We have now heard Sam Smith’s new Spectre theme song, ‘Writing’s on the Wall’. After Adele’s Skyfall number, very much in the vein of Goldfinger and Thunderball, Smith had a tough act to follow.
The James Bond titular tracks remain key to the success of the series, as the pop tune is endlessly played on the radio. So it’s important to get it right.
When listening to Sam’s new record, remember the travesties that have come before. He’s nowhere near the bottom rung of the ladder. In fact, when compiling this list, a few songs sneaked into the middling abyss and are worth a mention in addition to the “Top (Low?) 5”, if only to highlight how they too hold redeeming features. ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ (Something too funky about Lulu, that I didn’t have the heart) and ‘Die Another Day’ by Madonna (Absolute respect that producers Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli and composer David Arnold signed off on such a weird and electronic track – but it’s a stinker) are two examples. Anything else missed is acceptable pop-tosh…
But these are the ones we want to forget…
5. For Your Eyes Only by Sheena Easton
Easton’s romantic song simply doesn’t fit the slick edge that most Bond ballads manage to balance. It should be bold and strong, with a hint of romance. Instead, it’s piano-plonking romance and a sense of dull longing that lacks charisma completely.
4. Licence to Kill by Gladys Knight
Composer Michael Kamen clearly wanted to move back to a Shirley Bassey vocal, with an 80’s edge. Gladys says “I need, I need, I need to hold on to your love”, but she vamps it up a tad too much and repeating ‘Licence to Kill’ time and time again simply doesn’t stand.
3. All Time High (from Octopussy) by Rita Coolidge
That sexy saxophone, a bass-strum, immediately clarifies how something is off. And poor Rita, with her head band proudly worn on the sleeve, drearily moans about her brief distraction. She sounds high as a kite and, rather than a James Bond video, it could be played against a dream-sequence in unicorn-and-rainbow land.
2. The World Is Not Enough by Garbage
Perhaps it is among the better videos for the Bond series but the song is surely a world away from the ‘Goldeneye‘ and ‘Tomorrow Never Dies‘. From bands like A-ha and Duran Duran to crap-brit-rock-band Garbage, standards seemed to have dropped. That twanging guitar and weird shoe-horned lyric (“There’s no point in living, if you can’t feel alive”), sneaking a line from the film into the song, is frankly uninspired.
1. Another Way To Die (from Quantum of Solace) by Alicia Keys and Jack White
On paper, this was perfect. That’s part of the reason the failure of the song is so frustrating. The White Stripes via Alicia Keys: a match made in heaven? If only. Instead, the busyness of piano, guitar and bass seemingly playing the same thing lacks the oomph that it clearly aspires to reach. Keys and White hardly push the boat out on the vocals either. Then there’s the whole is-it-a-guitar-solo section abruptly ending revealing the juttery strums was the solo in its entirety. “Wo-oh-ah-oh-oh-ah”
This post was originally written for Flickering Myth in September 2015