Monday, December 16, 2013

The Bond Theme Song Showdown

I thought this might be a fun little diversion while I wait for more December films to come out. Let's take a look back at the theme songs for all the various Bond films. The franchise is unique in that the music, and especially the opening themes and sequences are almost like characters unto themselves, and it's one of the most iconic aspects of the series.

Of course, this is all subject to my personal tastes and what I personally expect out of a Bond film, but it's a fun list to make in any case. Feel free to disagree, but here's how I rank the opening songs from best to the absolute worst.

1. Goldfinger - The ultimate song for the ultimate Bond movie. No other comes close. From those opening horn blasts - five iconic notes that immediately tell you what you're in for - it's just the most sleazy, swinging, swaggering monster of a song that the franchise ever produced. Shirley Bassey destroys it, too, belting out the lyrics like she's a conduit for a nuclear power plant. A masterpiece.

2. James Bond Theme (Dr. No) - Technically speaking, "Dr. No" did not have a title song, but instead introduced the famous James Bond Theme to the world, swinging in all its bombastic glory. Yeah the opening collapses into some weird crap with a drum circle and then Three Blind Mice which is akin to audio whiplash, but it's still historically significant.

3. Tomorrow Never Dies - I freaking LOVE this song. I wish I could place it higher, but historical significance and utter perfection prevent me from doing so. And I don't care if it's just ever so slightly out of her range - Sheryl Crow nails it. The fact that her voice is straining gives it this breathless, very sexy quality that puts it over the top.

4. A View To A Kill - SO 80'S. SO GLORIOUSLY 80'S. This is one of the only Bond themes that really doesn't sound that much like a typical one, but still works on the basis of it just being a damn good song. And it's easily got the most instantly catchy chorus on the list. Leave it to Duran Duran to pull that off, I suppose.

5. The World Is Not Enough - This one kind of oozes and slinks around, much like the oil slicks in the intro. It's sexy. Evoking the horn segments and strings that were so iconic in the earlier films, it's like an updated version of the feel of those songs, bringing the sound of Bond into the 21st century.

 6. GoldenEye - Another ostentatious, smooth drink of swagger that bites hard on the back-end. You can really hear Bono's writing, and like him or hate him the dude can write a tune. Tina Turner sasses it up quite nicely.

7. Thunderball - This one is a delight. It's kind of silly, and I don't know what striking like Thunderball even means, but Tom Jones sells that mess, son. I don't even care what he's talking about when he's belting out a tune like that. Whatever he's saying, I believe him.

8. Skyfall - I'm not a fan of Adele. In fact I cannot stand her. In fact she almost ruins this song with her howling, poorly pronounced and enunciated warbling. Anyone would have been better. Anyone. That being said, this is still a fantastic song and one of the best opening sequences they've ever done. Even with Adele singing it. That's impressive.

9. The Living Daylights - Much like Duran Duran did with "A View To A Kill," A-Ha made a song that is both 80's-tastic and works quite well outside of a Bond opening, perhaps even more so. But it's not quite as catchy as "A View To A Kill," even though it still possesses the same feel. Good tune.

10. Another Way To Die (Quantum of Solace) - It's strange how the worst Bond movie has a song that I place in the Top 10. But then again, it is Jack White, who is your musical Lord and Savior. Possesses the most sass and swagger of any of the songs here. That guitar riff. THAT RIFF.

11. The Man With The Golden Gun - Not that great of a song, really, but it's got all the pieces to make it a solid Bond theme by technicality. I'm just not a big fan of the vocals, particularly in the verses. It's too sing-songy, kind of like Lulu can't really latch on to a melody. But it's not bad.

12. Nobody Does It Better (The Spy Who Loved Me) - I have a confession to make: I actually really like this song. Normally I don't like ballads in my Bond openings, or even many ballads like this, but man this song is just damn solid. It's like the best song Paul McCartney never wrote, and Carley Simon gives an amazing performance.

13. Diamonds Are Forever - Shirley Bassey once again does a great job, but it's a little too slow and gentle for me to place it higher. And like many of the weaker Bond songs it's got a bridge that kind of kills the pace. But it's still pretty good and is representative of what one would usually expect.

14. On Her Majesty's Secret Service - Great little instrumental. It's got an almost military vibe to it, and it's not difficult to imagine a dude doing some hardcore espionage with it grooving in the background. It radiates coolness and style, but it's an instrumental, which is still weird to have in an intro. It makes for a better soundtrack for the action sequences.

15. Let And Let Die - With Paul McCartney, I usually either really love his stuff, or I'm not a fan at all. This falls somewhere in the middle. It's got a decent beat for most of it, and that's cool and all, but it's too eclectic and goes all over the place with the tempo and feel. I get irritated every time I hear that stupid reggae bridge. It kills the momentum.

16. You Know My Name (Casino Royale) - This is merely an alright song. Decent chorus, but the verses are so odd with the rhythm of the lyrics that I really don't know what in the world Chris Cornell was attempting with the melody. Odd timing is to be expected from the dude from Soundgarden, but even in 4/4 time I can't catch the feel. Ah well. Cool intro, though.

17. For Your Eyes Only - Man, this song starts really rough. The only thing that saves it at all is the admittedly catchy chorus. The rest is pretty lame. With few exceptions I'm not a fan of ballads in my Bond intros.

18. From Russia With Love - There is actually a version with lyrics, but the opening is the instrumental. It's okay. The version with lyrics is actually kind of worse. Whatever.

19. Die Another Day - What the crap is up with the dance remix up in da club stuff? I like Madonna as an artist but really this was just weird. Glitchy and way too pop-heavy, and what the hell is up with "Sigmund Freud, analyze this?" At least it has a beat I guess.

20. You Only Live Twice - Oh yeah. A string section playing serenely and Nancy Sinatra singing like she's on Valium. That gets my blood pumping. This is a song they would play during a romantic comedy when the characters are taking a ride on a boat shaped like a swan, not when Bond is blowing up a secret base inside a volcano. Please.

21. Moonraker - Shirley Bassey without any of the brass or attitude. She performs it well, but again, it's a ballad that puts me to sleep before getting me excited about what I'm about to watch. Then again, it is "Moonraker," so that would be an impossibility as it was.

22. License To Kill - Ugh. I do not care for this one. It's way too Whitney Housten sounding for my tastes. Too many synths going on without any kind of a driving beat. It's too late 80's radio - the kind of music you hear while you're shopping for groceries because they don't want to offend anyone, so they play the most bland muzak possible, which is oddly far more offensive. Blargh. (Great movie, though)

23. All Time High (Octopussy) - Again, ballads and James Bond shouldn't go together. This is especially true for a ballad as bland and boring as this one.

24. Never Say Never Again - If you were to ask me to come up with a more annoying chorus, the only thing I could think of to one-up this song would be to stick a dozen cats in a dryer, turn it on and then record the noises that came out of it. Terrible performance of a terrible song that has no business being anywhere close to a Bond movie. The absolute bottom of the barrel.

And with that we reached the end. I hope you had fun going down the list. I know I had fun putting it together! Till next time, keep it swinging, sassy, and sleazy.

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