‘Fifty Shades Darker’ Soundtrack Is a Star-Studded Affair
Following the success of the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack, highly anticipated follow up Fifty Shades Darker arrives in star-studded fashion.
Fifty Shades of Grey was kind of a big deal. First, there was the book series, which received its fair share of praise and criticism. Then, in 2015, the first film of the trilogy, had everybody talking. Along with the film came a soundtrack, led by superb songs from The Weeknd (“Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey)”) and Ellie Goulding (“Love Me Like You Do”). Now, the second film arrives, along with an accompanying, star-studded soundtrack. Neither The Weeknd or Ellie Goulding make a reprisal on Fifty Shades Darker, but there is plenty of worthwhile moments throughout its course.
“I Don’t Wanna Live Forever (Fifty Shades Darker)”
Fifty Shades Darker starts off promising with high-flying pop promo single, “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever (Fifty Shades Darker).” Zayn and Taylor Swift combine for an exceptional collaboration. Zayn delivers mad vocals, with his falsetto being ripe, dripping in sex and swagger. The chorus is epic and bright in sound; incredibly catchy.
“I don’t wanna live forever, ‘cause I know I’ll be living in vain / and I don’t wanna fit wherever / I just wanna keep calling your name until you come back home…”
Swift enters into the picture on the second verse, sounding great in her upper register. Perhaps she doesn’t fully match the sexy vibe of her partner, but still comes over as formidable. The second refrain finds both singing together, hence, a sound collaborative experience. Swift initiates the bridge, providing a balancing act as Zayn steals the show early on. Zayn contributes during the bridge but takes on more of a background role.
“Not Afraid Anymore”
Halsey enters the picture on “Not Afraid Anymore,” which opens mysteriously. Expectedly, the sound fits the sensual tone of the film. The production work is interesting, blending pop, electronic, and rock. Halsey shows off her powerful vocals on the chorus. The verses are more restrained, and in some respects, less distinct. The refrain is the highlight of the single:
“And touch me like you never / and push me like you never / and touch me like you never / ‘cause I am not afraid, I am not afraid anymore…”
Like the lyrics, Halsey’s vocal tone is best on the chorus as opposed to the verses.
“Pray” (JRY featuring Rooty) is enjoyable. It isn’t transcendent, but has its fair share of pros, including a rhythmic beat, dark minor-key production, and well-rounded vocals. Tove Lo sounds as “cool as a cucumber” on the low-key “Lies in the Dark.” This particular song fits the sensual theme and vibe of the film. It doesn’t distinguish itself because of its assertiveness. Up-and-coming artist Toulouse gets his chance to shine on “No Running from Me,” a capable throwback soul joint. Impressive, the song gets one-upped by neo-soul royalty.
“One Woman Man”
Among the best songs undoubtedly is “One Woman Man,” courtesy of John Legend (co-written with Toby Gad). Legend arrives in the nick of time to give the soundtrack a lift. As soulful as ever, he shows his knack for nuance and emotionally-driven vocal performances. Ultimately, “One Woman Man” ranks among the crème de la crème because of its authenticity. This could easily appear on a John Legend album and feel right in place.
“A one-woman man / A one-woman man, oh / Want you all to myself / Don’t want nobody else…”
Terius “The-Dream” Nash arrives on “Code Blue,” a lengthy song with both triumphs and flaws. Save for the incredible falsetto, “Code Blue” doesn’t sound like the type of record we’ve been accustomed to from the artist. Pop electric guitars? Nonetheless, he sings, with the best moment being the chorus:
“That’s what I get for loving you, code blue.”
The-Dream co-wrote “Code Blue” with Christopher “Tricky” Stewart.
“Bom Bidi Bom”
Expectedly, “Bom Bidi Bom” is a surefire crowd pleaser. Nick Jonas continues to propel sex vocally, keep in step with his newfound, urban-pop niche. Nicki Minaj likewise stays true to herself, amplifying the innuendo to the nth degree. While her bars are compelling, it’s the sick production work – namely the descending bass – that steals the show.
Sia returns to the Fifty Shades franchise with “Helium.” Like “Salted Wound,” “Helium” is a powerful ballad, contrasting the quicker cuts. “Helium” encompasses the power of love:
“Help me out of this hell / Your love lifts me up like helium / Your love lifts me up when I’m down, down, down / When I’ve hit the ground / You’re all I need.”
The mood lightens on the Kygo dance joint, “Cruise.” Andrew Jackson gives a good vocal performance, particular the falsetto on the chorus. The main rub? “Cruise” floats as opposes to biting or truly asserting its will. Corinne Bailey Rae follows with a lovely cover of Coldplay’s “The Scientist.” It doesn’t supplant the original, but certainly suits her unique, soft voice.
“What Would It Take”
Underrated jazz/soul singer José James is in his zone on torch classic “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” while JP Cooper flaunts his silky-smooth pipes like it’s his “Birthday.” The Avener and Mark Asari infuse some groove with “Need A Good One,” while Joseph Angel drops mad falsetto on “Empty Pack of Cigarettes.”
The last gem of Fifty Shades Darker comes from Alabama up-and-comer Anderson East on “What Would It Take.” Quite the eclectic artist, East excels on this southern soul gem. “What Would It Take” would naturally fit on his 2015 major-label debut, Delilah. Newbie Frances shows off her potential on the introspective “What is Love?” Like Fifty Shades of Grey, two Danny Elfman instrumentals from the score conclude Fifty Shades Darker.
All in all, the Fifty Shades Darker original motion picture soundtrack is well-rounded. At nearly 70 minutes, the listener gets plenty of “bang for their buck.” That said, the 70 minutes is exhaustive, considering few albums cross the hour mark as of late. There is nothing game changing on this compilation, but enough pleasantry to heat up February.
Gems: “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever (Fifty Shades Darker),” “One Woman Man,” “Bom Bidi Bom,” “The Scientist” & “What Would It Take”
Various Artists • Fifty Shades Darker • Republic • Release: 2.10.17
Photo Credit: Republic