By Joel Hanek
The Bond franchise is perhaps the only film property where just as much anticipation is placed on of the theme song as much as the film itself. The decades-long tradition of enlisting the biggest pop acts on the planet to pen a retro-infused, string accompanied pop themes continues with the soon to be released “Skyfall” single from Adele this week.
In honor of 007 scoring the “Rolling in the Deep” singer to croon tales of his mischief, here’s a look back at some of the best and worst Bond themes ever according to some guy on the internet.
1967 – Nancy Sinatra & John Barry – “You Only Live Twice” from “You Only Live Twice”
Nancy Sinatra’s other hit, this song is one of the great examples that define the Bond theme: the marriage of tense and complex score with simple and sweet pop melodies.
1969 – Louis Armstrong – “We Have All the Love in the World” from “Her Majesty’s Secret Service”
Poor George Lazenby never gets picked as anyone’s favorite Bond, but at least this forgettable movie comes with a ballad from the great Louis Armstrong. Armstrong, the only black male to perform a Bond theme, recorded this song only a few years before he passed.
1973 – Wings – “Live and Let Die” from “Live and Let Die”
Paul and Linda McCartney’s “Live and Let Die” not only won them a Grammy, but it is also considered one of their most successful single under the Wings banner. Perhaps just as well known as the Wings version is the Guns N’ Roses cover of the theme.
1971 – Shirley Bassey – “Diamonds are Forever” from “Diamonds are Forever”
Bassey may be the most iconic of the Bond singers, having been enlisted for three of the films (she also performed “Goldfinger” & “Moonraker” as well), but there’s something hauntingly epic about the “Diamonds are Forever” chorus that endures. If you don’t agree, look to Kanye West sampling this song in “Diamonds from Sierra Leone” and keeping it alive in this side of the millennium
1977 – Carly Simon – “Nobody Does it Better” from “The Spy Who Loved Me”
Written by songwriting greats Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager, this song still manages to transcend movie theme and solidify itself as a pop-ballad staple even though it is clearly about a spy’s love life. Not saying that’s not relatable, but to some it might not be.
1983 – Rita Coolidge – “All Time High” from “Octopussy”
There’s something about the slow tempo and saxophone as the driving lead that make “All Time High” feel like a misfit child of the collection. But, to be fair, there wasn’t much to be done for the theme by extrapolating from the title for inspiration like its predecessors.
1987 – A-Ha – “The Living Daylights” from “The Living Daylights”
Don’t get me wrong, I love me some A-Ha – but perhaps their choice as an addition to the canon was too indicative of the time, putting too much emphasis on the at the time contemporary heavy synths and rendering it another 80’s byproduct.
1996 – Tina Turner – “Goldeneye” from “Goldeneye”
Even though it has hints of Bassey homage, the theme from “Goldeneye” is a Bond theme interpreted through a 90’s lens and a muddled chorus. Try playing “Goldeneye” for Nintendo 64 while listening to this song and I guarantee you will do worse.
2002 – Madonna – “Die Another Day” from “Die Another Day”
Although it is James Bond’s version of Y.O.L.O. – something about a club inspired pop song with the hook being “Die Another Day” just makes me uncomfortable.
2008 – Jack White & Alicia Keys – “Another Way to Die” from “Quantum of Solace”
White and Keys are undoubtedly two of the greatest artists of this generation, but having them both scream the indistinguishable chorus at each other from across the room makes me long for a quantum of solace (see what I did there?)
What are you favorite and least favorite Bond themes? Let us know in the comments below and on Twitter!