Here's My Beef With Taylor Swift’s Hunger Games Song

The problem with Taylor Swift’s Hunger Games single “Safe & Sound” is – sorry, Swifties – Taylor Swift. Taken on its own it’s a perfectly lovely slice of discordant Americana pop that wisps beautifully with Swift’s reedy warbling as she sings about protecting loved ones as a war rages outside. But as a Hunger Games song… as what promises to be the Hunger Games song associated with the movie (besides Rue’s iconic ditty within the film), it leaves something to be desired precisely because Swift is singing in the spirit and voice of Katniss Everdeen. And you, my adorable little Taylor, are no Katniss Everdeen.

Here’s the thing: I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the oeuvre of Taylor Swift. Do I sing along every time “Love Story” comes on the radio? Fine, yes. Will I ever forget the ear-bleedingly bad live performance she gave at the 2010 Grammys, as horrified duet partner Stevie Nicks gamely powered through? Never. It haunts my waking dreams. And yet Swift is just too bubbly and cute to loathe, dammit. Remember her in Valentine’s Day, all track shorts and legs and smiles? She’s like a crinkle-haired bubblegum-singing bunny rabbit. There is no hating her.

So it’s not that I hate Swift as I listen to the twangy strains of “Safe & Sound,” as backed by the band The Civil Wars. But as the first song released from the Hunger Games soundtrack it’s the film’s leading pop single, the one that will be associated with the beloved book’s adaptation from the get go in mainstream media. And it’s kind of disappointing that Swift’s voice is so overpoweringly front and center whilst crooning about life from Katniss’s perspective.

Consider another recent pop single from a beloved YA film franchise: Bruno Mars’s Breaking Dawn ditty. Now that’s a catchy, hook-filled number that dances the line between Mars’s signature sound (okay, so it sounds exactly like a Bruno Mars song) while being vaguely related to the themes of the film. Something about if you go away it will rain and your father not approving of your “troublesome” boyfriend. Sure. Why not? Bruno Mars isn’t singing as if he’s Bella Swan. We are not meant to identify him with our heroine, hence Mars seems as if he was simply influenced to write a love song after Netflixing Twilight or something. In Swift’s case, she’s singing as if she is Katniss. And therein lies the problem.

Give this song to a singer with a less confrontational voice (Gillian Welch, if she was 17?) and it’d be instantly more palatable. The showy breathiness of Swift’s voice never lets you forget that it’s Taylor Swift singing. I imagine this playing over the end credits of The Hunger Games, a seemingly contemplative coda to the senseless carnage Katniss lives through in the series’ first installment, and Swift’s voice needling its way into my head from the first verse, breaking through my Hunger Games afterglow. TAYLOR SWIFT TAYLOR SWIFT TAYLOR SWIFT is all I fear I’ll be able to think as I exit the theater come March. Worse: The idea of Taylor Swift channeling Katniss Everdeen – singing her life with her words! Killing me softly, and not in a good way! -- is an unfathomable vision that does not compute. Put Swift in the Cornucopia and she’d be the first to go down, no question. I’d almost rather Jennifer Lawrence sung the theme song herself.

I know it makes total sense for Lionsgate given the tween/teen/YA demographic of The Hunger Games movies, which aim to fill the Twilight gap, and the universal truth that all 13-year-olds love and worship Taylor Swift. But not all of us Hunger Games fans are members of the Taylor Swift fan club. Can we at least graduate to less wimpy pop stars (How about Demi Lovato? She’s been to rehab!) for the Catching Fire soundtrack?

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  • kate says:

    Swift did a great job with this song, I'm not a huge fan of hers, but this was different than any song I had heard from her. I didn't feel like she was trying to capture the character of Katniss, rather the emotion between Katniss and Rue. Her songwriting is rather brilliant, I don't think I could hate on someone that has that kind of talent. Hands down, it's a good song from a talented songwriter.

  • Soundcheck1 says:

    If I hear another Taylor Swift "cant sing" remark, I am going to throw-up. Get over it already. Swift got paid over 45 million last year for singing. She is as good as it gets when it comes to acting out the emotions of lyrics in song. Who cares about Swift's duet with Stevie Nicks? Why Swift was coaxed in to an unpracticed duet on national TV with Stevie Nicks is still an unknown mystery. A bunch of producers and experienced adults should have known that you do not put a duet with Nicks together without "big time" practice. I am sure Swift was poEd as well as embarrassed for being shoved into that position. And from the backlash, Stevie Nicks was not a "happy camper" too. The well publicized Critic/idiot that made the Taylor Swift "cant sing" remark after that performance is now about washed up and wishing to date he had just shut-up. That whole production segment was a flop and the producers are the blame, not Swift or Nicks. Hands down, Swift fits the shoes better than any singer with her emotional "grab" on this song for Hunger Games.

    • KevyB says:

      By that logic, Britney Spears can "sing" too!

