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Listed: The Top 10 Bond Themes

By ; November 6, 2012 at 11:08 AM 

5: Sheryl Crow – “Tomorrow Never Dies”
From the film Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

I like the Bond Songs that sound like Bond Music you’ve known ever since you first saw the man order a vodka martini. Ones that are orchestrated cleverly in a way that sound like their paying homage to the sounds and melodies of John Barry’s work, and one that’s sound dashingly fresh and original. “Tomorrow Never Dies” is a song I keep hearing in slightly different forms when I watch films around it, fitting the chorus melody into new keys and time signatures. It’s no bad thing that Sheryl Crow’s Bond Song has turned out to be malleable. If anything it’s surprising considering how much a strong statement it makes for itself. Crow’s voice might seem like an odd choice to some, contrasting the stereotypical grand and operatic sound of past singers, but it brings a sort of fighting-through-tears power to the table. If that’s not for you, then there’s little to dismay over as the rest of the track is surrounded by glorious, descending strings and piano, opening the page for Crow to write and bleed all over.

4: Nancy Sinatra – “You Only Live Twice”
From the film You Only Live Twice (1967)

If “You Only Live Twice” is to be remembered for anything, then it’s those opening bars, which are so sultry and flattering that it’s no surprise a pop star like Robbie Williams wanted to get his hands on them. In a way, the strings (part of a full 60 piece orchestra, no less) outdo Nancy Sinatra vocals, but her smooth voice slips amongst the orchestration comfortably, like a perfume through the air. The oriental tinge in the instrumentation is a notable touch, too, and is a charming ode to the content from the film itself. For all its velvety glory and sleek allure, “You Only Live Twice” transcends the majority of other Bond Songs for capturing a near-perfect sound.

3: Shirley Bassey – “Goldfinger”
From the film Goldfinger (1965)

Arguably the most famous Bond Song, “Goldfinger” grabs your attention without a moment’s notice with its heady, dark-tinged horn fanfare. From thereon in Bassey gets bigger and bigger with each verse, until her thunderous voice sounds almost too huge for the song. It’s not until the final flourish that the song sounds like it’s catching up, when it finally blares out in a last-ditch effort to match her. It’s also seasoned brilliantly with a couple of other classic Barry motifs, playing out in true Bond fashion. It’s kind of funny, though, that a song as widely recognized and acclaimed (it is often credited for “perfecting the ‘Bond Sound’”) as “Goldfinger” is all about the film’s villain.

2: Paul McCartney & Wings – “Live And Let Die”
From the film Live and Let Die (1973)

The brilliance of “Live And Let Die” is down to the fact that it’s pretty much just a Wings song with a Bond-esque sheen put on top. The piano balladry, the reggae swagger, and those backing vocals all seem like staple things in their world, but the rush of strings from the booming breathes full orchestration seem a little too bombastic to be just another experimental sidetrack. It doesn’t really matter, though, as what makes the song so effective is that not only do McCartney and his band makes it sound seamless, they also make it their own. For just a second I imagine McCartney thinking of himself as the tuxedo-ed hero running from exploding warehouses and driving fast, expensive cars down busy city streets. It’s one thing to capture the essence of the film, or just a one of the film’s characters in a Bond Song, but no one else sounds like they’re having as much fun living out their Bond fantasy.

1: Carly Simon – “Nobody Does It Better”
From the film The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

When Thom Yorke described “Nobody Does It Better” as the “sexiest song that was ever written,” he might have had his tongue tucked ever-so-slightly into his cheek, but I don’t see why this can’t actually be the case. Describing what it is that warrants this accolade isn’t quite as easy; the best things, whether they are fine wines or fine songs, just need to be experienced first-hand to be fully appreciated.

Nonetheless, there’s still so much to appreciate about this track that can be boiled down to a simple appreciation of its musical parts: the inviting opening piano line from where the high and low end go on to talk to each other; the moonlit strings that sweep in an out of the picture; the underrated drum fills adding a welcome sonic detail; the humbly triumphant horns as the song fades to a close. And then of course there’s Simon herself, singing perfectly in a way that glides between sexy, sultry, and – risking an attack from the Freudians – just a bit motherly, too. It’s the sentiments that make it, though, capturing the charming and overwhelming womanizing power that most men will perhaps be a little too shy to admit they would love to ignite amongst those they’re attracted to. “Baby, you’re the best,” Simon sings. She’s so right.

Did we forget anything? Are we just plain wrong? Tell us in the comments!

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