Sam Smith, the self-professed first gay to win anything ever, dedicated his win for The Writing’s On the Wall to the LGBT community. It’s nice he wants us to share in the glory bestowed on his song – or is it?
Wall is not an awful song, but neither is it particularly noteworthy. Mostly it’s another miserable Smith dirge in a long line of miserable Sam Smith dirges. The tune meanders, never quite hitting a verse or a chorus and the lyrics are one cliché after another. “But I feel like a storm is coming, if I’m gonna make it through the day”. “For you I have to risk it all, cause the writing’s on the wall”.
Those lyrics leave a dozen questions about the “wall” in its title unanswered. What wall is the writing on? Who wrote on it? What does the writing say? My guess is “Sam Smith’s music drove me to suicide”. And the song doesn’t even attempt to work the movie title into the lyrics. “Spectre” is an evocative word that conjures up demons, ghosts, the past, regret – but all Smith and co-composer Jimmy Napes can manage is a few minutes complaining about some graffiti.
There have been over two dozen title songs to James Bond movies but this is the first one to be dedicated to the gay community. It seems to me that we got a dud. Here are 10 other superb James Bond themes that we’d be better off associated with.
1. Goldfinger (Shirley Bassey)
From: Goldfinger (1964)
Why We Love It: Gold-fingahhhhh!
Sample Lyric: “Beware of his heart of gold, his heart is cold!” The song takes romantic sounding notions – like a heart of gold – and twists them like a knife in a wound. This guy kisses – but it’s a kiss of death.
2. Thunderball (Tom Jones)
From: Thunderball (1965)
Why We Love It: Sex god Tom Jones sings about balls.
Sample Lyric: “But he thinks that the fight is worth it all, so he strikes like thunderball.” They were given one of the most difficult Bond titles to work into a song but John Barry and Don Black managed to include it rather elegantly.
3. Live and Let Die (Paul McCartney and Wings)
From: Live and Let Die (1973)
Why We Love It: The former Beatle turns out a Bond theme that sounds like a mini rock opera.
Sample Lyric: “When you were young and your heart was an open book. You used to say live and let live”. Except now you are old and your heart is jaded, hence you wanting to die everyone.
4. The Man With the Golden Gun (Lulu)
From: The Man With the Golden Gun (1974)
Why We Love It: This isn’t one of the strongest Bond themes but Lulu manages to elevate it to a classic. Because Lulu.
Sample Lyric: “His eye may be on you or me. Who will he bang? We shall see.” Possibly the dirtiest lyric to come out of music – ever.
5. Nobody Does It Better (Carly Simon)
From: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Why We Love It: Nobody expected this ballad to be a such smash hit – we love an underdog.
Sample Lyric: “Nobody does it better, though sometimes I wish someone could.” Writers Marvin Hamlisch and Carol Bayer Sager earn points for working the movie title seamlessly into the song – “But like heaven above me, the spy who loved me, is keeping all my secrets safe tonight”.
6. For Your Eyes Only (Sheena Easton)
From: For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Why We Love It: Sheena. Easton.
Sample Lyric: “The passions that collide in me, the wild abandoned side of me”. I do admit to mis-singing this for years as “the passions that collide in me, while the man’s inside of me”.
7. A View To A Kill (Duran Duran)
From: A View To A Kill (1985)
Why We Love It: Duran Duran manage to provide a Bond theme that is at once both classic 1980s pop but equally honors past themes.
Sample Lyric: “The first crystal tears, fall as snowflakes on your body. First time in years, to drench your skin with lover’s rosy stain.” No idea what that means, but it sounds utterly cool.
8. Licence To Kill (Gladys Knight)
From: Licence To Kill (1989)
Why We Love It: The Bond themes return to their belted-out-ballad roots and Gladys Knight nails it.
Sample Lyric: “Please don’t bet that you’ll ever escape me, once I get my sights on you”. Saddled with yet another inelegant title writers Narada Michael Walden, Jeffery Cohen and Walter Afanasieff turn out a woefully underappreciated classic.
9. Die Another Day (Madonna)
From: Die Another Day (2002)
Why We Love It: Madonna, the mistress of reinvention, decides to reinvent the sound of a Bond theme.
Sample Lyric: “It’s not my time to go. I’m gonna avoid the cliché”. Is avoiding a cliché actually a cliché in itself?
10. You Know My Name (Chris Cornell)
From: Casino Royale (2006)
Why We Love It: A new, muscular Bond – in look and method – called for a masculine theme song.
Sample Lyric: “I’ve seen angels fall from blinding heights. But you yourself are nothing so divine. Just next in line”. Matter of fact, cool, enigmatic – just like Bond.