      The biggest and most obvious problem here is that Taylor Swift is the definition of "vanilla". The Hunger Games is the exact opposite of "vanilla". Couldn't they have just used one of Adele's thousand or so "I'm in pain" songs?

      • SOUNDCHECK1 says:

        Agreed on the logic. The right execution at the right time can make the difference. If Adele was up and running after her voice surgery, she would have been a close fit. However, Adele does not have that emotional and innocent tone like the Swift tone. The innocent raw "fairytale" projection fits the bill on this one.

        • KevyB says:

          I have to disagree a bit on that, because Katniss isn't necessarily an innocent. To the Hunger Games and love, yes. To the world around her, not at all. She's been forced to be the mother of her family, to suffer through years of losing her town's children to the Games, to live in fear she might get caught doing something illegal. Taylor Swift sounds like her roughest patch involved running out of her favorite lip gloss.

    • Storm says:

      Well - grab yourself a pail. You're about to hear it again. Taylor Swift cannot sing. If she was from an earlier era of music where the artist actually had to rely on vocal talent, nobody would know her name.

      She's a fantastic songwriter. She's a pro at PR. And I like her songs, I really do. But I cringe when I hear her live trying desperately to skate through with her god given vocals rather than some serious stuido mixing.

      And to say that sales and money directly correlates with a person's talent is, well, a really niave thing to say. World should work that way but it doesn't. Kevyb had a great example up there.

      On a side note, I heard this song on the radio last night not knowing it was for a movie. Now I'm really disappionted because I thought we were seeing some depth beyond men and love.

  • Brandon says:

    I think the author of this piece misunderstands exactly what this song will be a part of. It's not THE song of the movie. This song is just one of many that will be going on a companion soundtrack to the film which will feature other artists such as T-Bone Burnett. I doubt this song will show up ANYWHERE in the movie.

  • charles says:

    Rediculas article !

    Swift is simply a gift from god, and OUR national treasure.

    Stop criticizing someone for always doing the right thing.

    We need her positive forward thinking attitude and style. Lets hope the next generation that she is adored by can change the mess we are all in. I'm 50 and she makes my day hopeful.

    BTW ..Taylor dont change a thing. I am listening with NS10's and you nail it!


  • Fiona says:

    I think you're a little confused – Taylor's song isn't supposed to be superimposed into the movie as Katniss' (Jennifer Lawrence) singing voice like a disney movie. This is her interpretation of the powerful themes in the book, and as a song, is perfect in that it evokes exactly the emotion that you want from the book. Stop being a hater.

    • C says:

      100% agree with you. I think she need to learn to listen the song and not focusing so much about Taylor Swift.

  • Leigh says:

    Attention Jen Yamato! <3

    This week Taylor Swift Wins Four(4) "Taste of Country Awards"!!!


    Artist of the Year!

    Tour of the Year!

    Video of the Year!

    and, her new kitten, Meredith, Pet of the Year! 🙂

    BTW: Taylor Swift has a leading role in the upcoming movie "The Lorix"

    ...AND Taylor Swift has a new song in the upcoming movie "The Vow"

    and so yeah, WOW!

  • Dee says:

    I wish people realized that this song is heavily influenced by the featured artists, The Civil Wars. Go and listen to some of their music and you will see. I am actually pretty disappointed that they were barely featured in this song when they had such a big part in it's production and writing. If they did it alone, it would've been 10 times better. I have nothing against Taylor Swift, I actually occasionally like her music but a song for this movie and a song like this isn't right for her. The Civil Wars who have true blue talent deserve the spotlight for this and it's a shame they aren't even getting an ounce of it.

    • Annie says:

      I completely agree with you. Taylor Swift is a good artist but I just don't feel that her as a person and an artist captures the essence of this movie. The Civil Wars would've done it perfectly considering songs of theirs already out beautifully describes the relationships in the movie. Wish I heard more of them especially because it's so obvious how much they contributed to this song.

  • Leigh says:

    About Les Miserables:

    Taylor Swift is a beautiful person and singer. She brings so much to whatever she does.

    However, there is nothing more miserable I could think of than watching Anne Hathaway and, or Sacha Baron Cohen

  • Robyn says:

    I think the song can be attributed to may parts of the book. Peeta's need to protect her and comfort her. Katniss's feelings about Rue and her need to help Peeta when he was dying. It has so many different meanings and is lt just from Katniss's point of view but the whole theme of the characters I the book to look after each other regardless of all the death and destruction around them. The need to believe it will be alright because I they don't believe it then what do they have left.

  • Randy says:

    This a very rude article. Taylor swift has an awesome voice and songs you could sing along to forever. She's classy and sweet. That Hunger Games song was so perfect I was in tears. You need to think before you talk.

