Monday, October 20, 2008

The (terrible) new Bond theme song, plus five better ones.

This isn't exactly new news, but the new Bond theme is out and it's not very good. Worse, it's very unmemorable. To be fair, most Bond songs are pretty lousy. Yet every time a film comes out, the theme song gets trashed by critics and everyone acts like they're despoiling a scared tradition. At least half of all Bond songs are terrible. Even Goldfinger sounds like a puritan schoolmarm finger-wagging and lecturing her female pupils about the evils of men and their own bodies. And 'Another Way To Die' lives up to the tradition.

But, in the name of trying to stay positive, let us take a brief stroll through five Bond theme songs that are actually good:

A View To A Kill - Duran, Duran (1985)
Easily the worst Bond film ever, but with one of the very best theme songs. It may not make much sense lyrics-wise (many Bond songs, like The Living Daylights, make absolutely no coherent sense), but this is a kick ass rock song that still holds up. Dance into the Fire, indeed.

Nobody Does It Better - Carly Simon (1977)
This Oscar-nominated tune, from the best Roger Moore 007 picture, is the rare Bond song that stands on its own as a love song, set apart from the film in question. It helps that the song doesn't use "The Spy Who Loved Me" as its title, simply slipping it on near the beginning almost unnoticed. It's also one of the few Bond themes that qualifies as a genuinely romantic song.

Live And Let Die - Paul McCartney (1973)
Once again, one of the lesser Bond films produces a worthwhile theme song. This one also works somewhat as a stand-alone rock n' roll song. It's not a great song, but it is undeniably catchy and the lyrics are easy to pick up. It's also one that most people can recognize from the opening bars (you know you can, you know you can, you know you can...).

We Have All The Time In The World - Louis Armstrong (1969)
Again benefiting from not having to use the wordy Bond title for the theme title, this one runs over the end credits
and is a charming little ditty. On its own, it's a sweet little song of its own accord. Of course, paired with the movie, it takes on a bitter undercurrent and a tragic pathos.

Goldeneye - Tina Turner (1995)

Written by Bono, this Tina Turner ditty has a nice, steady beat and strong vocals. It is marred only by the inability to logically insert the word 'Goldeneye' into the narrative. It does has an interesting line, 'you'll never know, how I watched you in the shadows as a child', that seems to acknowledge that the Bond musicians of today where the child-fans of the Connery/Moore films. It's a nice touch that gives the song an extra kick.

There are others that work well enough (Licence To Kill is a decent Gladys Night song save the awkward insertion of the title), and others that are really lousy (The Living Daylights, Goldfinger, Die Another Day, The The World Is Not Enough). To this day, I admire Tom Jones' ability to make anything even resembling a song with the word 'Thunderball' in the title. Still, next time someone complains about how this artist or that artist made the worst Bond song ever, something that doesn't compare to the canon, call them on it. The James Bond films may be a proud tradition, but their theme songs are usually not.

Scott Mendelson

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