Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Rating the James Bond Theme Songs

The James Bond franchise has excelled in it's choice of theme song performers/composers. Three theme songs during the Roger Moore era even managed Oscar nominations as Best Song. Below I rate the Bond themes:

Dr. No-- "Calypso Theme"/ "Three Blind Mice" plus James Bond theme. The actual music that plays over the titles isn't much in the way of theme music (rating: **) but sets the tone for the film: danger underneath a veil of easygoing island charm. Of course on compilations, it's the classic John Barry Bond theme that stands in for Dr. No (4 stars, as if it needs a rating).

From Russia With Love-- Apropos ballad is quite dated but fits the bill (2 1/2 stars).

Goldfinger-- Audacious and timeless; part of why Goldfinger continually ranks as the best Bond of them all (4 stars).

Thunderball-- Corny, but works. And you have to give credit for even attempting to write lyrics around the title Thunderball (2 1/2 stars)!

You Only Live Twice-- A sweeping, melodic piece that isn't over the top in setting a Far East tone (3 stars).

Casino Royale-- Would have never listed this spoof herein if it's theme song, Oscar nominee "The Look of Love" (3 stars) wasn't the only good thing about the movie.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service-- The instrumental theme is exciting and stylish, and has that austere quality that commands attention (3 1/2 stars)... of course Louis Armstrong's "We Have All the Time on the World" is the song (3 stars) for which the movie is known.

Diamonds Are Forever-- Works as a throwback as well as a solid decade-opener and retains a classic quality (3 stars).

Live and Let Die-- Easily one of the great Bond themes and one of McCartney's best post-Beatles efforts. Remains timeless despite belying by it's instrumentation. Fast, exciting, with a dash of playfulness-- Bond incarnate. (4 stars)

The Man With the Golden Gun-- Feels out of place in context and isn't much standing alone (2 stars).

The Spy Who Loved Me-- "Nobody Does It Better," the best Bond theme of all (4 stars) is perfect in every respect and came at the right moment in the series: an indication that Bond was here to stay.

Moonraker-- Slow-moving but seemed to fit the film well (2 stars) and, again, as with Thunderball, some credit for making a song called "Moonraker."

For Your Eyes Only-- Sheena Easton's take on "Nobody Does it Better" also ushers in it's era well. Although a product of it's time, a classic of sorts (3 1/2 stars).

Never Say Never Again-- Silly but catchy (2 1/2 stars)

Octopussy-- "All Time High" is certainly better than trying to fit Octopussy in the lyric and I like Rita Coolidge fine, but this song just doesn't seem to represent the movie or the world of 007 (1 1/2 stars).

A View To A Kill-- As with For Your Eyes Only, very '80s, but classic nonetheless (3 1/2 stars).

The Living Daylights-- Underrated theme is just a notch off the preceding (3 stars)

License To Kill-- Hopelessly bland theme is the nadir of the themes (0 stars). Very '80s forgettable.

Goldeneye-- Tina Turner's Bond theme is everything the previous Gladys Knight theme wanted to be. It's bold and brassy; Shirley Bassey for the 90's (3 1/2 stars).

Tomorrow Never Dies-- Pretty cool, and also a throwback (3 stars).

The World Is Not Enough-- Classical, with a timeless quality... Not great but pretty good; it's biggest detriment is it's not terribly memorable (2 1/2 stars).

Die Another Day-- Madonna rose to the challenge and although dance music is more her than Bond, a good theme nonetheless (2 1/2 stars).

Casino Royale-- "You Know My Name" has a Bond vibe and, if it doesn't date too badly, could become a classic (3 stars).

Quantum of Solace-- "Another Way to Die" I like more as a song then a Bond theme, but a modern song was required and was delivered (2 1/2 stars).

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