucy Gray as a character. 

So let’s break it down because I have been physically unable to stop listening to it ever since it dropped. Be warned, though, there are spoilers for The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes ahead.

“Can’t Catch Me Now,” Lucy Gray and the other girls

Not only does “Can’t Catch Me Now” capture the kind of music that I had imagined the Covey (the nomadic group of performers that Lucy Gray is a part of) would make, but it also perfectly embodies her journey within the plot of The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes and also her larger role within the Hunger Games universe.

The entire song is obviously from Lucy Gray’s POV and it’s filled with both anger and vindication. It’s like Lucy Gray is proudly stating how she is both beyond Snow’s grasp—which is key, when considering that Coriolanus arguably never really loved her but only wanted to possess her—but also lingering in everything around him, in a sort of response to Snow’s thoughts in the epilogue of The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes.

“Lucy Gray’s fate was a mystery, then, just like the little girl who shared her name in that maddening song. Was she alive, dead, a ghost who haunted the wilderness? Perhaps no one would ever really know. […] Poor Lucy Gray. Poor ghost girl singing away with her birds. She could fly around District 12 all she liked, but she and her mockingjays could never harm him again,” thinks Coriolanus as he begins his rise in the Capitol, the one that will bring him to become President of Panem.

By contrast, “Can’t Catch Me Now” states that while Snow might have thought that Lucy Gray’s impact on his life would be erased—the “snow fallin’ over the city,” which is reminiscent of the saying Coriolanus and his cousin Tigris repeat over and over again, “snow lands on top”—she will actually reappear in his life forever, “here, there, everywhere”.

And we can be certain that Snow really did see Lucy Gray’s “face in every place” when Katniss Everdeen volunteered in place of her sister, when she held up the nightlock berries in the finale of the 74th Hunger Games and when she shot her arrow at the dome of the Quarter Quell. One could also say that he probably also saw Lucy Gray in Peeta—both of them performers who used their natural charm and likability to play the Capitol and have its citizens wrapped around their fingers.

Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Between the mockingjays and “The Hanging Tree,” Katniss really must have seemed to be Lucy Gray come again to Snow (Lionsgate)

In general, the song is an anthem to freedom, which is what Lucy Gray has always wanted and where the true ideological wedge between her and Snow was planted and could not be removed in any way. 

It’s also a beautiful callback—one that shows that Rodrigo and her co-writer Dan Nigro did their homework—to the song that Lucy Gray sings when she is Reaped, which states that “nothing you can take from me was ever worth keeping”. Ultimately, Lucy Gray is free because she has slipped beyond Snow’s reach just like Katniss will, and just like Rue—a bittersweet liberation, of course, in line with the tone of the song, but one that arguably started the entire rebellion.

A picture of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in the first instalment of Mockingjay
Of course, the finale of the song is also a very clear reference to Katniss. “Sometimes the fire you founded / Don’t burn the way you’d expect” immediately brings to mind Katniss’ association with fire and her iconic line, “If we burn, you burn with us!” (Lionsgate)

Another detail that shows how deeply Rodrigo and Nigro understood the assignment is all the incredible parallelisms between “Can’t Catch Me Now” and “Lucy Gray,” the 18th-century poem by English poet William Wordsworth after which Lucy Gray is canonically named.

Wordsworth’s writes that “you may see sweet Lucy Gray / Upon the lonesome Wild,” just like “Can’t Catch Me Now” promises that Lucy Gray “is in the trees, [she] is in the breeze”. And Wordsworth continues by stating that his Lucy Gray, a child lost in snowy woods, “sings a solitary song that whistles in the wind”. That’s what Lucy Gray does, escaping from Coriolanus by using the mockingjays in the woods outside District 12 who echo her words just like the bridge of the song, which repeats the lines “You can’t, you can’t catch me now / I’m comin’ like a storm into your town” over and over again.

Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrnce, knocks her arrow ahead of what everyone believed to be the execution of President Snow in Mockingjay Part 2
The crescendo in the bridge also feels very much like Lucy Gray promising a reckoning which is once again Katniss, who does indeed come like a storm into Snow’s town as the Mockingjay, leader of the rebellion (Lionsgate)

Maude Ivory, another member of the Covey, actually performs “Lucy Gray” as a song in The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes—and it’s important to notice that Coriolanus thinks to himself that he doesn’t get what the meaning of the poem is. And just like he doesn’t understand the poem she is named after he truly doesn’t understand Lucy Gray.

A collection of great theme songs

All and all, “Can’t Catch Me Now” is a truly spectacular theme song that joins the ranks of some more amazing theme songs—since the entire The Hunger Games saga can boast a magnificent soundtrack in each one of its installments.

In particular, I feel like it fits in perfectly with Taylor Swift’s “Safe & Sound,” performed together with The Civil Wars for the first Hunger Games movie, and with “Yellow Flicker Beat,” composed by Lorde for Mockingjay, Part 1—the first one being Katniss’ lullaby for both Prim and Rue and the second being the true anthem of Katniss as the Mockingjay, symbol of the rebellion. 

(featured image: Lionsgate)

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Benedetta Geddo
Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has been writing about pop culture and entertainment since 2015. She has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely reading and loves dragons, complex magic systems, unhinged female characters, tragic villains and good queer representation. You’ll find her covering everything genre fiction, especially if it’s fantasy-adjacent and even more especially if it’s about ASOIAF. In this Bangtan Sonyeondan sh*t for life.