There is a lot of controversy and hype surrounding the new movie, Fifty Shades of Grey, coming out this Valentine’s Day weekend. The novel it is based on was the fastest selling paperback of all time in the United Kingdom and immediately sparked controversy for its glorification of BDSM and rough sex. The film adaptation raises similar concerns, as no one truly knows how far the on-screen version will go when depicting the overtly graphic sexual encounters present in the novel.
With all this in mind, however, the filmmakers have done an incredible job thus far in marketing their movie to a broad audience, and the soundtrack has played an instrumental role. Featuring incredibly prominent artists and a generally slow atmospheric mood, the album is smooth, creating not the BDSM sex playlist everyone was expecting, but instead a compilation of sultry slow jams sure to inspire both love and lust this Valentine’s Day season.
Featuring tracks from Ellie Goulding, Beyoncé, The Weeknd and a slew of others, the soundtrack has already generated plenty of interest in anticipation of the movie’s release. There are new tracks as well as classics on the soundtrack, and even a few alternate versions of major hits, such as Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love.” The covers are also notable, including AWOLNATION’s cover of the Bruce Springsteen classic “I’m On Fire” or the album opener “I Put A Spell On You,” originally by Nina Simone, performed here by Annie Lennox.
The first single released was The Weeknd’s “Earned It,” which instantly got fans fired up, as The Weeknd’s often overtly sexual style was expected to bring to life the imaginations of many future filmgoers. The track itself was actually a departure from expectations as well as from The Weeknd’s typical style. It was not the aggressive, dominating track expected of the Canadian songwriter, but instead a slow orchestral ballad with the chorus “I will care for you.” By no means does it underperform, but it does set the precedent for not only the album, but also the image of the whole film.
The marketing and seeming production of this film are based less on the hardcore BDSM that characterize the best-selling series, and focus more on creating a sultry and loving tone. This is reflected through the slow, sexy love ballads of the soundtrack as well as a Valentine’s Day release date targeting date night crowds. An example of this is the inclusion of The Rolling Stones’ “Beast Of Burden” on the soundtrack. This classic is an exercise in slow seduction, standing as a love rock ballad years after it was originally recorded, and appealing to an older crowd that might not have be too interested in the film.
Though the book series was widely known for its explicit content and housewife cult following, the movie is clearly attempting to appeal to a larger audience. Beyoncé is arguably one of the most influential musical artists today, and she has two songs on the album, both of which are sure to be classics. Aside from “Haunted” off her newest self-titled album, she reworked her hugely successful hit “Crazy In Love” into a slow, bare bones ballad that screams sex scene, and if Hollywood has any idea of what people want, there will be some friction when this song comes on in the theater.
Capping off the lyrical section of the album is an incredibly moving track by Skylar Grey, who is absolutely an artist worth watching. She has a strong vocal presence and has been featured on tracks with Nicki Minaj, David Guetta, TI and Eminem as far back as 2013. Her song “I Know You,” written for this movie, is probably my favorite on the soundtrack. It has a slow build and barely features any instrumentation beyond light violins. Grey’s voice carries the entire song from start to finish, and it never gets boring. Even though there are two songs from Beyoncé, two newly written songs from The Weeknd, and a cover of one of my favorite Bruce Springsteen songs, Skylar Grey’s voice is the most mesmerizing and could captivate even the most cynical of listeners.
The final two songs on the soundtrack to Fifty Shades of Grey come from the legendary Danny Elfman. Throughout his career, the composer has been nominated for four Academy Awards, so it is a pleasure to hear his work on this film. The last two tracks are tense, driven pieces by Elfman entitled “Ana and Christian” and “Did That Hurt?” both of which give hints to their usage in the film. While everything is speculation at this point, there is no doubt that Elfman’s work will be featured heavily in the film, and these two pieces are a great showcase of the film’s mood.
The Fifty Shades of Grey Soundtrack is an odd choice for a review, but with high profile artists, original works for the film and well-chosen classics, it is actually one of the better albums of 2015 so far. It might defy expectations, as the themes of the film evoke assumptions of rough, angry love songs, but the slow, melodic songs on this soundtrack are both tasteful and sexy, and will be incredibly helpful in getting viewers into theaters this Valentine’s Day.
Matt Burke is a sophomore majoring in film production. His column, “Notes on Notes,” runs Wednesdays.