Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird holding a microphone in 'The Hunger Games The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.'

‘The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes’ Continues the Best Part of the ‘Hunger Games’ Franchise

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes hits theaters this weekend. That means we get a whole new soundtrack to rock out to.

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The Hunger Games franchise returns this week with a prequel film, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. In this story, we are going back in time to see an earlier version of the horrendous Hunger Games. Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth) is a young man instead of the fascist leader of Panem, assigned to be a mentor to a District 12 tribute, Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler). This installment has a different vibe than the original movie adaptations, but there is one thing that ties all the films, both old and new, together—their banging soundtracks.

The Katniss Everdeen years

I love a good film soundtrack. There are many I listen to regularly, but The Hunger Games soundtracks stand out as some of the best. The original Hunger Games soundtrack remains one of my favorite things to listen to. I’m a huge fan of folk and gothic country music, and these soundtracks deliver that vibe. The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond incorporated a lot of that style of music while mixing in other genres as well. It has The Civil Wars on a solo track and a second song with Taylor Swift. There are also great songs by The Secret Sisters, Carolina Chocolate Drops, and Miranda Lambert ft. Pistol Annies. To mix up the sound, there are also musicians you may not expect, like Arcade Fire, Maroon 5, and Kid Cudi. There isn’t a single bad song on the album.

Later soundtracks in the original series highlighted similar themes from the first soundtrack. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack featured songs by Coldplay, Of Monsters and Men, Imagine Dragons, Patti Smith, and Lorde. The version of Sia’s “Elastic Heart” featuring the Weeknd and Diplo is something I wasn’t expecting on the album but am grateful for.

In the best way possible, the soundtrack for Mockingjay – Part 1 tossed everything together. It’s got Grace Jones, Bat for Lashes, and Chvrches all on one album. I mean, Lorde did a cover of a Bright Eyes song for this soundtrack. Who would have guessed that could work? Plus, this is the first time we hear that phenomenal yet oh-so-simple song, “The Hanging Tree.” This song plays so much in my house that my young kids know the lyrics without knowing where it comes from. It’s just that good.

The Lucy Gray Baird years

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes‘ soundtrack reverts to that folky-gothic country feel that was so prevalent on the first soundtrack. What sets this soundtrack apart, however, is that most of the songs are sung in the movie by Lucy Gray Baird—Rachel Zegler performs all the songs herself. It makes the songs feel like an authentic part of the Hunger Games world and proves how important music is in the rebellion against the Capitol.

We also hear the return—or, more accurately, the origin— of “The Hanging Tree.” Luckily, this means we now have two gorgeous versions of the song to listen to. Olivia Rodrigo also wrote “Can’t Catch Me Now,” which plays during the credits and feels exactly like something Lucy Gray Baird herself would sing to an enraptured audience.

The Hunger Games movies are undeniably entertaining to watch and well crafted. But it’s the soundtracks that keep me coming back day after day.

(featured image: Lionsgate)

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D.R. Medlen
D.R. Medlen (she/her) is a pop culture staff writer at The Mary Sue. After finishing her BA in History, she finally pursued her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer in 2019. She expertly fangirls over Marvel, Star Wars, and historical fantasy novels (the spicier the better). When she's not writing or reading, she lives that hobbit-core life in California with her spouse, offspring, and animal familiars.