Every classic James Bond theme has a few key elements: inscrutable lyrics that are mysterious, yet intriguing, acres of swelling strings, hints of composer John Barry’s iconic “James Bond Theme” and, of course, the kind of powerhouse pipes that make you sit up and take notice during the credit sequence.
By now you’ve probably heard Adele’s addition to the canon, the lush “Skyfall.” The dangerous, sexy orchestral pop number ticks off all the boxes on the Bond must-have list, but where does it fit in on the list of all-time Bond tunes?
Few are chosen for the ultimate movie theme honor and while the 23-movie Bond franchise has scored a handful of all-time film song classics, there are a few tunes along the way that have stumbled in reaching for 007 greatness. Recent history, in fact, has not been kind to the contemporary acts who’ve been tapped for the gig.
The most recent example was from none other than Jack White, the typically dead-on former White Stripes leader who missed the mark with his herky-jerky, overly serious collabo with Alicia Keys on “Another Way To Die” from 2008’s “Quantum of Solace.”
Similarly, Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell over-grunged it with 2006’s bland “You Know My Name” from 2006’s “Casino Royale” and Madonna totally missed the mark with the glitchy, techno tune “Die Another Day,” which sounded more Madge than Bond. Garbage had a better go of it in 1999 with the classically sensual, trip-hoppy “The World is Not Enough,” but Sheryl Crow was a bit snoozy with 1997’s limp “Tomorrow Never Dies.”
The incomparable Bono and The Edge of U2 almost nailed it with their jazzy, hip-swiveling stab at the genre with 1995’s “GoldenEye,” sung with sex appeal by rock icon Tina Turner.
Adele’s song is of a piece with U2’s take, aiming for the same slinky gravitas as the all-time Bond themes, which you can’t even talk about without a nod to the all-time Bond gal: Shirley Bassey. The brassy Welsh belter is the only artist to record more than one Bond tune, nailing it all three times with her incomparable songs for “Goldfinger,” “Diamond Are Forever” and “Moonraker.”
You also can’t talk about Bond without mentioning Paul McCartney and Wings’ 1973 classic, “Live and Let Die,” Carly Simon’s soaring 1977 theme to “The Spy Who Loved Me,” “Nobody Does it Better” and Sheena Easton’s 1981 hit “For Your Eyes Only.”
“I was a little hesitant at first to be involved with the theme song for ‘Skyfall.’ There’s a lot of instant spotlight and pressure when it comes to a Bond song,” Adele said of her take on Bond. “But I fell in love with the script and [co-songwriter] Paul [Epworth] had some great ideas for the track and it ended up being a bit of a no-brainer to do it in the end. It was also a lot of fun writing to a brief, something I’ve never done which made it exciting. When we recorded the strings, it was one of the proudest moments of my life. I’ll be back combing my hair when I’m 60 telling people I was a Bond girl back in the day, I’m sure!”
Will “Skyfall” end up as one of the great Bond themes of all time? It’s too early to tell, but lined up against some of the other classic 007 themes, Adele has certainly paid tribute to the genre’s classics while putting her own full-throated spin on the genre.
How do you think Adele’s “Skyfall” holds up against some of the all-time Bond themes? Let us know in comments below.
Check out everything we’ve got on “Skyfall.”