Bond is back this spring with the new movie, No Time to Die. Daniel Craig’s final outing as the secret agent with a licence to kill is due out on April 6th, and with Phoebe Waller-Bridge involved in the script, it promises some fiery dialogue to match the excitement and the action.
The new film is the 25th in the franchise, which dates back almost sixty years,- to Sean Connery’s debut in Dr. No, in 1962.
It’s all in the song
While some of the best Bond films stand out, such as Moonraker’s space adventures and Live and Let Die’s voodoo vibes, it’s fair to say that many of the Bond plots blur together in a somewhat formulaic fashion.
However, there is one thing that clearly differentiates one Bond movie from another, and that is the iconic themes. A key part of the package since the third film, they have featured the great and the good of the music world, and have always tried, though sometimes unsuccessfully, to capture the zeitgeist of the latest sound.
Billie Eilish takes up the challenge
This year, the challenge of writing and performing the Bond theme goes to quirky wunderkind, Billie Eilish, who has conquered all before her, despite only recently turning 18. It has been a remarkable rise to fame for the young Eilish, who must feel like a college football player who goes from playing College Football Championship games one year, to playing in the Superbowl the next.
She has been Grammy nominated and named best newcomer at a host of awards, and now she has been awarded the ultimate accolade of Bond theme immortality before she is even legally old enough to drink a martini ‘shaken but not stirred’.
The best of Bond
Being chosen as the theme for one of the film world’s biggest franchises is no guarantee of quality, and there have been several Bond theme misfires down the years. Even Shirley Bassey, who features twice in our top ten, had an off day when it came to Moonraker, and the less said about Lulu’s Man with the Golden Gun the better.
But never fear, because at the other end of the quality scale there are a whole host of catchy, classic, unforgettable themes that have stood the test of time. Here is our top ten best of the Bond themes:
10. The World is Not Enough – Garbage – another Bond theme that tried to capture the latest musical vibe, this time blending the millennial grunge rock of Garbage. Like Pierce Brosnan’s run as Bond, it was functional if not particularly exceptional.
9. For Your Eyes Only – Sheena Easton – with a meteoric rise to fame to rival young Billie Eilish, Scottish housewife, Sheena Easton went from a dreams-come-true TV show to recording with the likes of Prince in the bat of an eye. She was rewarded with the theme for the 12th Bond film, starring Roger Moore. Easton remains the only artist to appear over her own track in the opening titles.
8. A View to a Kill – Duran Duran – capturing the New Romantic style of the 80s with one of the biggest bands on the planet, A View to a Kill blended Bond theme pomp with jaunty pop, and Simon le Bon’s distinctive vocals reached number one in the US and number two in the UK.
7. You Only Live Twice – Nancy Sinatra – if you can’t quite recall this early classic, just think of the opening to Robbie William’s Millennium, which samples the dramatic strings. The song was originally intended for soul diva, Aretha Franklyn, until Sinatra’s huge hit ‘These Boots are Made for Walking’ catapulted her to the top of the charts.
6. Skyfall – Adele – written by Bono and The Edge from U2, Adele’s contribution to the genre is far and away the biggest selling of all the bond themes. It sold 1.11 million copies in the UK alone, and went on to collect the best original song Oscar. It was clearly a popular Bond theme, yet somehow it still lacks the instant recall of our top five…
5. Goldfinger – Shirley Bassey – the go-to track for anyone wanting to do a Shirley Bassey impression, ‘Gold-fingaaahhhh’ was the first of the Bond themes, as the first two films didn’t have one. Appearing in the third film of the franchise, the Welsh songstress set the bar impressively high for all the films to follow.
4. We Have All the Time in the World – Louis Armstrong – breaking with the strident strings and power-ballad vocals, this stunning track by old Satchmo himself captures the suave style and sophistication of Bond far better than George Lazenby managed on screen. Though not the official title track, it is still widely accepted as the ‘Bond theme’ for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Remarkably, it failed to chart in Britain until it was used in a beer ad many years later.
3. Diamond are Forever – Shirley Bassey – after the disappointment with Lazenby, Bond brought back Sean Connery for a last hurrah and teamed him up with Shirley Bassey once again, just to be sure. The result is one of the most famous Bond themes that follows the true tradition.
2. Nobody Does It Better – Carly Simon – Carly Simon’s refreshing take on the Bond theme not only broke with the standard formula, but was also the first official Bond theme not to share the film’s title, The Spy Who Loved Me, (though it does shoehorn it into the lyrics along the way).
1. Live and Let Die – Wings – for all of Shirley Bassey’s powerful vocals, Duran Duran’s catchy pop or Nancy Sinatra’s swooning strings, there is nothing in the Bond theme cannon that quite compares to the magic and mayhem of Live and Let Die by former Beatle Paul McCartney’s new band, Wings. Switching from piano ballad to full on rock track to funky reggae and back again, it is a tour de force of everything that is brilliant about Bond themes and rightly tops many of the Bond theme rankings you’ll find online.
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