Welcome to Junk Mail, where a few Music Times staffers email back-and-forth about each week's biggest release throughout the work day. This week, Carolyn Menyes, Kyle Dowling and Caitlin Carter chat about the soundtrack to the new movie Fifty Shades of Grey. Feel free to join the conversation in the comments section, and check back next week for more.
Carolyn Menyes: It's our first soundtrack for Junk Mail, and is there any better initiation than Fifty Shades of Grey? I feel like a critical virgin, just waiting for the goddess within to blossom with some major musical whippings. And even though Christian Grey may come at Anastasia Steele hard in this book/movie, the music is really tender and loving. There's also a definite sonic theme. Oh, and Beyonce. The FIfty Shades of Grey OST has Bey.
Caitlin Carter: Full disclosure, I have not read the books or seen the movie (obviously, it's not out yet). But I have a pretty good idea on it's about from all the trailers and articles I've read. The soundtrack is very based in R&B ... S&M&R&B, perhaps? It's goes from sensual and tender to dark and mysterious, which I think is kind of what Christian Grey does in the books (again from what I can surmise). The Weeknd is really the standout performer on the compilation for me. He the perfect brand of R&B for this dark, sexual tale.
Kyle Dowling: I also have not read the book(s) but given what it's about I found it hard to believe that Hollywood was going to make a movie at all close to the storyline. And from listening to the album I was honestly quite surprised at how non-S&M and kinky it was. It was quite mellow, to be honest. That's not to say there weren't a few good songs but I guess I was thinking it'd be more of a "sexy" album. None of this makes me want to whip, cane and/or tie anyone up -- which is good in most cases, I guess. And why is Frank Sinatra on here? Have Nicki Minaj toss some of her porny lyrics on the album and then release it. Just my thought.
CM: I'll admit I read the first book two or three years ago, but it made me cringe more than it made me melt. So, I'm just surprised this movie made it to the screen not for its sexual content but for its poor dialogue and one-dimensional characters. There's also the abusive relationship thing, which I am assuming they changed for the big screen -- I've heard it better. ANYWAY... the sex in the books is pretty intense and weird, if I remember correctly. So, this baby-making music seems like it's a little bit of a mismatch. Maybe they really do fall in love through their junk onscreen. And, really, there's little baby-making music out there today that's better than The Weeknd. He was a great choice for two songs on this soundtrack. The Beyonce remixes also work well.
Soundtracks can oftentimes be a sonic mixed bag. I was pleased with how cohesive this is. If you like PBR&B (or S&M&R&B like you said), this is a great album for you.
What kind of music did you expect? What's good whipping, rough sex music? Rihanna? I don't even know.
CC: Maybe this?
Jokes aside, though. I think it's definitely a cohesive compilation, and a nice baby-making playlist for a passionate Valentines day, if you need one. As you've both said, there aren't any songs about violent or rough sex. So that is sort of a mismatch. However, if the sex scenes themselves are portraying that S&M stuff visually, you don't necessarily need to hammer in the idea with music. It might get cheesy. The contrast might be a good thing when you see it on screen.
KD: Rihanna would have been a fine choice in my opinion. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I didn't like the album. I'm just surprised it is as mellow as it is. When I think of a book about bondage and S&M I think of some sort of rough sex music. Then again, that could just be my twisted mind. Having said that, I think there are some good tunes on this album, one that may end up being better than the movie itself. I think Skylar Grey was a nice touch, AWOLNATION's Bruce Springsteen cover of "I'm On Fire" was a great surprise, being that I'm a big Springsteen fan.
And even the mellow addition of Sia's "Salted Wound" was enjoyable. Though I've come to realize that I like most of the things she does.
CM: I think the point could be made that if you're having crazy, kinky sex while like hardcore music is playing, it may be too much. So, the dichotomy of a tender Sia song against the roughness of the scene could actually work really well. In an IRL chat, Caitlin, I think you said you read a lot of these songs lead into the sex scenes, so that would make a lot more sense to me.
But this is definitely ~making luv~ type music, and I really do think they'll work for both a happy Valentine's Day and a solid movie scene. Caitlin, you also touched on the lyrics. They're not explicitly about sex but they very literally follow the plotline of Fifty Shades of Grey. Skylar Gray's song and Ellie Goulding's "Love Me Like You Do" really spell out these people's feelings for each other. All of the songs written explicitly for this movie are like that, including The Weeknd. It's almost a little too literal for my taste.
CC: Although the lyrics might be literally following the plot, they aren't hitting me over the head. I think it's all pretty subtle. It's actually interesting to me that a compilation soundtrack by a ton of different artists can tell the plot to a story without visuals to accompany it. It makes for an interesting stand-alone piece. However, I don't like the idea of it being literal when paired to visuals, so we'll have to see how that ends up coming out.
