The soundtrack to the 2017 erotic drama Fifty Shades Darker, the sequel to author EL James' Fifty Shades of Grey, features more sensually atmospheric tracks designed to convey the film's tone of edgy, sexually charged longing. The difference this time out is that while 2015's Fifty Shades of Grey mixed modern tracks alongside vintage pop-and-soul -- a formula for erotic film soundtracks popularized by Adrian Lynne's 1986 hit 9 1/2 Weeks -- here, director James Foley eschews the old-school pop approach, choosing instead to amp up the sultry contemporary R&B and indie-electronica picks. In lieu of those peppy vintage pop numbers, Foley instead features several well-curated covers in Corinne Bailey Rae's buoyant reading of Coldplay's "The Scientist," Jose James' urbanely burnished version of the swing standard "They Can't Take That Away from Me" and. per the post-2010s trend of doing a slow ballad version of a famously upbeat pop tune, we get Frances' funereal reading of Haddaway's house music classic "What Is Love." Primarily, the release is characterized by fittingly steamy, R&B-infused cuts like the Taylor Swift and Zayn duet "I Don't Wanna Live Forever," Halsey's icy anthem "Not Afraid Anymore," and Tove Lo's dusky "Lies in the Dark." Similarly, there are a handful of deeply emotive, finely crafted cuts like Sia's yearning piano ballad "Helium," and Anderson East's soulful, loverman moment "What Would It Take." Also compelling are the Avener and Mark Asari's thrilling R&B groover "I Need a Good One," and the reliably tasteful John Legend with his passion-drenched "One Woman Man."
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar