Welcome back. It’s still Bond month. A somewhat shorter one today, it’s the Top 5 Bond Theme Songs. As ever, this is totally subjective and based only on my own opinion, your mileage may vary.
Before we get into the list proper, I’d like to explain a couple of guidelines I used on this post. First, I only considered themes which include lyrics. Sorry On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, From Russia With Love, Dr. No, et al. The instrumental themes may get their own list post later in the month, depending on how desperate I become for material. Second, I tried to base my evaluation of these themes solely on the songs (music and lyric), and not the accompanying visual effects. Those will almost definitely get their own post later on. Clearly we’ve got some great stuff on the horizon. Third and finally, I am only considering songs from the main Eon Productions Bond series, so no 1967 Casino Royale and no Never Say Never Again. Alright, with all the preamble out of the way, let’s get to the list.
5- The Living Daylights
Written by Paul Waaktaar and performed by A-ha
It’s no secret that this is my personal favorite Bond film, and that may contribute slightly to this theme’s inclusion on this list, but hey, it’s my blog. Fun fact, this theme was performed by Norwegian pop group A-ha, making it the only Bond theme not performed by a British or American artist or group. This theme puts one in mind of the 80s, disco-pop, and things of that nature. As it turns out, this movie is set in the 80s so that is rather fitting.
That’s really all I have to say about this one. It’s era-appropriate and I like it. Let’s move on.
Written by Don Black and performed by Tom Jones
Despite the fact that the lyrics are largely meaningless, Tom Jones manages to make this song not just bearable, but downright enjoyable. Originally the theme for this movie was an entirely different song called “Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” and recorded by the great Shirley Bassey. But producers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were worried that if a Bond theme didn’t have the title of the movie in it, audiences would, I don’t know, get confused or something so they scrapped that one and recorded this one. It ended up ok, because Tom Jones is basically the male equivalent of Shirley Bassey.
3- Live and Let Die
Written by Paul McCartney and performed by Paul McCartney and Wings
Here we have the first true rock and roll Bond theme, and it is excellent. One notable aspect of this song is the way in which it’s kind of two songs in one. First there’s the slow, poetic beginning. Then all of a sudden the tempo picks up, the drums and guitars come in, and you’re at a full-fledged rock concert. Then it turns reggae for a minute, before transitioning just as suddenly back to rock and roll, and from there back to a slow jam. Rinse and repeat. One other thing to know about Live and Let Die: I think it’s admirable how well it works at the end of the film, in addition to at the beginning. One thing I hate about certain Bond themes is that they work very well at the beginning of a movie for the extended title sequence, but at the end credits they either feel overdramatic or too simple. Not Live and Let Die: because it has so much genre-mixing, when you need a fast paced rock song for the end credits, there it is. In conclusion, I think Paul McCartney should live forever.
Written and performed by Adele
By far the most modern theme on this list, Skyfall manages to be at once a functional piece of exposition and a power ballad. The best Bond movie in nearly 50 years deserves the best Bond theme in nearly 50 years, and boy does it get it. Earlier in this list, I compared Tom Jones to Shirley Bassey. In truth, the more accurate comparison would be Adele and Shirley Bassey. This song also has something which is present in most successful Bond themes: it’s contagiously listenable. What I mean by that is this: this is a song which, like Live and Let Die, is able to be played on the radio as well as in the theater. And for a Bond film, that is huge. This song manages to walk the tightrope between exposition and pop song, and makes it look easy.
Written by John Barry, Anthony Newely, and Leslie Bricusse and performed by Shirley Bassey
Did I mention that I love Shirley Bassey? So, yeah. Obviously. This song not only defined a film, it defined every film that would come after it. This, like Skyfall, also acts as functional exposition, but it’s so much more than that. Where Skyfall is prose, Goldfinger is poetry. And an aspect of that which I think is often overlooked is Bassey’s voice. She is able to convey simultaneously an urgency and a seduction which is, or will come to be, definitive of Bond. Also, her diction is so clear, you hardly have to try to understand what she’s saying. And even if you didn’t speak English, I think just hearing the sounds alone would get the message across. In conclusion, you should watch Goldfinger if you haven’t seen it before. Or even if you have, watch it again. It’s that good.
Tomorrow, look forward to the Top 5 Bond Villains list. Submit your predictions on the forums now! (There are no forums).
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