The Bond series is a franchise of traditions. The girls, the cars, the gadgets, the villains, the music, they all change with each movie, and news outlets feel the need to compare the old with the new. With the recent release of Sam Smith’s Spectre theme “Writing’s on the Wall” I decided to do that very thing, because I’m a shameless whore for clicks. The Bond theme has been an enigmatic thing throughout the years. Ranging from great pop songs to weird experimental rock tunes to absolute garbage dumpster trash. I aim to squash any qualms people might have about what songs are the best.
Now, what makes a Bond theme definitively a Bond theme? Lyrics relating to the context of the film? Hell no. Most of the lyrics in these songs are nonsensical rubbish that shoehorn the film’s title into the chorus somehow. Music? Well, most of these songs utilize the Bond chord progression (C min, A flat Maj/C, C min 6, A flat Maj/C, for all you musically inclined folks), which is derived from John Barry and Monty Norman’s original theme from Dr. No, and some of the best songs ignore it completely. So that’s a no. I ranked the songs on a number of things, personal enjoyment, whether or not the song can hold out on it’s own, effective cheesiness, and how well the song fits into the world of Bond. Not necessarily if it works within the film it was made for, but for the ideas of what Bond films represent. Those being intense action and extreme sexiness. Most of the songs are from the opening titles, I made exceptions for From Russia With Love and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service because the themes used in the titles are instrumentals. This list will be the end all, and it will certainly not piss anyone on the internet off.
Author’s note- I will not be including the Theme from Dr. No in the ranking, it would obviously be number 1 and that wouldn’t be any fun. It is the defining Bond song, every theme that came after it owes everything to it and it’d be unfair to include it.
25. Die Another Day- Madonna (from Die Another Day)
Not only is this the worst Bond song ever, this might be one of the worst pop songs ever. Seriously, this is nonsensical garbage. Madonna mostly repeats the title over and over until it gets stuck in your head like a venomous parasite. But like most artists do, Madonna said it was all on purpose:
“Everybody wants to do the theme song of a James Bond movie, and I never liked to do what everybody else likes to do. It’s just some perverse thing in me, right? So, but then I thought about it and I said, you know what? James Bond needs to get – needs to get techno so..”
So… she ended up making a trash song. Wikipedia says the song is a form of “Electroclash.” There’s a reason you’ve never heard of that genre before, because its jarring and generally shitty. I don’t have a problem with a Bond movie getting a techno song, but Jesus Christ this song is an abomination. Based on the lyrics it’s almost as if she was self aware of how bad the song was; “I’m gonna break the cycle, I’m gonna shake up the system.” Yeah, you certainly did that Madonna, and now my ears are bleeding. The worst part about it is that she likely thought she was doing something profound, focusing on making the anti-Bond song rather than making a good one. She even challenges people to try and figure it out what this song means by calling out Sigmund Freud at the 1:23 mark in the video. From here on it gets better, but not by much.
24. The Man with the Golden Gun- Lulu (from The Man with the Golden Gun)
This song is all over the damn place. It doesn’t know if it wants to be like the classic Bond songs or like some cool edgy rock song. The changes in rhythm are so different throughout its almost as if the song is fighting with itself for some semblance of normalcy. Lulu’s voice is fine I guess, she does her best to try and make it work within each section of the song. The constant guitar soloing in the background is equally as incoherent and random as the rest of the song. Even John Barry, who wrote it, hates it:
“It’s the one I hate most… it just never happened for me.”
The song also has the pleasure of being the only Bond theme to not chart in the U.K. or the U.S. And these lyrics are mind numbingly stupid:
He has a powerful weapon, He charges a million a shot, An assassin that’s second to none, the man with the golden gun.
Hmm, are they talking about his dick?
“One golden shot means another poor victim, Has come to a glittering end, For a price, he’ll erase anyone.”
Yeah, it definitely seems like they’re talking about his dick.
“His eye may be on you or me. Who will he bang? We shall see. Oh yeah!”
What could have been: Alice Cooper wrote a theme for the movie as well, and it’s so much better. I think it would’ve suited the movie very well. It would’ve been more in line with what Paul McCartney did with Live and Let Die with the previous theme. The song gets a little crazy toward the end with horns but it makes more musical sense then whatever was happening in Lulu’s song. Supposedly, Cooper turned the song in a day too late and by then the producers chose Lulu’s song. A year later, Cooper included the song on his album Muscle of Love, which is totally not alluding to a dick, you guys.
23. For Your Eyes Only- Sheena Easton (from For Your Eyes Only)
Everyone’s had a song they don’t particularly like stuck in their heads. It’s a part of the human experience. I still can’t get Hotline Bling out of my head even though I think it kinda sucks. This song is one of those songs. There’s something about that chorus. Every time I hear it, Sheena Easton’s voice just busts through my head and stays there like an unwanted guest. The lyrics are redundant, “For Your Eyes Only, Only for you.” Thanks for the clarification Sheena.
But I should’nt be so mean to her, she didn’t write the song after all. However, during the second chorus her voice does kinda fizzle out, she tries to sustain some notes and it just ends up sounding weird. The only saving grace about this song is that its pretty short, but it’ll linger in your head like a fart you thought you could get away with laying on a crowded subway.
What could have been: Blondie wrote a song called For Your Eyes only, hoping it would be featured in the titles. You can check that out here. It’s not much better than the Sheena Easton tune, honestly. The producers preferred Easton’s version, and it wasn’t a bad choice on their part. The song was a huge success making the top five in the US and the top ten in the UK, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying.
22. The Living Daylights- a-ha (from The Living Daylights)
I love Take on Me just as much as the next guy, but New Wave and Bond don’t mix. Duran Duran didn’t do a bad job of it, but we’ll get into that later. The song itself isn’t totally awful, it’s really that nothing about it makes me think of James Bond. It’s also pretty damn boring. The synthesizers used at the :08 mark remind me of the sounds that used to come out of Sega Genesis games. After that, one of the members of a-ha does his best David Bowie impression. The song also drags on without really going anywhere, it just builds up to that mediocre chorus. This song reached number 5 in the UK and reached number 1 in Norway. Likely because a-ha is from Norway. Which proves that Norwegians are very supporting of their kin, kinda like when kids who lose competitions get participation medals.
21. All Time High- Rita Coolidge (from Octopussy)
This is the weird part of the list. I’ve listened to this song numerous times, and I’ve achieved absolute equilibrium on my opinion about it. I’m not sure if that somehow makes it the worst song on this list or the best. There’s not much negative I can say about it, but there’s not much positive I can say either. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it. Its existence does nothing to improve or worsen my life in anyway. It’s truly inconsequential. There’s definitely better things I can do with the 3 minutes of my life it costs me to listen to this song, but then again I could be doing worse things, like black tar heroin or pcp. Thanks to this song, I feel simultaneously aligned with nature and the universe and completely shunned and blocked off from it. I feel I can do anything, or nothing. I am a defender of order and an agent of chaos. I am the beginning and the end.
This song is a true paradox. And now I need to lie down.
Thanks for reading. Look out for Part 2 soon.