Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Best James Bond Theme Song

It is the 50th Anniversary of the cinematic James Bond.  While the books have been around a little bit longer, it was fifty years ago that Dr. No was released in Oct. of 1962, introducing cinemagoers to 007.  With the next Bond film, Skyfall, hitting theaters in less than three weeks, I figured it'd be fun to do a post a week, leading up to the release of the film and celebrating the 50 year legacy of Bond, James Bond, at the same time.  The goal is to eventually review each individual Bond film, and ranking them from my least favorite, to what I feel is the best of the series.  However, that is not today.  Today, I wanted to take a look at what is the best James Bond theme song.

There have been twenty-two films released thus far, and with the exception of Dr. No, each film has had a different theme song.  The real test of a theme song is not merely how good the song is or how well it is performed, but it's how the song ties into the film itself.  The best Bond theme songs not only opened the films, but they also influenced their musical scores, recurring as the main motif throughout the movie played by the orchestra.  That is what makes a great Bond theme song, a song that is so catchy that it can be used as thematic material throughout.  Now, there have been many Bond films that have succeeded in doing this, which is why I felt making a 10 Best list was by no means a stretch.

The funny thing is, not every one of these Bond theme songs are from good Bond movies, they just are either, such catchy tunes that they stand on their own, or they reflect the individual film and work in the larger context of the musical score to be a standout.  With that said, I feel I've explained myself enough as to what I would or wouldn't consider a great Bond theme song, and now it's just time to lay 'em out there:

10.  "Another Way to Die" Performed by Jack White & Alicia Keys from Quantum of Solace
This song was admittedly more awesome than the film it opened.  This is what a James Bond theme song should sound like,  with loud orchestras and aggressive vocals.  However, the theme does not recur throughout the movie's score, which is sad, because that would have made the musical score more of a joy to listen to.

9.  "Live and Let Die" Performed by Paul McCartney & Wings from Live and Let Die
The first rock song to open a Bond film.  Not only do many still consider it the quintessential Bond theme song, but it also happens to be considered a classic rock tune in general.  While I've always found the verses' upbeat swing a little odd, the chorus is pure adrenaline.

8.  "Moonraker"  Performed by Shirley Bassey from Moonraker
Often considered the weakest of the Shirley Bassey theme songs, I disagree.  Unlike, "Diamonds Are Forever," this song captures the feel of the story, creating an otherworldly feeling of weightlessness, like being in space.  As well, the way the theme is incorporated into the musical score by John Barry, helps sell the more out there ideas that the film deals with.

7.  "Nobody Does It Better"  Performed by Carly Simon from The Spy Who Loved Me
This song is simple and easy to listen to.  As well, it lets the viewer know that the film will not be like the previous two Roger Moore offerings, which were trying too hard to make Moore like Connery, and not allowing his own personality to come through, with rock songs dominating the intros of his prior two appearances.  Ultimately, this song tells you, Moore's a gentleman lover, and not a Connery bad boy.

6.  "The Man With the Golden Gun"  Performed by Lulu from The Man With the Golden Gun
To be quite honest, I don't like the movie this song opened, but I enjoy the song.  It's one of the more aggressive Bond theme songs, and its extremely catchy.  It just feels like a Bond theme song, too bad it goes with one of the worst Bond films.  Oh, well.

5.  "You Only Live Twice" Performed by Nancy Sinatra from You Only Live Twice
This song just sounds romantic.  I love it, with the song utilizing Asian-sounding instrumentation that alludes to the film's Japanese setting, it's a beautiful song that fits perfectly in the larger musical score from John Barry.

4.  "Goldfinger"  Performed by Shirley Bassey from Goldfinger
Perhaps the most iconic Bond theme song of all-time, it's sultry and has an air of menace around it.  Brilliantly used throughout the film by composer John Barry, few Bond themes are this perfect.

3.  "Goldeneye"  Performed by Tina Turner from Goldeneye
This song was really like the herald coming out and saying that Bond was returning to his roots, after slipping into obscurity throughout all of the '80s.  Written by Bono and the Edge from rock band U2 and performed by Tina Turner, the song channels the best of the Shirley Bassey theme songs while outdoing them in the process by merely just being a more rocking, awesome song than any of Bassey's themes.

2.  "From Russia With Love"  Performed by Matt Monro from From Russia With Love
The tune has the feel of an old standard from the likes of the Rat Pack or something, just solidifying Bond as cool.  As well, this song is used throughout the film by John Barry, utilized in the score as a romance theme, a suspense theme, and everything else between, marking this as one of the more versatile Bond themes in film history.

1.  "You Know My Name"  Performed by Chris Cornell from Casino Royale
Simply the most awesome Bond theme song.  It's pure adrenaline, from the rocking guitar to the Bondish horns blaring in the background.  No Bond theme song represents a character with a license to kill better than this song does.  Not to mention, it had the sheer audacity to say to audiences, "You know my name," after four years out of the spotlight -- the second longest drought without a Bond film, now matched with the wait between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall.

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