The witches and wizards who work their magic behind the scenes of the ever-popular James Bond franchise have come up with a secret recipe that has stood the test of time. Sweet British actors in debonair outfits, high-tech gadgets and cars, international espionage and the icing on the cake: a hit song specially designed for the film by the most popular musicians of the time. When these elements combine, some James bond the films are acclaimed by legend, but often the title song exists as a distinct piece of pop culture thanks to the fame of the musicians behind it.
Some James Bond title songs set the tone for elegant, high-stakes action, and others set the tone for sad, elegiac drama. Some team up with the best of the franchise’s entries, and some fade into obscurity over time.
Here are eight of the best James Bond themed songs, ranked.
8 A sight to kill – Duran Duran
Duran Duran’s song for the film of the same name was the first time pop artists were drawn to the lure of doing a Bond theme, where it was classical singers. Their percussive brass and iconic guitar riffs brought the best of ’80s pop to a film that made it all the more explosive and exciting. Sadly, the song doesn’t hold much to Duran Duran’s other music in terms of hype and technical quality. Famously, this was one of the first Bond songs to have a good run on the Billboard Top 100 songs for the United States.
seven You Only Live Twice – Nancy Sinatra
Unlike previous singers, Nancy Sinatra’s low-key yet confident style challenged the awe-inspiring and spectacular performances of previous artists to tackle Bond themes. His less is more approach to the balance between voice and instruments created a particularly clear and touching composition. Certain elements like the bamboo xylophone pay homage to the Japanese decor of the film and make it all the more effective. Sinatra’s entry into the Bond series, with her memorable vocal arrangement, became fundamental to how future artists would approach Bond themes.
6 Live and Let Die – Paul McCartney
Bringing the sound of the Beatles to James Bond worked almost perfectly for this film. The technical talent of Paul McCartney, Wings and legendary producer George Martin is in the spotlight on this track, but it still leaves much to be desired. Sometimes different elements of the song feel a bit too much in competition with each other, resulting in a somewhat confusing result. Yet rock music’s contribution to James Bond has often been poorly done, and this is not one such example.
5 No Time To Die – Billie Eilish
Billie Eilish became the youngest musician to ever conduct a Bond theme, and the result, produced in collaboration with legendary composer Hans Zimmer, immediately became iconic for fans of the musician and paid homage to the legacy of the series for longtime fans. As a singer, Eilish follows the best instincts of previous performers with a sweet and moving touch, and elevates her performance with the producing genius of Zimmer and her brother Finneas. The heart of a great Bond theme is how well it reflects the tone of the film, and in this case, many felt the song was too introspective and oppressed.
4 You Know My Name – Chris Cornell
There’s another equally important heart in a great Bond theme: the hype factor. These movies are big budget explosive shows for a reason, and Chris Cornell’s movie You know my name served as the perfect introduction to a young, efficient but messy new Bond played by Daniel Craig. It’s every bit as awe-inspiring and exciting as previous Bond themes, but Cornell’s instinct to stir a crowd and punch after the punch in his music made it one of the most exciting Bond themes to hear. in a theater. When not on full blast, the song’s slower moments don’t land as precisely and delicately, a balancing act that other artists behind Bond themes have mastered.
3 Goldeneye – Tina Turner
The brains of this theme song are none other than Tina Turner, Bono, and The Edge, and the mix of their skills has made it one of the most carefully calculated hits of a Bond theme to date. At the time, whether or not Bono and The Edge could replace John Barry as songwriters was deeply contested and remains a matter of debate. Tina Turner, however, picked up where Shirley Bassey left off, showing a confident, sharp presence and brilliant pipes that made this song an outstanding entry into one of the most memorable films in the series. By now, the Bond franchise had created a musical model to follow for its themes, and Tina Turner’s performance holds nothing back.
2 Diamonds Are Forever – Shirley Bassey
Shirley Bassey has been asked not once, not twice, but three times to perform a Bond theme, and her experience shines through on this track. She brilliantly oscillates between big, bold choruses and smaller, more subtle verses with the skill of a blackmailer. A lot of attention, both behind the scenes and in public, has been directed to the song’s sex load, but there’s no doubt this song is Bassey at its best. It’s a song that has taken root in the collective memory and that all fans of the series have had the chance to remember in theaters.
1 Skyfall – Adele
It is really very difficult to judge any of the Fall from the sky, because each of them works a lot to create this masterpiece of a movie. Adele’s title song doesn’t just match the tone of the film – it defines it and, in doing so, becomes inseparable from the film experience. Slow and elegant meditations on death, followed by long, painful melodies, stage the story of the returning gentleman spy in all its beautiful color. And if views are any indicator, this is one of the most listened to Bond songs of all time, currently at 460,000,000 views on YouTube.
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