Monday, February 29, 2016

James Bond Songs

Music is the most subjective thing on Earth, and it seems the proof I need is just to see what each people think of each Bond song. Most people generally agree on which Bond movies were the good Bond movies, but nobody can agree on the songs though. But there were some general agreements to where I came to the conclusion that I guess I have weird, yet specific music tastes. I've never seen a list I agree with when it comes to music, but sometimes it can be nice to see a list on music that you don't normally listen to from somebody who actually knows what they're talking about(like, maybe K-pop).

I think music might be the thing I'm most knowledgeable about, which is not saying much because I don't feel that smart about it. I can explain basic music theory, I can play guitar by basically imitating what I hear, and I like to hear all of the different parts in a song to see how they all fit together. But it's nowhere near the knowledge of that one guy I linked who likes K-pop for some reason(seriously, there's something he's sees in that music that I just don't, but it's nice that he's able to point out songs that I can actually like).

So, I do feel like I can have some sort of authoritative voice when it comes to good music because I'm starting to become familiar with why I like the songs that I do. Whenever I've seen other lists of James Bond songs, they only could get into the surface level stuff like "Oh, this singer sounds screechy" or "man, these lyrics don't make any sense" but there's a lot more to it than that. I feel like some people are missing a lot of things when they just focus on these superficial elements.

So, here's my list of what I think is good James Bond music. And yes, we're going through every one of them because I honestly can't believe how much I don't agree with other people.

23. Die Another Day - Madonna

Except that maybe we can all agree on this one. Nobody I know really likes this song. It feels lazy in a lot of respects as it relies on repeated sounds in electronics that feels like a weird, yet generic dance remix of a really bad song. However, if there's one thing I can say about each of the Bond songs, it's that there's always at least something I'll like about them. For one thing, the opening strings is really good and they come back around in the middle part. I just wish Madonna was able to come up with something better to build off of those parts than just jumble together whatever this is supposed to sound like. It comes really close to being something that's pretty good even if the main melody gets boggled down by its autotune effect. Also, the melody is sort of weak in the first place. But, this is coming from one of the worst Bond films ever, so what else can you really expect?

(Note: I can't link the song to this post, but, since it's not a good song, I don't feel bad about it)

22. Thunderball - Tom Jones

The general consensus on this song is that it seems to be pretty good, but I seriously have no idea where they get that notion from. The reason why most of the songs people agree are bad is that the songs are pretty cheesy and a product of their time. But this one has to be the cheesiest and the product of its timiest out of all the Bond songs. Why does this become an exception in good music? I really don't know...

I mean, how lazy do you have to be that the only thing you can really do is just rip off a part of the Bond theme song and yet never really build off of that into anything interesting. It just kind of drones on with some intermittently interesting horn and string parts until the song finally ends.

What makes it even worse is that there's the other song that they used for the rest of the movie in the soundtrack, but they never used it for the opening credits for some idiotic reason. That song is Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. If they used that song, it might have ended up on the top 5 of this list, but I guess Tom Jones was too much of a product to not have a James Bond song.

21. For Your Eyes Only - Sheena Easton

She recently performed with the philharmonic in the city which is near to where I live. My reaction that they actually got THE Sheena Easton was...her?

This is another victim of "what could have been a good song if whoever chose the song knew how to choose good songs." Blondie has a perfectly serviceable Bond song that would have stood a lot better than the non-starter that is Easton's interpretation.

There isn't really a strong melody until the chorus and, even then, the song feels a bit jumbled together as it didn't know how to combine it's slow ballad part with it's louder ballad part. Considering that this is featured in what I consider to be the best Bond movie that Moore was in, I wish they could have done a lot better.

20. All Time High - Rita Coolidge

(apparently didn't want to do a song called Octopussy)

Really an inoffensive song, but also boring in that respect as well. If this song wasn't attached to James Bond, it would have been forgotten once the 80s ended. But, because it's attached to James Bond, the song ends up being one of the weirdest references from Ted(Yeah, they feature this song in really doesn't make any sense).

There was a lot of interesting music in the 80s that even James Bond had a little involvement in the interesting parts, but All Time High is more of a reflection on pop music at it's safest and blandest. Nothing sticks out in this song. Once I finish listening to it, I immediately forget what it sounds like.

The most I can say is that it's at least pleasant sounding and it's something I probably wouldn't skip it if it appeared on shuffle, but it's not a terribly good song.

19. Writing's on the Wall - Sam Smith

I wrote this post because this song won The Oscar and everybody is mad about it. I don't really mind this song and I thought Todd in the Shadows(a cool music critic) was maybe going a bit too far when he said this song was a bottom five of the Bond songs. Well, without even trying, I managed to put this song in the bottom five of my list even if I don't hate it.

