Does the title song of a Bond movie really matter?

New SPECTRE poster

New SPECTRE poster

In the past few days, there have been reports, speculation, etc., about who may be perform the title of SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film.

Here’s a question that isn’t being asked much: Does the title song, or the selection of a title song performer, really matter that much for a James Bond movie?

For example, the 2006 Casino Royale got a lot of good reviews and is held is high opinion by a lot of fans. But very little of that has to do with “You Know My Name,” the song played over the main titles.

Meanwhile, the title song to 1967’s You Only Live Twice, written by John Barry and Leslie Bricusse and performed by Nancy Sinatra, is considered one of the best 007 title songs.

Yet, a lot of fans feel the film You Only Live Twice isn’t up to the standards of the first four Bond films made by Eon Productions. Part of that stems from how it was the first movie to throw out the main plot of an Ian Fleming novel.

For that matter, 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is another highly regarded Bond film. It didn’t even have a title song. Instead it had a Barry instrumental for the main titles. It was the last time the main titles didn’t feature a song.

Yes, a good title song can enhance the movie (“Nobody Does It Better” for The Spy Who Loved Me being an example), but it’s rarely make or break. In the 21st century, however, the sort of perspective is in short supply.

An announcement may be coming Tuesday. Meanwhile, over at the MI6 JAMES BOND WEBSITE there’s an attempt to make sense of the latest news.

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7 Responses

  1. The song may not be indicative of the quality of the accompanying film, but it does become a part of the film’s identity for better or for worse. It’s just become engrained as part of every Bond film’s publicity machine, which the producers seem to encourage to some degree. I think it’s just one way to cross promote the film to wider audience, which is why they tend to go with artists who have a significant following. For fans, it’s become something to get excited about. For the casual movie going public, it’s just a promotional element that may attract them to the film.

  2. Nothing whatsoever compares to Shirley Bassey singing “Goldfinger” – Nancy Sinatra was a lightweight compared to her. “Nobody does it better” barely referred to the movie, and just because Carly Simon crooned it out, it was still a weakling of a theme song. Live and Let Die had nothing to do with Bond but was “bought” for the theme because of the McCartney and Wings title song for the eponymous album. The theme song trend of using big name groups is little different than the ubiquitous product placement that occurs in all movies these days. They are marketing ploys, pure and simple, to get the punters into the movie house and drop money on the film. That said, Thunderball theme was very good, as was You Only Live Twice, From Russia with Love and Diamonds are Forever. Some were pure drivel, like the Duran Duran theme, A View to a Kill, which is too bad, because the Timothy Dalton movie was brilliant. Oh well, enough carping…Adele doing Skyfall was right up there with Bassey.

  3. There were some great songs from the James Bond movies. I have not seen any of those movies in a long time. However, I think that Nancy Sinatra sang very well in You Only Live Twice. I also liked Carly Simon’s Nobody Does It Better from The Spy Who Loved Me, Shirley Bassey (not sure of spelling) Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever. I also liked Adele’s Skyfall. I don’t see anything wrong having a movie title song. All the movies that are playing in the movie theaters all have title songs or themes.

  4. Before I am crucified for misspeaking on Wings/Live and Let Die, I admit I was gobsmacked by the thought that Nancy Sinatra was the best singer for theme songs, and in haste dissed Sir Paul for his Bond theme song – written and performed FOR the movie. I recant. I submit to beatings. But, come on, now – Nancy better than Shirley? That’s like saying Roger Moore was better than Timothy Dalton…

  5. It’s really about whose currently popular on the chart’s, that’s probably the formula the bond producers we’re using all these years, all the names mentioned i don’t really know if Dame Shirley Bassey was a popular artist before ”Goldfinger” but she certainly took-off since the films release Back then. Matt Munro was still a Bus driver when he was recording song’s, But when ”from Russia with love” Came along it was Hollywood here i come. nancy sinatra got the bond Gig through Her Father and the broccoli’s being close friends
    Groups and solo artists who are current hit makers, are always first choice for bond theme songs, that’s just How i see it, However it’s official that British R/b singer Sam Smith is singing the new Bond film SPECTRE theme song. I believe the bond producers have hit a positive note in chosen Sam Smith.

  6. I think the song/music and opening credits are of a piece that stand alone; yet are also representative – at their best – of the larger movie, thematically and/or stylistically. TB, YOLT, OHMSS are early favourites; as are the later TSWLM, GE and SF. My favourite example of this outside the Bond canon is the Saul Bass/Bernard Herrmann opening to “Vertigo.”

  7. I did not say that Nancy Sinatra sang better than Shirley Bassey. However, I thought she sang well for You Only Live Twice. Shirley Bassey does have a better voice than Nancy Sinatra. Nancy Sinatra never sang another James Bond movie song. When she sang You Only Live Twice, it sounded like she could not sing the high notes. There is an old saying: Nobody’s perfect.

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