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The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes: Why we’re loving Rachel Zegler’s songs of resistance

Zegler, who plays Lucy Gray in The Hunger Games prequel film, won the Golden Globe for Steven Spielberg's West Side Story in 2022

Urmi Chakraborty Calcutta Published 27.11.23, 03:17 PM
Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird in The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes.

Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird in The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes. IMDb

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes takes us to the early years of the dystopian world of Panem — created by novelist Suzanne Collins — where a young, righteous Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth) grows up to be its corrupt and ruthless President. At the heart of the film, though, is Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler), the spunky District 12 tribute whose songs serve as a tool for resistance against the oppressive and cruel world of The Hunger Games.

Free-spirited Lucy, who is a member of the Covey band, a folk song group in District 12, believes her voice and words have a purpose. Singing is therapeutic for Lucy, and her ballads carry the weight of her struggles, dreams and the harsh realities of life. “I don’t sing what I’m told to sing. I sing when I have something to say,” Lucy tells her mentor Coriolanus Snow when he suggests that she try singing to win more sponsors at the Games.


Lucy’s ballads are a reminder that even in the darkest of times, one can keep alive the spirit to live and refuse to be silenced. They reminded us of protest songs such as Bella Ciao, a ballad of the Italian anti-fascist resistance during World War II, and Rachel Zegler’s powerful singing drives home the message.

Zegler won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in the Musical/ Comedy category in 2022 for West Side Story, and recently revealed on Instagram that all the songs she had sung in the new Hunger Games film were shot live, sharing a behind-the-scenes clip of her performance of ‘Pure As The Driven Snow’.

Here are four songs sung by Zegler in The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes that propel the story forward and are worth listening to on loop.

‘Nothing You Can Take From Me’

The first song in The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, ‘Nothing You Can Take From Me’ mirrors the initial phase of Lucy’s resistance to the Capitol. ‘You can't take my past/ You can't take my history,’ she sings, after being beaten up on stage at her Reaping ceremony for putting a snake into the Mayor’s daughter’s dress. This is Lucy making a statement on her power and treasures that the authority will never be able to strip her of.

Lucy performs ‘Nothing You Can Take From Me’ on stage again after her victory at the 10th Hunger Games, as a boot-stomping song along with the Covey band. This is also when Coriolanus sees Lucy for the first time after the games end. This version of the song sounds more confident and calm, signifying Lucy’s first successful pushback against the Capitol.

‘The Ballad of Lucy Gray Baird’

With this ballad, performed at her interview on TV before the beginning of the gruesome games, Lucy lights up the entire auditorium after Coriolanus convinces her that entertaining people with her music might help her gain more supporters. The song has her looking back on life in District 12 when she was in love with a boy, and her sense of loss and longing for him.

‘The Hanging Tree’

When Lucy sings a new rendition of ‘The Hanging Tree’, sung by the folk pop group The Lumineers and performed by Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 1, it becomes a cathartic release of her pent-up emotions.

In The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, it is revealed that ‘The Hanging Tree’ was, in fact, written by Lucy and passed down to later generations. It’s an Appallachian ballad that calls ordinary people to rebel against an authoritative and unfair government. Lucy expresses her grief, defiance and desire for freedom through it, and everyone listening to it is inspired to unite and rebel.

‘Pure As The Driven Snow’

The film’s songs also serve as a catalyst for Coriolanus's understanding of humanity, challenging his preconceived notions and forcing him to confront the moral ambiguities of the Capitol's regime.

When Lucy performs ‘Pure As The Driven Snow’ with her Covey band at the Hob, Coriolanus gets distracted and leaves the room. She dedicates the song to Coriolanus for his goodness and his kindness, which he showed Lucy during the games as her mentor. Things take a turn for Coriolanus on that very night and the events that follow gradually turn him into the cold-blooded President of Panem that he becomes.

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