I was a James Bond fan before I was a music fan. A lot of the first songs I remember liking are from the James Bond movies. From the John Barry scores to the title songs, almost every track from these films is ingrained in my mind. However, they just don’t seem quite as awesome as they did when I was a kid.
Bond themes are interesting. Since they’re typically performed by musicians that are popular when each film is released, listening to a compilation of these songs will take you through many different eras and music styles. Usually, however, they aren’t very good, even when performed by good artists like Paul McCartney, Duran Duran, Jack White and Alicia Keys.
With the new Bond film “Skyfall” hitting theaters Nov. 9, here are seven (007) Bond theme songs that don’t suck. I’m excluding instrumentals, so no John Barry Orchestra allowed.
001. Louis Armstrong: “We Have All the Time in the World,” from “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969), which is remembered by many as one of the worst Bond films solely because it was George Lazenby’s only entry in the series. But, Bond fans often remember it as one of the best. It had a good plot, proved Lazenby a worthy successor to Sean Connery, and showed an emotional side to James Bond that Connery had never explored. So, it figures the film has one of the most romantic themes in the series’ history, not to mention saddest when you realize the context of the title phrase in the film. Despite being my No. 1 pick, “We Have All the Time in the World” is the only song on this list that doesn’t appear in the opening credits of the film it’s featured in.
002. Madonna: “Die Another Day” from “Die Another Day” (2002). Most Bond themes seem like throwaways to the people performing them, which is odd considering how big a deal it is for an artist to be asked to do one. Madonna took the job to heart though, and created a catchy and enjoyable electroclash song that isn’t just a great Bond theme, but a great song overall.
003. Tina Turner: “GoldenEye” from “GoldenEye” (1995). Written by Bono and The Edge, “GoldenEye” showcases Turner’s personality and uses the hard-to-work-with title well, instead of being lazy and simply describing the plot of the movie (which John Barry foolishly did with “The Man with the Golden Gun,” performed by Lulu, possibly the worst theme to a Bond film ever). “GoldenEye” was actually the first film in the series that I saw (after playing the Nintendo 64 game). I don’t recall whether the song left an impact on me or not, but I was probably too eager to see Pierce Brosnan kick ass to care about some woman singing.
004. Adele: “Skyfall” from “Skyfall” (2012). I didn’t think Adele would make this list, and even if she did, I figured she’d only make it to No. 007 (which, to be fair, is an awesome spot). But then I listened again to every one of the songs and realized how awesome “Skyfall” is in comparison. It may not be one of my top five Adele songs, but I still prefer it to most of the other Bond themes.
005. Gladys Knight: “Licence to Kill” from “Licence to Kill” (1989). Timothy Dalton is underrated. So underrated, in fact, that I excluded Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better” (commonly thought of as one of the best) to put Gladys Knight’s awesome theme to “License to Kill” on the list. Because really, any time I get to put Dalton above Roger Moore, I feel content with myself.
006. Garbage: “The World is Not Enough” from “The World Is Not Enough” (1999). Garbage seems like a very random group to ask for a Bond theme, but they pulled it off. Shirley Manson gives such a strangely powerful vocal performance that I wish the song was in a better movie. And, yes, it’s obvious that I love all the themes from the Pierce Brosnan era, except for Sheryl Crow’s “Tomorrow Never Dies.” Seriously, based on the vocal performance, that should be the one credited to Garbage.
007. Shirley Bassey: “Goldfinger” from “Goldfinger” (1964). Shirley Bassey is the master of the James Bond theme song. She is the only artist to record multiple themes for the series, doing songs for “Goldfinger,” “Diamonds Are Forever” and “Moonraker.” I considered putting “Diamonds Are Forever” on the list but, let’s face it, Kanye West owned that one as soon as he touched it. So, I went with the more popular “Goldfinger” instead.
Since it has one of the best theme songs in the series’ history, I am very much looking forward to “Skyfall.” Also, it’s 143 minutes long, and excessive length is usually a good sign for James Bond movies.