Nothing says “dystopian reality-TV battle royale” better than sad-eyed acoustic balladry. Taylor Swift has released “Safe & Sound,” her song for upcoming film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ hugely popular young-adult novel The Hunger Games, and in keeping with the soundtrack’s involvement of rootsy-Americana master T. Bone Burnett (Crazy Heart, Cold Mountain, O Brother Where Art Thou), the track is folksy, spare, and reserved. Too reserved, really, compared with the heart-tugging pop songs on Speak Now, but it could still sound pretty fantastic when the credits roll.
“You’ll be all right / No one can hurt you now,” Swift trills reassuringly from within the production’s twangy dust-bowl vastness. Nashville singer-songwriter duo the Civil Wars add gently restrained backing vocals, and a hefty chunk of “Safe & Sound” is actually devoted to piling up each singer’s oohs and ahhs, as the richly nuanced percussion takes on a slight martial tinge. After the gossip blogs tell us which celebrity this one is about, it will probably make a lot more sense.