‘Year of the Spy’ reflected in music award nominations

Thomas Newman

Thomas Newman

The Film Music Reporter today published a list of nominees for the World Soundtrack Awards. Musical work done during 2015’s “Year of the Spy” figures into some of the nominations.

Thomas Newman was nominated as film composer of the year for SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film; Bridge of Spies, a historical drama directed by Steven Spielberg about the American lawyer who negotiated the release of U2 spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers; and Finding Dory

Daniel Pemberton was nominated in the same category for The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the movie based on the 1964-68 television series, Steve Jobs and Mal de pierres (From the Land of the Moon).

Other film composer of the year nominees were John Williams, Ennio Morricone and Carter Burwell.

There are also five nominees for best song written directly for a film. “Writing’s On The Wall,” used during SPECTRE’s main titles is one of the nominees. The song, co-written by performed by Sam Smith, won the Oscar for best song in February

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Writing’s On The Wall’s Oscar triumph

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE's main titles

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE’s main titles

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Sam Smith and Jimmy Napes got the Oscar award for Best Original Song in 2016 Academy Awards edition. It was the second triumph for the James Bond series had in that category.

In the 20th century, Bond songs were beaten by the likes of “The Way We Were” (winning over Live And Let Die) or “You Light up My Life” (winning over Nobody Does It Better from The Spy Who Loved Me) and “Arthur’s Theme (The Best You Can Do),” which won over For Your Eyes Only. For that matter, 007 classic songs such as Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever weren’t even nominated.

The spell was broken three years ago when Skyfall received the academy’s nod over songs like the solid “Suddenly,” from Les Miserables.

In September 2015, when Sam Smith introduced his performance of the song “Writing’s On The Wall” for SPECTRE, it divided the Bond fans between the ones showing appreciation and the ones turning a big thumb down – not to mention a great deal of bullying towards the 23-year-old singer for his falsetto voice, hidden under the shadows of the social networks.

“It’s the quickest song I’ve ever written,” Smith said, claiming he and Napier finished the job in just 20 minutes. (Later Eon Productions co-boss although Barbara Broccoli said it took much more time than that.)

Despite Smith’s vocal register, “Writing’s On The Wall” featured an unmistakable Bondian sound reminiscent to “Thunderball” with a touch of the recent “Skyfall.” A melody so accurate that it looks like composer Thomas Newman barely retouched the original instrumental for the scene where James Bond and his love interest Madeleine Swann get steamy on a train going through the Moroccan desert.

The song that supposedly took Sam Smith and Jimmy Napes less than half an hour to write described a vulnerable state of the rebooted James Bond. Bond lives with the memory of his beloved Vesper (Eva Green’s character in Casino Royale) and his boss-turned-mother figure M (Judi Dench, who bid farewell at the end of Skyfall).

It takes a lot for a man to admit his weakness – particularly a man like James Bond– and this song achieves to do it in a powerful way, as Daniel Kleinman’s main title visuals show our hero naked, wrapped around octopus tentacles coming out of the villain’s back while kissed by beautiful women.

While the artist voice sounds fragile, the seven main notes of the tune explode in power. A power expressing enough strength that the instrumental intermezzo (around the three minutes of the full version of the song) wasn’t cropped out during the usual editing to make a four minute composition fit into a short main title sequence. It was masterfully used to emphasize the artistic visuals.

Sam Smith had the coveted Oscar statue on his hand and dedicated it to the LGBT community he is part of. Among other contenders, he triumphed over Lady Gaga’s “Till It Happens to You,” introduced by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden during the ceremony.

Some people may not agree, not even Bond fans, about this recognition. But it is truly deserved because the song isn’t focused in the victorious figure of agent 007, but in the depths of the hidden soul of James Bond: his fears, his vulnerability and his overdue need for love.

And this was done with a melody that synthetizes the film, twisting like the sinuous octopus tentacles that symbolize the effect of SPECTRE wrapping into the soul of the man behind the spy, and a voice that shouts what the spy covering the human being will never openly tell.

The emotional complexity of the lyrics, the music and the voice is something that a spectator with an artistic eye can appreciate and enjoy while listening to “Writing’s on The Wall.” When accompanied by Kleinman’s ravishing main title sequence, it’s the way the song was meant to be appreciated.

 

Writing’s On The Wall wins Best Song Oscar

SPECTRE LOGO

Writing’s On The Wall, the title song for SPECTRE, won the Best Song Oscar on Sunday night.

The award marked the first back-to-back Academy Awards for the James Bond franchise since Goldfinger won a sound award (Norman Wanstall) and Thunderball won for special effects (John Stears) in the 1960s. 2012’s Skyfall also won for Best Song as well as receiving an Oscar for sound editing.

Co-writer and performer Sam Smith gave a short acceptance speech. The award went to Smith and his co-writer, Jimmy Napes.

Meanwhile, songs from James Bond movies played a prominent part of the Oscar proceedings. Live And Let Die (nominated but which didn’t win) and Diamonds Are Forever (not even nominated) were played at various spots in the telecast on ABC. Also played was the main theme from 1967’s Casino Royale, a comedy that’s not part of the 007 film series produced by Eon Productions.