Don't get me wrong, it's not a good song, but it's not really bad either. Apparently, Sam Smith was helped in writing this song in just 20 minutes. And if you only focused on Smith's main part, yeah, you can really tell. The melody is a lot more focused though and Smith does have a decent range, but it also never really tries much. It plays it mostly pretty safe.

It is helped a lot by the backing orchestra and it's composition. Hell, those parts alone made a pretty good soundtrack for the (terrible) movie when it wasn't reusing the soundtrack from Skyfall(yes, Spectre completely reuses the soundtrack from Skyfall, it's disgusting -_-).

The problem is really just that Sam Smith was never really a great artist in the first place; his music is really boring. The help he got from the orchestra composition is what saves this song from being completely terrible.

18. Licence to Kill - Gladys Knight

This song seems a lot more focused on the singer's vocal prowess more than anything else. So, of course the most they could do was build off of the opening part from Goldfinger. But, when you get past all of that, the song itself is actually pretty decent. Who knew you could come up with a decent love ballad about...ummm, a Licence to Kill?

There isn't a lot to say about this song other than that it's pretty enjoyable even if a little cheesy, but it owns up to it pretty well. I think it's a bit weird how it doesn't prepare you for how weird and dark the rest of the film would be(though it is a bit dated by today's standards as far as dark grittiness goes).

17. Moonraker - Shirley Bassey

This song gets overlooked a lot, even if it's not completely without reason, but it's really a pretty good song in it's own right. It doesn't really feel like a proper James Bond theme, but it sets up for a journey to space really well. Whenever I think of space, this is weirdly the kind of music I think of. A bit strange and a bit out there and maybe a bit string heavy, but also a little excited for space exploration. It's a bit hard to explain in this regard, but I think it just fits the mood for that decently.

I do wish the song went into more interesting places as it's another one of those songs that's more about the vocal prowess of the singer than the actual song itself because there's not a lot that sticks with me after the song is over.

16. Tomorrow Never Dies - Sheryl Crowe

I don't like this song as much as I used to, but I still think it's pretty good. I like the sort of dark, jazzy feel with the subtle guitar parts thrown in every once in a while. When it comes to feeling like a song for spying and distrust, this song does it pretty well. I can't say I really mind the opening part, it just feels like it's thrown in there to make the song feel like it's more driving in force than it is, which is something that it didn't need to do. The song is all about the subtle instrument parts that builds from a melody that's not really strong on it's own but, as a part of a whole, creates a pretty unique sound,

The other song that could have been used is known as Surrender which is a bit better in that it's more fun to listen to, but either song would have been fine.

15. The Man with the Golden Gun - Lulu

Most people seem to agree that this song is pretty terrible. Well, I'm here to say that it really isn't. It seems what most people focus on are how the lyrics are basically just a plot summary or how the singer seems off in a way. Well, I think the first mistake is complaining about the lyrics to a Bond theme. Lyrics about Bond are always going to be pretentious because it's about a power fantasy that people will try really hard to take seriously even though the whole concept is really silly.

The vocal performance is honestly a lot more fitting than people seem to want to give credit for. Her voice with the mixture of the horns is honestly a pretty great combination with a style that might feel a little cheesy but it owns up to it. The melody of the song is also strong all the way through, even when it jumps into the slow part in the middle for absolutely no reason.

It's really just a fun pop song in its own right.

14. Another Way to Die - Jack Black and Alicia Keys 

This is honestly a pretty weird song, but I have to admire it a lot for that as well. I think Jack Black is a pretty mediocre songwriter and I don't really know much about Alicia Keys, but I know enough that she's a weird choice to mix with someone who's a bit more alternative. But, with that, something a bit more interesting came out and I think it's honestly the most notable thing that Jack Black has ever been involved with. Is it a good song? Well, begrudgingly, not really, but it makes up for it with some ambition that has been lacking in a lot the Bond Themes.

You thought you finally knew what to expect when it comes to Bond themes, but then something completely experimental comes along. So, with that, the song deserves a lot more credit than it gets.

13. The World is Not Enough - Garbage

Strangely good and even atmospheric. The use of strings really goes into making this song a much stronger entry into the Bond themes with a chorus that's even really good. It's just all really well put together and...yeah, that's all I really have to say about it. It doesn't stick out as well as other Bond songs that would be good, but it's serviceable, especially since the movie that followed wasn't really that good at all.

12. Skyfall - Adele

Okay, let me get my opinion of Adele out of the way first.

She is overrated as fuck!

I think one of the worst things an artist can do is become a song writer with no regards for how good they want the music to be. I mean, it really says something when I'll listen to her album and I realize that the one song I actually like from the entire thing is a cover without realizing it was a cover until later.

