I spent an hour this weekend sitting in awe of my iTunes visualizer as per usual, but this time it was different. I was also sitting in awe of the amazing diversity and talent present on the slow, sultry and ultimately immersive “Fifty Shades of Grey” soundtrack. I was in awe of the classic sounds of Annie Lennox, Frank Sinatra and The Rolling Stones as well as the freshness of Laura Welsh, Jessie Ware and Skylar Grey. A plethora of A-list musicians and up-and-comers came together to form the soundtrack seamlessly, with each song leading perfectly into the next, leaving listeners with a true sense of the story of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey.

Fifty Shades of Grey Soundtrack

B+
Various Artists
Universal Studios


The album opens with an Annie Lennox cover of “I Put A Spell On You,” which was originally released on her cover album, Nostalgia, this past fall. The opener does exactly as promised; its repetitive piano notes and Lennox’s smooth, soulful delivery reign listeners in immediately. Moving from the classic to the contemporary, newcomer Laura Welsh sails through a catchy up-tempo, “Undiscovered.” Its beat will immediately have listeners tapping everything: feet, fingers, truly anything that isn’t nailed down.

Next comes the two lead singles, “Earned It” and “Love Me Like You Do,” which I have spoken highly of previously. Wedged between the two is “Meet Me In The Middle” by Jessie Ware, this track gets its merit from the production. Several instruments take turns and work together to lie perfectly beneath Ware’s vocals (which are fantastic).

Beyoncé has two tracks, remixes of “Haunted” and “Crazy in Love,” both of which have been teased in trailers. No amount of remixing or remastering can make “Haunted” better than the original. That being said, Michael Diamond did a nice job of turning the track into soundtrack material. It focuses on beats that slither above the original bass line, rather than resting solely on it. The new version of “Crazy in Love” is unexpected. Even the snippets in trailers did not really allude to what the full version would be. The “uh ohs” are much more jagged and explicitly murmured, transforming seduction into blatant sexuality. The orchestra is overpowered at times by a hard-to-identify clicking sound. Not what was expected, but not entirely bad either.

The soundtrack’s largest disappointment by far was Sia’s contribution (or lack thereof). “Salted Wound” is completely forgettable. The power she is able to exhibit while maintaining such grace should have been an asset, but instead it was ignored. The lyrics are nearly unintelligible and lack any emotion within the crooning delivery.

The remastered versions of “Beast of Burden” and “Witchcraft” by The Rolling Stones and Frank Sinatra, respectively, are simply fabulous. Neither song immediately shouts “Fifty Shades,” but in conjunction with their fellow tracks they flow seamlessly. “Beast of Burden” paints a picture of dinner inside Mr. Grey’s Seattle penthouse. With every listen, “Witchcraft” works its way deeper into the story. Lyrics like “I know it’s strictly taboo / When you arouse the need in me / My heart says yes indeed in me / Proceed in what you’re leading me to” narrate the story beautifully, while Sinatra’s finesse adds polish.

AWOLNATION’s “I’m On Fire” and The Weeknd’s encore “Where You Belong” fall amongst the more forgettable tracks. “Where You Belong” does not come close to the bar set by The Weeknd’s “Earned it” while the cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” simply never delivers. AWOLNATION, best known for “Sail,” deserved a more climactic (pun intended) track.

Finally, the two most recent iTunes-official tracks: “One Last Night” by Vaults and “I Know You” by Skylar Grey. “One Last Night” is reminiscent of a tiny sad piano on a person’s shoulder, but less sarcastic. It yearns for more and more, but never gets what it is asking for; however, it certainly gives listeners what they needed. Skylar Grey comes in strong on “I Know You”: She holds her own and leaves listeners wanting more.

Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, the soundtrack does end with two beautifully crafted scores by the amazing Danny Elfman. It is hard to really understand these tracks without their visual counterparts, but they are indeed promising to say the least.

A soundtrack aims to be indicative of a films story, and “Fifty Shades of Grey” does exactly that. It mesmerizes; it has a strong climax; it’s saturated with smooth seduction. If the actors in the film match the talent present on its soundtrack, it will surely blow viewers away.

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