Also during the show, stand-up comic Sarah Silverman introduced Sam Smith’s rendition of Writing’s On The Wall. It became a forum for Silverman to tell James Bond jokes. Here’s a sample from the JUST JARED website.

“I guess I was a Bond girl, in that I had sexual intercourse with James Bond and never heard from him… I know he has a cell phone – he has four!” Sarah said. “He loves sleeping with women with heavy Jewish boobs.”

“Oh here’s something. James Bond – not a grower or a shower. I don’t want to say he’s terrible in bed… but he’s slept with 55 women in 24 movies and most of them tried to kill him afterwards.”

The show’s In Memoriam segment included Christopher Lee (including a brief clip from The Man With The Golden Gun) and mogul Kirk Kerkorian, who bought and sold Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer multiple times. It was under Kerkorian’s leadership that MGM bought United Artists in the early 1980s, a move that still affects the Bond franchise to this day.

Also in the segment was character actor Theodore Bikel, who auditioned for the role of Auric Goldfinger but lost to Gert Frobe.

Finally, related to 2015 spy-related films, Mark Rylance won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Bridge of Spies.

UPDATE: They’re playing the theme from Goldfinger (another Bond song never even nominated for an Oscar) going into the final commercial break.

SPECTRE title song gets Oscar nomination

SPECTRE teaser image

SPECTRE teaser image

“Writing’s On The Wall,” the title song for SPECTRE, was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Song, ACCORDING TO A LIST OF THE NOMINEES on the Acamdemy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences website.

The nomination comes four days after the song won a Golden Globes award.

With the Oscars, the songwriters get nominated. In this case Jimmy Napes and Sam Smith are the nominees. Smith performed the song.

This is the second consecutive Bond title song to pick up a nomination. Adele and Paul Epworth won the Best Song Oscar three years ago for Skyfall’s title song.

Thomas Newman, who was nominated for Skyfall’s score, didn’t get a nomination for SPECTRE. However, he picked up a nomination for the Cold War drama Bridge of Spies. The latter received a number of nominations, including Best Picture.

To be honest, it was more appropriate Newman got a nomination for Bridge of Spies. Drama is more in his wheelhouse. Meanwhile, with SPECTRE, Newman repeated some of his Skyfall score in several spots.

Authors discuss 007 title songs on NPR

Cover for The James Bond Songs

Cover for The James Bond Songs

The authors of the new book The James Bond Songs Songs were interviewed on NPR’S WEEKEND EDITION today.

Among their conclusions: Bond songwriters sometimes are inhibited from doing their best work, Goldfinger still sets the standard and SPECTRE’s title song generated mixed results.

Here’s a sampling.

On Goldfinger: “This is the song that everybody’s been trying to copy ever since, and it’s the standard that listeners hold these songs up to on whatever level of consciousness,” co-author Adrian Daub told NPR’s Scott Simon.

On the quality of Bond songwriting: “(W)hen you’re writing a Bond song, or singing a Bond song, that you have to feel yourself compromise — kind of pulled in two or three directions at once,” co-author Charles Kronengold said in the interview.

“I mean, if you’re a lyricist, having to use a ridiculous word like “Moonraker” or “Thunderball” is not going to make your life any easier or pleasanter. It’s not necessarily going to be your best work, so the records don’t necessarily add up,” he said.

On Live And Let Die’s autobiographical elements for Paul McCartney:  “And the idea that Paul McCartney is going to be still around, still making music, but not with The Beatles — what does that mean?” Kronengold said. “Why does he even come to work? Why does he have to do this, and what’s the point of it? And the song brings that out in a really nice way.”

On SPECTRE’s “Writing’s On The Wall”: “Well, not enough menace and danger for our taste,” Kronengold said. “It seems like they forgot about the swagger and the bite that the best Bond songs have.”

On the other hand, Daub said: “(T)here’s one part of it that we really like, and it seems to be the one that everyone else hates — which is when you get to the chorus….The song builds to this amazing crescendo, and then just kind of ends with this whimper.”

You can read an edited transcript of the interview BY CLICKING HERE. The full audio from the interview will be made available there starting about 12 noon New York time.

Meanwhile, if you’re interested in the book (subtitled Pop Anthems of Late Capitalism): CLICK HERE for the Amazon.com listing.

UPDATE: If you click to the website, the full audio of the story is now up. It runs 6:21.

Video released to promote SPECTRE title song

The official 007 website released another promotional video today, this one focusing on SPECTRE’s title song and music.

The video shows Sam Smith’s title song, “Writing’s On The Wall,” being recorded. There are also comments from the singer, director Sam Mendes and producer Barbara Broccoli.

A different story is told on the video concerning the creative process of the song. Smith has said previously, “It’s the quickest I’ve ever written a song – it took 20 minutes and they loved it!”

Broccoli’s version: Smith had “many meetings” with Mendes and reading the script thoroughly before writing the song. “I think it will go down as one of the greatest Bond songs in history.”

The video comes one day before a U.K. press showing and the movie’s debut on Oct. 26. It doesn’t come to the U.S. until early November. Here’s the video:

Writing’s On The Wall’s music video released

Sam Smith’s music video for “Writing’s On the Wall,” the title song for SPECTRE, is now out.

There appear to be a few shots not seen in the trailers. Some fans are already checking them out for information about the 24th James Bond film. Here’s the video: