Today marks the official release of the twenty-third James Bond feature film, Skyfall, and last month saw the release of its theme song, performed by Adele. As such, we here at BPM figured it was as good a time as any to count down the ten best theme songs in the series run.
One could argue that the Bond Title Song is almost as important as the film itself – or at least there are certainly instances where the song sticks in your head more than the film. Over the past fifty years, we’ve been introduced to Ian Fleming’s conceived world of Bond: a world of guns, villains, and a charm as smooth as the perfect vodka martini. In a way the Classic Bond Film™ is an outdated product of decades past, where women were seldom more than objects to be overrun by Bond’s charm, where evil masterminds could live in volcanoes, and where everything could be solved by a convenient gizmo, an instantly desirable gadget, or sultry one-liner.
The Bond Song, though, can go beyond all this, and be a timeless product that will resonate for decades after its release. What follows then is a list of arguably the best title songs from the James Bond catalogue. One could ponder over what makes a winning Bond Song, and hypothesize over a potential formula, but as decades have moved on and styles have changed, it’s become evident that there is no real winning way to construct one.
There are, of course, ways not to do it. It’s fairly obvious why Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name” isn’t on this list, nor on the official Casino Royale soundtrack, and the less said about Madonna’s tacky and glitchy “Die Another Day” the better (only redeemed in the slightest of ways when compared to her woefully unneeded cameo in the film). “Another Way To Die” has all the horn and string fanfare (and I do love me some crunchy Jack White-guitar work) but dare I say it sounds too American for what is essentially a British institution? And Lulu’s “The Man With Golden Gun” has an opening line that would even the most misogynistic sexual innudeno-loving Bond-fan wince.
But before we get started, a disclaimer: While I could very easily have put Monty Norman’s classic “James Bond Theme” from Dr. No in first place, I’ve decided to omit it from the running. Without a doubt it’s the quintessential sound of Bond himself – of him walking nonchalantly through M16 headquarters, of him engaging in fisticuffs with a henchman, of him riding a vehicle of any sort through an explosion, of him inevitably seducing a woman – and it’s only matched by John Barry’s subsequent themes, but it seems a little unfair to pair it against more conventional “songs.” Anyway, let’s get going.