She's honestly a bigger offender in this regard because she actually has a really good voice and it could be used for something really special. But, instead, it all gets wasted on boring compositions. All she does is just lay down a bunch of cords on the piano and just does her interpretation of what she thinks a song is supposed to be. Maybe her lyrics are insightful, meaningful, inspirational, or relateable, but fuck all of that! If you're not going to put much thought into your music, why the hell would you get into music in the first place? During my time at a music school, I had to listen to a couple of singers talk about how they don't really care about the music as it's the lyrics they care most about. But if that's the case, why don't you assholes go read a fucking poem? Hell, a lot of poems are a lot better than the lyrics in any sort of song.

So, once she got help from an actual composer, she finally churns out something that's worth listening to. The piano part plays a lot more than just laying out chords so Adele can sing her poem, the song constantly changes into different parts so it doesn't get boring, and Adele's voice isn't wasted on a weak melody. It's really telling when some Adele fans I've talked to aren't sure what to make of this song. They're probably not used to music from somebody who's not really known for their music.

11. A View to a Kill - Duran Duran

(the music video is terrible, so you should totally watch it)

Apparently the only song that reached #1 on the Billboards as far as Americans are concerned. Perhaps that says something about Duran Duran's popularity and how much of a product of their time they were when only Bond fans and die hard Duran Duran fans(if any exist) would only know about this song.

But, for what it's worth, this song is really fun to listen to. It's more dance than what's usual in Bond films and it's well composed in that regard. It doesn't exactly help that I do feel kind of dumb listening to this song. Was there nothing else they could have used than "Again we dance into the fire?" I guess there wasn't much they could build off of when it's literally from the worst Bond movie ever(though Spectre is a very strong contender, sadly). I guess it really shows that lyrics don't matter after all when it comes to creating a #1 hit song.

10. Goldfinger - Shirley Bassey

This song appears as number one in a lot of lists, but I honestly don't know why. Goldfinger is definitely the most famous of the Bond films, sure, and the opening horns part is iconic, but there isn't a lot more to this song other than that. It's got a really nice style and the instruments run really well with Bassey's powerful voice. I can tell it has a strong melody, because the tune is played over and over in the soundtrack through the movie and I can hum it out without any problem.

But I think there's just a better song Bassey was involved with that seems to get overlooked in favor of this song.

9. Nobody Does it Better - Carly Simon

I'm really not too big on having love ballads for Bond intros, but I suppose it works well for the plot of this movie. And the song is also really good by itself. The opening piano part is just killer and I like how it builds up into what eventually becomes a pretty epic song. It seems the reason why this song is that good is because there were actual composers behind it, Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager, with Carly Simon really just there to sing it. Just listen to all of the different instruments going on and you'll see why this song works so well other than just having a song you can easily sing along to.

8. On Her Majesty's Secret Service - John Barry

Most people like to replace this with Louis Armstrong's All the Time in the World. I honestly don't get it. All the Time in the World is a nice song and it fits with the love story in the movie, but the main theme song honestly kicks some ass. The use of a synthesizer is really interesting and, even if it is just an instrumental, you can still sing along with it due to a strong melody. It has to have done something right when The Incredibles sound track uses this song to build off of.

7. Goldeneye - Tina Turner

Consensus on this song is fairly mixed and it might have something to do with the edited and cut down version for the movie. I know that when it was fairly recent, people liked it because they were wondering why it never ended up on the Nintendo 64 video game. I wasn't really impressed by it when I heard it from the movie but, when I got to listen to the whole song, it's completely different. It's structured a lot better in order to have changes in melody throughout the composition, the instruments are always doing something interesting, and it's a slow, yet intense song that builds up to a pretty cool final part.

6. You Only Live Twice - Nancy Sinatra

James Bond goes to Japan, that means they need to pull out the pentatonic scales for this one to get that oriental feel. Don't know what that means? Well, due to cultural and mathematical differences, Asia came up with a scale that only has five notes in contrast to Western music and their seven notes. You can get that feeling if you just touch the black keys on a piano. There, you learned something about music today.

It really helps that this is a really nice song with a really cool instrumental riff behind it that involves an orchestra to a guitar. It's one of those songs that's really well put together but there's not much more I can say about it.

5. The Living Daylights - a-Ha

Okay, let me get my opinion of a-Ha out of the way first.

These guys are underrated as fuck!

The most I ever hear people talking about them is "Oh, the one hit wonder who came up with that pretty cool music video." And yes, their hit song and their video are honestly really cool, but they did a lot more stuff that's worth checking out as well. I think 80s New Wave is one of the best things to happen in the music industry, and a-Ha is one of the better bands in that regard. If you like Take On Me, then you'll probably like Train of Thought, I'm Losing You, The Sun Always Shines on TV, Hunting High and Low, and, maybe, Manhattan Skyline. Geez, that's more than a one hit wonder, huh? Well, these guys were a bit more than that; it's just America stopped caring about them after the fame faded away with the music video. But all the smart people from Europe know what's up.

