By Nicolas Jozefczyk | A&E Editor
In a post-Loud world, one already blessed with Rihanna’s infamous battle cry, “Chains and whips excite me,” the assumption that the soundtrack for an S&M movie would live to embody a similar spirit of raunchiness would be a foregone conclusion. Sadly, that is not the case.
Released on Feb. 9, Fifty Shades Freed is an amalgamation of different styles that do not flow smoothly between each other. The album cannot commit to one style or tone, existing as it were in a constant state of a genre-identity crisis.
The jarring mix creates a constant feeling of jumping between emotions. This sporadic sound is apparent just within the first three tracks. “Capital Letters” and “For You” are obviously pop songs with Hailee Steinfeld, Liam Payne and Rita Ora all present. But an abrupt shift in mood occurs with “Sacrifice;” the tempo slows, notes are elongated and instrumentation becomes more basic.
Freed also creates not just one, but two different language barriers. “Ta Meilleure Ennemie (Pearls)” is in French. The song is nice enough to listen to. It’s simplistic and upbeat, but if you wanted to know what’s being said, you will have to look it up. “Cross Your Mind – Spanish Version” is, obviously, in Spanish. The piece is also in English on the album, so it’s confusing why it was even redone in a different language — other than to make Freed longer.
The track “Big Spender” embodies one of the bigger problems of Freed. In short, the song feels like a Kiana Ledé and Prince Charlez rip-off of “Pon de Replay.” Listening to “Big Spender” for the first time, I was confused because I swore I had heard the backtrack before. After relistening to Rihanna’s hit, the comparison was obvious: “Big Spender” is just “Pon de Replay” with different lyrics and a slower beat. I would recommend listening to the two one after the other and try to hear the comparison for yourself; it’s pretty stunning.
Another issue with Freed is its rather mediocre tracklist. For example, two songs on the 22-track album are just covers. “I Got You (I Feel Good),” originally by James Brown, is slowed down and sung by Jessie J to make it provocative, but it’s honestly just a little weird. Also, Jamie Dornan did a basic version of “Maybe I’m Amazed,” originally by Paul McCartney.
Worsening this problem is the inclusion of “Love Me Like You Do” by Ellie Goulding. Does that title sound familiar? Well, that’s because it was originally released as a single off of the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack on Jan. 7, 2015. Three years ago. Yes, it is a good piece, but it is an unnecessary addition to Freed just to increase its number of songs and potentially to capitalize on people’s fondness of the track.
The only redeeming quality of this soundtrack is when it shines with moments of slow and enticing sultriness. Julia Michaels, one of the Best New Artist nominees at the Grammys this year, shows this passion best with “Heaven.” Her vocals in this track are airy and easily grab the listener’s attention. These almost whisper-like verses, coupled with very simplistic instrumentation, form a haunting, seductive song.
Just to be clear, however, Freed is a disappointment. It feels thrown together without any care of how to structure music so each song follows from one to the next. At most, consider listening to one or two songs here, but if you are interested in listening to Freed in its entirety, use a streaming service.