by Nicholas Tristan, Features Editor
12. Diamonds Are Forever - Shirley Bassey
We’re climbing up the Shirley Bassey charts! Her second entry is “Diamonds Are Forever”, and it’s a haunting ballad with a gorgeous vocal from Dame Bassey. The song isn’t quite as iconic as “Goldfinger”, but it still creates a masterfully-executed atmosphere with tight, rich background writing. And, as I’ve said before, you really can’t go wrong with Shirley Bassey’s voice.
11. The Living Daylights - A-Ha
A-Ha are best known, obviously, for their banger “Take on Me” and its accompanying iconic music video. “The Living Daylights” is a solid mixture of 80s aesthetics and classic Bond tropes. The opening moments are priceless, suspenseful and capturing the spirit of Bond. From here, well, it’s 80s. “The Living Daylights” is a slightly weaker version of Duran Duran’s “A View to a Kill”, which melded 80s and Bond so divinely, but it’s still a worthy addition to the Bond theme canon.
10. GoldenEye - Tina Turner
Our first real Bond pastiche! It was a stroke of genius to get Tina Turner to do a Shirley Bassey’s impression, and with “GoldenEye” she delivers one hell of a vocal performance. “GoldenEye” is wholly indebted to “Goldfinger”, and it shows. From the tight horns, to the dreamy strings, to Turner’s soaring vocal: this is pastiche at its finest.
9. Nobody Does It Better - Carly Simon (from “The Spy Who Loved Me”)
In the previous article, I mentioned the difficulty of doing a straight love ballad as a love theme. Well, Carly Simon may just be the best woman for the job. “Nobody Does It Better” is gorgeous: lush, elegant, with Simon’s powerful yet fragile voice dominating the song. Even if you feel the song is a little overloaded with cheese, if you’re not fist pumping aside by the time Simon gets to the song’s bridge, you may be a robot.
8. You Only Live Twice - Nancy Sinatra
Featuring a string line memorably sampled by Robbie Williams, “You Only Live Twice” is damn good. Sinatra, with her slinky voice and elegant sensibility, fits perfectly in the jazzy world early Bond. While You Only Live Twice is an awful movie (it’s the one where Bond dons yellowface. Yeah.), the title song is more than enough to secure its place in history.
7. You Know My Name - Chris Cornell (from “Casino Royale”)
This is a controversial pick. While I used to despise Cornell’s hard-rock opener to Casino Royale, time has healed these wounds and I now find it to be an exemplary addition to the canon. Cornell was an unconventional pick for a Bond song in 2006, with him no longer fronting either Soundgarden or Audioslave, but his growling vocals add to the surprisingly strong songwriting of “You Know My Name”. Plus, that arrangement? Absolutely killer. Underrated.
6. All The Time In The World - Louis Armstrong (from “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”)
Okay, this is cheating. Technically, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service features an orchestral theme, in the same way From Russia With Love did. But I need to give props to the heartbreaking Louis Armstrong song that plays when Bond’s new wife, played by the utterly lovely Diana Rigg, meets her tragic fate. It was a moment that was criticized upon its release for being maudlin, but it was Bond’s most human moment to date, and that has since infuenced the reading of his character.
5. A View to a Kill - Duran Duran
Duran Duran probably have their detractors, but I have no time for them. As an unapologetic fan of hard 80s aesthetics, Duran Duran are as close to sonic perfection in that genre as possible. “A View to a Kill” is an mini masterpiece of a song, combining John Barry’s superb horn and string writing with a killer pop tune that wouldn’t have been out of place on Rio. Dance into the fire, indeed.
4. Goldfinger - Shirley Bassey
This is it, the iconic song that started it all. Without Bassey’s perfect vocal, it’s unlikely that the trend of recording Bond theme songs would ever had caught on in the way it did. “Goldfinger” isn’t the best of the Bond songs, but it’s by far the most most influential, providing the blueprint of things to come.
3. The World is Not Enough - Garbage
Garbage was a perfect choice to do a Bond song. Between Butch Vig’s idolizing of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound (as seen on Garbage’s record preceding this, the carefully constructed Beautiful Garbage) and Shirley Manson’s sultry Scottish brogue, “The World is Not Enough” unspools deliciously. I should also point out that another great song was written by The World is Not Enough, Scott Walker (no, not that Scott Walker)’s enchanting and haunting “I’ve Only Myself To Blame”. Maybe not the right vibe for the movie, but still pretty.
2. Live and Let Die - Paul McCartney and Wings
It was very difficult for me to determine if this song would come in at #2 or #1, but ultimately “Live and Let Die” fails due to its slightly silly bridge (slightly may be a bit of an understatement). But it’s hard to say no to the pure songwriting power of Mr. Paul McCartney, and the vast majority of “Live and Let Die” is utterly fantastic. That opening? Hoo-ee. Doesn’t get much better than that.
1. Skyfall - Adele
So it’s come to this: #1. “Skyfall” is the distillation of everything that has come before it, and Adele nails it. From its auspicious start with a sforzando of horns to its gorgeous verses to its magnificent chorus to its roaring climax, the song epitomizes the Bond spirit while being an incredible lesson. A worthy claimant to the title of “Best Bond Theme”.