So, in regards to this song, the general consensus seems to be that it's not very good. Especially compared to The Pretenders song that's definitely more rock and driving even if it has a hard time of going anywhere from the intro of that really cool bass part.

But a-Ha's song is kind of awesome. The main music fits perfectly when it works into the soundtrack of the movie and even the lyrics are pretty decent. I never feel like electronic music is really used all that well in music anymore(but there are exceptions) as it always feels more invasive when all they can do now is either come up with a dance beat that can sometimes be decent or that train wreck sound that comes from dubstep. Hearing a-Ha doing some interesting things with their instruments is always a breath of fresh air while John Barry's orchestra gives it an extra touch of just sounding really cool.

4. Diamonds Are Forever - Shirley Bassey

And this is what I think the definitive Bassey Bond theme is. Out of all her themes, this one definitely has the strongest melody and the one that's best assembled. The opening part feels ominous which helps Bassey's voice build up to the full song. Once all of the instruments come in, you can definitely it's 70s-ish-ness, but I think it's all done very well.

3. From Russia with Love - John Barry

This song always gets the short end of the stick when people rank it and it seems we're not listening to the same song. Most people even prefer the slow ballad with the vocals in it which is...weird. Maybe I understand why people like that Tom Jones song so much now.

Just listen to the intro and tell me that doesn't get you pumped up at all. It's always nice to see songs with a strong melody that doesn't have any vocal parts to it and, considering this was all done by an actual composer, of course there's always something interesting going on behind the music. All over the counterpoints to the melody and the harmonies from the strings all just sounds amazing. It kind of falls apart towards the end when it seems that Barry didn't know what to do but tack on the James Bond theme at the end, but it's forgiven because of everything else about this song.

2. You Know My Name - Chris Cornell

Reading other people's list, apparently not many like this song that much. But do I like this song? Well, only enough for it to fall on number two of my list.

Just listen to the intro and tell me that doesn't get you pumped up at all. Oh, I guess I already said that. But, still, this song is so good that you'll wonder why there isn't more rock with orchestrated instruments like this. It doesn't exactly hurt that this song has one of the best title sequences in all of the Bond films and it properly sets you up for one of the best Bond movies ever.

Yet, no talk of awards for this song. Let's give it to those two people who are decent singers, yet can't write a decent song to save their lives. Also, let's deny the award to somebody who really deserves it because his song will turn out to be the only Bond song that people actually play on the radio. Yeah, I think you already know who my number one is.

1. Live and Let Die - Wings

Honestly, who else could it be? The fact that the one song that people hate can get an academy award, yet this one doesn't really says something about how well the Academy Awards can pick the actual winners for music(they really can't).

When you have George Martin as your composer(known as the secret 5th Beatle, but there were a lot of those guys, honestly) and Paul McCartney behind the song, you could only hope that it would be as awesome as it actually comes out to be. McCartney doesn't exactly always come out with the best songs, but it all really came together with this one and thank god because the following movie is terrible. Hell, they didn't even know what kind of intro sequence to put to this music, so that kind of sucked too.

But, I guess it says something when the best part of a movie is the theme song and people still like it years down the road even if the movie is incredibly terrible. Hell, I'm willing to bet that people who like this song don't even know that there's a movie to it, though those assholes probably listen to the Guns'n'Rose version, yuck!

It's kind of sad that McCartney is still working today but he hasn't been able to do anything that noteworthy after the 70s ended. It's also coincidentally when he fired Wings.


It's kind of why I attributed the song to Wings even if I know it has Paul McCartney all over the song. Paul McCartney didn't like the idea of being known as the guy who just hired a bunch of other guys to play his music. But Paul McCartney still gets all of the recognition with Wings not getting a lot. I guess that's what happens when you're a Beatle.

He even let his members sing songs on the album Wings at the Speed of Sound, the one known for that Silly Love Song known as Silly Love Songs, but it also has some great tracks that are ironically not by Paul McCartney like Time to Hide by Denny Laine or Wino Junko by Jimmy McCulloch.

Sorry, I guess I'm getting off on an tangent about Wings rather than how awesome Live and Let Die is, but do I really need to explain it? The opening is so nice and ballady that it's a genuine shock that it gets into the fast, hard rocking instrumental part. McCartney really knows how to put together a song like this.

So, there you go. You needed someone to go through each Bond song to finally tell you how awesome McCartney is. But I hope I gave other artists their due because some of these guys are criminally overlooked. 

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