When the first Fifty Shades of Grey movie came out, I remember reading somewhere that Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele — played by Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, respectively — had the chemistry of a hot dog and a loaf of Wonder Bread. Listening to the song that Taylor Swift and Zayn Malik recorded for the second film in the franchise, 50 Shades Darker, I am disappointed to report that they seem to have even less chemistry than Dornan and Johnson: a.k.a basically none. Written by Jack Antonoff, Swift, and Sam Dew, "I Don't Wanna Live Forever" isn't dance hall catchy (at least not without a remix); nor are the lyrics particularly clever, or even sexy. It's an innocuous he said/she said song that doesn't make the most of either artist's unique talents. On top of that, I'm not entirely convinced it makes any sense, lyrically speaking. "I just wanna keep calling your name until you come back home," Malik croons, both in his own verses and underneath Swift's bridge. But the desire is both unconvincing and generic: We don't get any real specificity of romantic struggle or scintillation in his words or hers, and I definitely didn't detect anything that sounds even a little bit like longing in their voices.
I didn't get even a hint of Hiddleswift regret in this one.
For a movie titled 50 Shades Darker, you'd think soundtrack producers might have commissioned a more provocative tune to be its title track. This is just stale bubblegum with a synth beat; it was just released and it already sounds tired. Both figuratively and literally: Swift and Malik sound a little like they need a nap. Or maybe they just need to give their co-singing a rest. Most of the appeal of the track comes from the fact that you think you're going to get some insight into the psyche of a not-so-newly single Swift, who in the past has penned lyrics about former love interests that were easily decodable. Not so in "I Don't Wanna Live Forever," though: I didn't get even a hint of Hiddleswift regret in this one. The closest the track gets to any authentic emotion is when Swift sings: "I'm sitting eyes wide open and I got one thing stuck in my mind / wondering if I dodged a bullet or just lost the love of my life." My ears perked up at that line — the only one that actually feels to have any meaning beneath it. That's at least a place many of us have been before. But the refrain — "I don't want to live forever / but I don't want to live in vain"? What does that even mean? It's propositional logic that doesn't actually make sense. Are these lyrics implying that if the singer did live forever, then they would want to live in vain? Or if they are going to live forever, then let it not be in vain? I'm also not sure about the actual usage of "in vain" here: Is Zayn really singing "I don't want to live forever/ but I don't want to live without purpose?" I sense a false equivalency — or at least a flawed construction. And while "Pillow Talk" wasn't exactly a song of the year contender, I expect better from Taylor Swift.