  • vkito says:

    Okay. The writer of this is right about everything, except that Taylor is indeed, NOT singing as if she is Katniss. Taylor writes about personal problems right? I know you are entitled to your opinion, but really. If Taylor really wrote this song- or someone else did, she can't be blamed for trying to act as if she's Katniss. So, really. Think of what you say. :/

  • Jaded says:

    Yeah, I agree. Taylor has the wrong spirit. How about Rihanna. Or the k-pop group NE1. Britney Spears (all though a bit older) has more chutzpah than Taylor.

  • Andie says:

    The writer of this article shows a lack of imagination and a troubling character flaw of being inable to get past personal bias and an elitist mindset; an inability to recognize or praise without stint when someone she despises (Swift) does something beautiful and commendable. By your logic, the movie shouldn't be made, because I think it's irrefutable that Jen Lawrence isn't Kat, hasn't ever been put into any situation remotely like Kat, and the same goes for the rest of the actors, directors and everyone else involved in the movie. The problem isn't the song or Swift, it's the writer and those like her.

  • Ola says:

    This author writes such articles to get attention and offend fanbase ,especially if it's a female fanbase.She/he wouldn't dare make snarky comments towards for examle batman,spiderman fans or some rapper ones.

  • Lexi says:

    It doesnt matter if Taylor Swift sings it or not, the only thing that matters is if it connects to Katniss and The Hunger Games. And its safe to say it 100% completely connects. I think its the perfect song in this case 🙂

  • Brooklynn says:

    I have to say that this article is a little silly. Everyone has a right to their opinion, but there is no need to be rude. I didn't see this song as being innocent. I saw it as hopeful and haunting. Taylor's voice is very recognizable, yes, but that shouldn't put an overcast over you post-Hunger Games mood. I see the song as a remembrance of Katniss' father, not so much Katniss' present thoughts and emotions. It's like a memory of hope.

  • jc says:

    Personally, I think Jen Yamato's purpose was to get people riled up and commenting, on both sides of the issue. To that extent, she was successful, so kudos to her. Fans of both Taylor Swift and the Hunger Games have strong opinions and get "worked up" when anybody "disses" them. If you are just "venting", then cool, go for it, if you expect you're going to change anybody's mind, get over yourself.

  • mr blue says:

    Get a life, whacko. It's just a stupid song.

  • Esme says:

    She's not supposed to be singing as Katniss; it's just a song based on the theme of the books. It's beautiful and she's a very talented young lady.

    Your suggestion that she's too "vanilla" is ridiculous. She never causes any troubled in the media but surely that's a good thing? We need more singers liked her in order to influence the demographic of the film down the right path. Your suggestion that we use a pill-popping, rehab visiting singer for the sake of making the song sound more "raw" is ridiculous.

    Stop the pointless hatred.

  • mal says:

    i think taylor swift got too much of the credit. it shoulda been like "The civil cars ft. taylor swift" instead of vice versa. and i do agree that I kind of want jennifer lawrence to sing the song herself. T. swift's voice is too squeaky in this case...

  • Emma says:

    No one remembers the songs on the "inspired by the film" soundtrack. The song isn't in the film. When the film comes out, that's what people will talk about, not who sang songs on the associated soundtrack. It's a completely ordinary song, that people only talk about now because there's precious little else that's been released from the movies to discuss. Get over it already.

  • Cici says:

    Ummm am I the only one who thinks the person who wrote this article was a little too enthusiastic with their thesaurus? It's not a horrible song. It works with the feeling of the book. I'm not a crazy Swift fan, but seriously, look at how many people can't stand Celine Dion. My Heart Will Go On...very annoying now. But probably one of the biggest soundtrack songs of all time. People are now just going to say who they wish would have sung the song. It's over...this is the song. Will it affect the movie? Probably not. The movie looks good, I bet the soundtrack will be awesome. So let's all get a life and just enjoy what is meant to be entertainment. I never comment on these types of articles but I had to this time. It's almost comical how some people take a simple lovely song and make it like it's the end of the world. Come on people!

  • Jen says:

    Seriously, this is not an issue. Jennifer Lawrence already recorded "Rue's Lullaby" as part of the movie's official soundtrack. And THAT is exactly the song of Katniss for Rue- which is more important.

  • Bob says:

    This article is ridiculous. This song is not about Taylor's sung by her. And it's beautiful. It fits the mood of the mood perfectly. The author of this article is way off target. There were so many things wrong with what you said I can't even begin.

    • C says:

      This song is about the Hunger Games, stop talking about Taylor Swift! Focus on the music and the lyric, not who sings it and Taylor Swift. She did a wonderful job! And the song fits perfectly into the Hunger Games. I found this article ridiculous.

  • Alberto C. Delano says:

    People are missing the point here: THG wasn't made for bubbly teen-pop stars to write songs about, it's more suited for everything from Guns N' Roses to Depeche Mode, basically anything with a pair of balls (so they could have just hired, say, Kate Bush to channel Katniss) We have the merchandising machinery to blame for this incident.