Thoughts on James Bond theme songs

There’s an interesting piece in today’s (October 12) London Times Online, about the QOS theme song, “Another Way to Die,” and its place in the James Bond film series’ musical history.

Columnist Dan Caims, in his article “Bond themes: Can nobody do it better?,” doesn’t have a lot of good things to say about the Jack White/Alicia Keys collaboration.  Neither does he have any great love for any Bond theme song since McCartney & Wing’s “Live and Let Die,” from way back in 1973.  What’s really interesting is his recounting of a discussion with David Arnold, wherein the current Bond composer pretty much confirms what we’ve all intuited: the marketing suits, and not the music personnel, are the ones making the decisions about theme song performers.  Caims refers back to relatively weak efforts by  a-Ha and Sheryl Crow trumping the superior work by The Pretenders and k.d. lang, as well as the thin beer of  “All Time High” and “For Your Eyes Only.”

Personally, and the above examples work just fine for me, my thought is always been that EON always misses the mark when they try to manufacture a hit record, based on marketing research and charts analysis and other MBA stuff, rather than musical taste and artistic perception.  People love classic 007 tunes like “Goldfinger” and “You Only Live Twice” and “Diamonds Are Forever” and etc. because 1.) Oh, sure, they’re expertly crafted commercial pop music, but, more importantly, 2.) They’re evocative of the films themselves. You get a small dose of that ol’ Bond magic when you hear the music, because it reminds you of the regular-size dose you received in the movie theater.  That’s why we go for that stuff — not because we’re all big Shirley Bassey or Nancy Sinatra fans.  The best Bond theme songs are like the films they come from: they’re lightning captured in a bottle.  Whenever the producers try to force the magic, it doesn’t happen.

Check out the article.  Though some excellent and perceptive thinking in it, even if you don’t agree with all of his examples or conclusions.

— Paul