KD: Can we all agree that Frank Sinatra's "Witchcraft" probably doesn't lead up to a sex scene? Unless it is used for some foreplay... so maybe. Though, thinking about it, wasn't Sinatra abusive to women? So that would make sense considering the plot of the film. Anyway, which tracks did you feel were the strongest on the album? I have to say I think both Beyonce songs are incredibly good.
CM: The Sinatra track SCREAMS montage to me. I can just imagine it playing while Christian is showing off his opulent lifestyle to poor, unsuspecting Ana. Or it's played at a classy party. Sinatra was ALL about class.
As for the strongest, I did think the remix of "Crazy in Love" was brilliant. It was a little more creepy, which works, and loads more sexual, which definitely works. The way they mixed her "Woah ohs." WOAH indeed. I'm really digging The Weeknd's "Earned It" these days too. It's tantalizing, it's slow and, boy, is it sexy. The Weeknd just has the perfect voice for a song and a soundtrack like this. I also really love the yearning in Skylar Grey's voice on "I Know You." She really sells a heartbroken emotion, and it's stunning.
CC: Huge fan of the "Crazy In Love remix." It really plays up the "crazy" part of being in love, which obviously works well with this story. I was also into the "I'm On Fire" Springsteen cover, and am curious where that will be featured visually. It would maybe be another montage, but more focused on the love part of their relationship rather than sex? I see the Sinatra's "Witchcraft" in a scene where he is trying to seduce Ana with his charm. I'm also curious to see where they'll place Vault's "One Last Night" and Ellie Goulding's ""Love Me Like You Do." They almost seem more like rolling credits-type songs. They have a little too much pop in them for the sex scenes.
KD: I would agree... some of the songs (for me, at least) seem too pop-like to be put into sex scenes. Especially the ones you mentioned, Caitlin. And yes, Carolyn, I'd agree that "Witchcraft" is probably used in some scene where Grey shows off his lavish life of luxury at some cocktail party or something. Out of them all, I'd say Beyonce's tracks are probably the "sexiest" on the album. No offense, Mick Jagger. I love "Beast of Burden" but I'm not getting kinky to it. The "Woah ohs" - as Carolyn mentioned - are crazy sexy. But now this just sounds like more praise for Beyonce ... and the Internet doesn't need that.
CM: Strangely enough, the very first YouTube comment on "Best of Burden" is that it's the perfect sexxing song. I tried to listen to it with that angle, and it actually made me laugh. Sorry, Mick Jagger. You are sexy, but that song ain't for the ol' bump 'n' grind. I just read a new review of FIfty Shades of Grey today and I guess that Christian is a big Bruce Springsteen fan, hence the AWOLNATION track. I guess it plays in the car (at least in the book). I really love AWOLNATION, and his new single "Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf)" is my everything, so it was interesting seeing his softer side.
CC: Totally agree that "Beast of Burden" is not a sex song. It's a sex-y song, but it's not passionate baby music. It's more "pining for you" music. I really liked the song "Undiscovered," but as part of the storyline, it's a little cheesy. This girl is a virgin, and her body is "undiscovered." Now that I look at the tracklist titles in order, I am starting to see your point Carolyn.
First Christian "puts a spell on" this virgin whose body is "undiscovered." But she's been good all of her life so she's "earned it." But things start getting a little too hot and heavy and Ana tells Christian to "meet me in the middle" so that this relationship can work. Now that they are starting to get on the same page she wants him to "love me like you do." But of course she gets emotionally hurt at times and she must lick her "salted wound." You get the idea.
I wonder if this was on purpose?
KD: I'd imagine there might have been some sort of thought into that. I can't even begin to think how many sexual jokes were made during the mixing of this album and making of the film. Is there anything that particularly irked you both with this album?
CM: Now that Caitlin really pointed out the lyrical flow of this album, boy, is it cheesy. So, I guess that irks me just because it's so obvious. Musically, no. I think that this soundtrack is really solid. It works on both the individual level and as one compilation. Can't be sure about the quality of the movie, but this is a quality OST, imo.
CC: Yeah, as it's own entity, I think it's a great collection of tracks. Paired with visuals, I just hope they don't get too literal and make it corny.
KD: Where's the kink?!?! No, I'm kidding ... it's a good album. Is it what I was expecting? No, not quite. I was thinking more sexy-like-Beyonce type songs. Having said that, I think what's on the Fifty Shades of Grey album stands as a pretty solid. Whether or not the movie will be the same, I'm not too sure.
CM: Agreed, little to kink on here, a lot to bump it too, though. This soundtrack is a win to me. What I really like about it is the cohesiveness -- a fan of the Sia track would like The Weeknd's contributions and be able to get down with the Beyonce remixes. It's not whips and chains exciting, but it is sultry, and a great Valentine's Day soundtrack.
CC: This is a great collection of steamy ballads and cute love songs. When analyzed under the Fifty Shades of Grey framework, the song choices do seem a bit literal, so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out on the big screen. The Weeknd and Beyonce really take the cake here, though, for getting to the essence of the film.