Monday, February 9, 2015

Fifty Shades of Grey: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack | Various Artists


★★★★☆

Erotic novels are nothing new; soccer moms and bored retirees commonly buy the cheap paperbacks at dollar stores nationwide. However, never has the genre been as popular as it is right now with society's grip on Fifty Shades of Grey. The smutty novel, which dabbles in explicit sadist and masochist themes, was released in 2011 after stemming from fan-fiction stories based on the popular Twilight series. After a growth in popularity, a film and accompanying soundtrack have been promptly prepared for release. The good news? The creators make their money, the hormonal fans get their movie, and we music lovers get a whole set of alluring songs from a variety of artists. Among the featured vocalists are the late Frank Sinatra, the Rolling Stones, Sia, Ellie Goulding, the Weeknd, and Beyoncé.

Not only did Beyoncé contribute a remix of "Haunted" from her Grammy-nominated eponymous album, but she also re-recorded 2003's "Crazy in Love." The song takes an unbelievable new form, complete with sultry, vulnerable vocals and an orchestrated overhaul; the elongated "uh, oh, uh, oh, uh, oh, oh no, no" runs and down-tempo take renders the song nearly unrecognizable. The Weeknd, the smooth-voiced R&B songster who recently gained mainstream success with his collaboration with Ariana Grande, is best known for his explicit, hyper-sexual cuts; it's no surprise that he contributed two songs to the soundtrack, too. His first contribution, "Earned It," retains his seductive sound, although it takes his lyrical handiwork down to a romantic hum: "I'm so used to being used / So I love when you call unexpected / 'Cause I hate when the moment's expected / So I'mma care for you, you, you." However, his second track, "Where You Belong," holds true to the downright-dirty standards of both his previous music and the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise: "I'm in control when you give me your body, yeah / I feel our souls burnin' up when I'm inside of you, and I / I'mma leave a mark just to remind you where you belong, baby / Give me your all, scream as loud as you want."

Popular songbirds Ellie Goulding and Sia are no strangers to soundtrack work, and it's nice to see them both here, as well. Goulding's "Love Me Like You Do" was penned by Tove Lo and Max Martin; it was produced by the latter. It melts romantic, passionate, and seductive feelings all into one powerful pop delicacy as Goulding proclaims, "You're the light, you're the night / You're the color of my blood / You're the cure, you're the pain / You're the only thing I want to touch." Meanwhile, Sia, who earned a Golden Globe nomination for her work on the soundtrack of last year's Annie reboot, croons over a lush, hopeful ballad titled "Salted Wound." Her hushed voice treads lightly through the song, unlike many of her songs that rely on heavy belts; it's a surprising tactic that is equally as powerful as Sia's other selections. The Eminem-approved vocalist Skylar Grey also bleeds with emotion with her own ballad, "I Know You." Her airy voice floats through the song as she sings, "The shadows of your heart are hanging in the sweet, sweet air / I know you baby / The secrets that you hide control us and it's not fair / I know you baby."

While many younger stars take center stage here, including newcomers Jessie Ware and Laura Welsh, some longtime residents in music industry are featured, too. Annie Lennox, the winner of multiple Brit and Grammy awards in a career spanning over twenty years, opens the set with her own rendition of "I Put A Spell On You." The song sizzles with a sexy R&B tone and Lennox nails it vocally; she may have even outperformed the late Nina Simone. "Beast of Burden" from the Rolling Stones, which was first released in 1978, and Frank Sinatra's 1957 song "Witchcraft" are both thrown onto the soundtrack without much purpose. In terms of cohesion for this booming, sultry soundtrack, neither song fits the bill. They may serve a purpose in a specific movie scene, but they have no business being on this raunchy, synth-filled album.

When stacking this X-rated soundtrack next to some of the audio companions to some of last year's biggest blockbuster movies, it is right on par. The massive artists (Beyoncé, Annie Lennox, Ellie Goulding, The Weeknd, Sia) do not disappoint; they outshine any of the downfalls that the soundtrack does have (see: the awkward Stones and Sinatra inclusions and the random two pieces from the movie's score pinned on the end of the track listing). Some of these tracks are clearly geared towards the film's promised twenty minutes of sex, but there are plenty of heartfelt cuts perfect for the refractory periods. Regardless of being a fan of the movie or novel, most of this soundtrack is fifty shades of greatness.

The Fifty Shades of Grey: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack will be released February 10, 2015 under Republic Records. A deluxe edition will be available exclusively at Target department stores.

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