16. Thunderball (Tom Jones): The problem with “Thunderball” is that it basically copies the “Goldfinger” formula to a tee: cornball lyrics, Norman’s Bond theme snuck into the verses, the vocalist goes all-out at the song’s climax. But we mentioned the law of diminishing returns, and this song is not nearly as effective as Bassey’s Platonic Bond theme. It’s hard to totally hate on Tom Jones’ delivery though. At least he’s into it.
(Aaron says: Sung by the great Tom Jones, the title song to Thunderball only appears during the opening title sequence, so it doesn’t have the reach of “Goldfinger.” Still, with Jones’s signature voice, it fits well as an anthem to the badassery of James Bond. Aside from the fact that I have absolutely no idea what it means to “strike like Thunderball,” the song actually has the best relationship to the characters in the film. Here is a song about who James Bond is, at least if he was a little more serious about his job. A line like “Any woman he wants, he’ll get / He will break any heart without regret” is particularly accurate. Yeah, that sounds like the Bond I know!)
17. The Man with the Golden Gun (Lulu): A five-film theme slump begins in 1974 with Lulu’s ridiculous “The Man with the Golden Gun.” Bond songs aren’t meant to be serious, of course, but when the person singing them isn’t into it, the whole thing feels cheap. In fact, this whole production feels like a tossed-off attempt to cash in on the preceding song, the quasi-goofi “Live and Let Die,” right down to the fact that its opening beat comes straight from the Beatles’ “Revolution.” Put another way, Lulu is the first Bond singer who clearly belongs in a lounge.
(Aaron says: “The Man with the Golden Gun” starts off with a bang, loud and brash in what sounds like two different soundtracks played over one another. Sung by Lulu, this one doesn’t do anything for me — outside of weirdly on-the-nose lyrics, it’s incredibly forgettable.)
18. Goldeneye (Tina Turner): This song should’ve been better. Its real problem can be summed up in one word: tunelessness. There’s almost no melody for Turner to sink her teeth into here, and that’s a problem, because she’s a fantastic singer. This is a wasted opportunity for what’s otherwise the ’90s’ most notable Bond film.
(Aaron says: Tina Turner’s “GoldenEye” isn’t a particularly good song, but it is definitely a Bond song. We’ve been on a run of title tracks that can be completely separated from the film — seeing that a few of the previous entries have done well on pop charts speaks to that. Here, however, is a song that couldn’t exist in any other context, and it is memorable for that, even if it is quite bad. It’s been a while since we’ve had a title track that has used elements of the James Bond theme, and that is definitely my favorite part of this one. As you can tell from the lyrics, there isn’t much else to like.)
TIE: 19/20. All Time High from Octopussy (Rita Coolidge) /For Your Eyes Only (Sheena Easton): Pure shlock. The late ’70s and early ’80s were not kind to Bond themes.
(Aaron says about “All Time High”: After we saw a pretty decent ballad with Sheena Easton’s “For Your Eyes Only,” we get a pretty dreadful one with “All Time High” by Rita Coolidge. This is about the epitome of “Adult Contemporary,” which for me is a synonym for trash. The song is slow, with no energy or build. Maybe I’m just upset because I wanted to see them try and write a song called “Octopussy.”)
(Aaron says about “For Your Eyes Only”: Sheena Easton’s “For Your Eyes Only” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song in 1982, and the singer holds the distinction of being the only title song contributor to appear in the films, as she is shown singing during the opening credits. The song is a bit sappy and a bit ‘80s, but it’s decently catchy and sung well. Having Easton in the opening credits enhances the song, making it more distinguishable from the run of ballads the films have had.)
(Aaron says: “Moonraker” is a mellow ballad that isn’t a particularly memorable song, but it’s harmless enough. I think I was mostly transfixed by the fact that this is Shirley Bassey’s third theme, with the previous two being probably the brashest songs yet (“Goldfinger” and “Diamonds Are Forever”). During the closing credits there is a peppier version of the song, drawing from disco roots, which is less digestible. As you can gather from the lyrics, the song is fairly nonsensical in terms of the plot of the film, a slight departure from recent title songs. I guess writing a love song about a spaceship doesn’t exactly work.)
22. Die Another Day (Madonna): Without a doubt, “Die Another Day” is the worst song to ever front a James Bond film. It’s hard to imagine that position could ever be usurped. This song, with its autotune, its lack of melody, and its bad-CD-style skips and jumps, feels like a slap in the face to the entire James Bond franchise. It’s a wonder people didn’t walk out of the theater when they heard it. Actually, maybe they did.
(Aaron says: If you had to think about singers and bands that would work for a Bond theme, Madonna might not be the first person you would think of, but she would seem to fit the bill. Then “Die Another Day” happened, where Madonna tries to be a hip-hop star and repeats “Guess I’ll Die Another Day” over and over again. I don’t know if this is simply just the most recent bad Bond theme, but if I had to note the worst, this would be it.)
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tags: james bond
My Best of 2012 Playlist by Eric Garneau
After being inspired by some friends, for the past few years I’ve been really into documenting my musical exploration with year-end mixes. I realize this is not a particularly novel thing to do, but hey, who has original ideas any more? Anyway, this has gotten even easier to do thanks to new technology like Spotify. read more