For some more overt machismo — on an album largely geared to a female perspective — there’s “The Wolf” by the Spencer Lee Band, with a riff vaguely hinting at Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” and a vocal that yowls like Mr. Wonder and hoots like Michael Jackson (and the Weeknd), leering, “Your body’s sweating, dripping wet and I just can’t control myself.”
Sia, who can drill down to the emotional core of a cliché, sings “Deer in Headlights” as a submissive who finds herself falling “down a shame spiral” while seeking redemption. For three minutes there are no drums, just keyboards and chamber strings; a supportive beat comes in but fades out, as she begs, “Please don’t abandon me” and sounds genuinely bereft.
A further dose of bound-and-waiting suspense arrives in Jessie J’s willful, revved-down remake of James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good),” with ticking electronic percussion and a shivery, scratchy vocal. Another remake, Bishop Briggs’s version of INXS’s “Never Tear Us Apart,” jettisons the hints of playfulness in the original to ratchet up the power-ballad drama.
With a song to underline each plot point, there are lighter moments. Ms. Michaels returns with a perkier tune, “Are You,” that matter-of-factly encourages a flirtation over a snappy, skeletal rhythm track. And for shopping, there’s “Big Spender,” with Kiana Ledé (formerly the child star Kiana Brown) as a gold digger flaunting “Bling on my agenda/Last time I paid I just can’t remember.”
But throughout the album, despite skillful songs from Ms. Michaels and Sia, there’s a sense of obligations being met, bases being touched. It’s the bane of most sequels, and the songs in “Fifty Shades Freed” can’t escape it.