"50 Shades Darker," the highly anticipated sequel to "50 Shades of Grey" (2015) based on the series written by E. L. James made its movie debut on Friday. The romance (?) film is set to take over at the box office, despite the critic reviews that spanked the movie due to the lack of onscreen chemistry between the leads, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan).
Fortunately for the "50 Shades Darker" soundtrack, Taylor Swift agreed to step in and record a power-packed pop/soul track with ex-box band member Zayn Malik. "I Don't Wanna Live Forever" is the first song Taylor Swift has been involved in since the singer released her 2015 album "1989." The song allows both singers to showcase their lyricism and vocal range, and boasts a catchy chorus, which backs up its commercial success. The two take turns reminiscing on what seems to be an on-again, off-again relationship. Their falsettos and songwriting fit well, opening the album with what is arguably the best song.
Halsey, like Swift, released solo music for the first time since her debut album, "Badlands," was released in 2015. "Not Afraid Anymore" is placed behind Zayn and Swift's masterpiece, which is a hard act to follow up. However, she does well, belting out the two-line chorus with almost tangible passion.
Of course, there are other big name artists vying for attention on the album, but none come close to being nearly as successful as Zayn and Swift's opening track. John Legend's "One Woman Man" has some neat guitar riffs and his performance is solid, but the song can only be classified as cute, rather than bold, daring or memorable. Nick Jonas and Nicki Minaj teamed up for a fun pop-style soul song on "Bom Bidi Bom," that could dominate radio stations due to its star power and nice background bass line, despite its weak lyrics.
Tov Lo does a good job on her track "Lies in the Dark," floating gently from line to line, crooning softly about the possibility of a love that might hurt her. Though there was clearly little-to-no thought or creative work put into the lyrics (seriously, an entire chorus of "oh"?) the song itself isn't terrible, but deserves its spot near the middle of the pack.
Alongside the big name pop and alternative stars were some lesser-known names. Code Blue managed to deliver a pop/alternative ballad that breaks through the drudgery it's surrounded by on "The Dream." Corinne Bailey Rae has a heartbreaking anthem with her rendition of Coldplay's "The Scientist" that stands out as a slow, but memorable piece.
Somehow Norwegian DJ, Kygo, got a slot on the album, delivering an almost out of place upbeat and effervescent "Cruise" that is both expected and unremarkable. Household name Sia, drags the album down a bit with "Helium," singing longingly about a love that she wishes she didn't need. Nothing we haven't heard before.
Perhaps most controversial and fitting to the theme of the movie was "No Running From Me" a faster paced song by Toulouse that delivers a threatening message of use of force and power to an upbeat backing. The audience is almost able to forget about the lyrics as they hum along to Toulouse announcing "That I get to chose/ How it plays out/ No matter how you scream and shout," because they are distracted by the tasteful and refreshing guitars.
Overall the album isn't terrible. There's arguably more star power on this new album than the last, with the introduction of Taylor Swift, Zayn, John Legend and Sia. However, the duds weigh the already dark and ominous tracklist down, making it practically impossible to trudge through the repetition and drudgery of all 19 songs, especially when the best one ("I Don't Wanna Live Forever") finishes in four minutes and five seconds.
More tracks to be found on the album.
Reach Staff Reporter Miranda Myers here.