In honor of tomorrow's exciting Casino Royale release (and because we'll be in absentia) here's our Bond-appropriate post. It's true that we do love James Bond films (well, it is!), and it's also true that we love some James Bond theme songs. Which is why we're going to do one of those lists where we pretend to hand out specific awards relevant only to the theme of this post. Fun, right? In a kind of "been done so many times way"? Cool.
Best Bond theme song ever
Duh. Call us cliché for picking it, but there's a reason it's the best. Blaring Bassey plus blaring brass somehow equals smooth sublimity. In an over-the-top way, of course, but only just enough to be perfectly suited to the tongue-in-cheekiness of James Bond. This is the definitive James Bond theme song—it has been imitated but never matched.
Worst Bond theme song ever
"Die Another Day"
Duh. Awful. Just awful. And not just because it's Madonna. Because it has nothing to do with anything Bondish. Totally unsexy. Die another day? How about right now!
Best Bond theme song not used as a Bond theme song
"Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang"
Written for the opening credits of Thunderball but shuffled to the closing credits, this Dionne Warwick gem would have gotten the fourth Bond film off to a sultry, slinky, sexy start. Instead it was replaced by Tom Jones's bombastic "Thunderball," a not entirely poor alternative, but certainly more, ahem, silly than sinister. Just to note, Shirley Bassey also does a marvelous version of "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang." Of course she does.
Most underrated Bond theme song
"License to Kill"
We may get slaughtered for this (by the two other people on this planet who care), but we're gonna go with Gladys Knight's "License to Kill" from the 1989 film of the same name. Yes, it's too long, and, yes, it's too radio-friendly R&B to be really good. But about half of it is truly soulful, and the signature Bond chords (I down to a flatted VI) finally get their due in an '80s Bond theme. And it's Gladys.
Most underrated Shirley Bassey Bond theme song
"Diamonds Are Forever"
It's not quite "Goldfinger," but it's also not quite "Moonraker."
Best Bond song with worst grammar
"Live and Let Die"
With this multi-tempo entry, Wings is actually responsible for a song worth listening to. Unfortunately someone didn't correct Sir Paul when he first sang, "But if this ever-changing world in which we live in..." So he sang it again at the end of the song. Yes, it happens twice in the song in which it happens twice in. Bad knight!
Best Bond song/worst Bond movie pair-up
"A View to a Kill"
Duran Duran's pop opus is the bright spot in an otherwise unfortunate film. No, it's not the worst Bond movie, thanks to the presence of Grace Jones, Christopher Walken and a blimp, but it's the worst Bond film with the best song.
Worst Bond song/worst Bond movie pair-up
Shirley Bassey proves that the third time's not a charm; it's a 0-gravity snoozefest. And the movie's even worse. Truly a low point in the Bond canon. For shame.
Best Bond song we never really gave a chance to
"Nobody Does It Better"
This Carly Simon entry from the excellent "The Spy Who Loved Me" has been so overplayed on the radio (especially when we were young) that we only recently stopped to notice its truly stellar vocals and its stunning, torchy chord changes. It's really the perfect sexy song for this Roger Moore return to sexiness!
Worst Bond song at least one person will try to convince you is good
"The Living Daylights"
A-ha's contribution to Timothy Dalton's first foray as Bond is a droning, too-late-for-New-Wave mess. It's just not good. Period.
Best Bond song of the Pierce Brosnan era
Quite frankly, we find this Tina Turner entry, plus Sheryl Crow, Garbage and Madonna's subsequent entries, all over the place in terms of their trying to be faithful to the Bond style and sound. They're mishmashes of ersatz spy-style music, messy electronica, overproduced vocals and too-silly lyrics. Basically, they all try way too hard to be Bond theme songs (well, except for Madonna's, which doesn't really try to be anything at all). But "Goldeneye" is the most, er, subdued of the bunch and the brass punches (synth though they may be) are a nice touch. And we always enjoy anything that will make us think of "We Don't Need Another Hero," the good Tina Turner theme song.
So there you have it, kids. Your unsolicited Bond theme song awards ceremony. Congratulations to all the winners, and better luck next year to all the losers. Now, can we get a concert tour of all these artists and songs, like the one they did after Dirty Dancing's soundtrack went quintuple platinum? We'd so go. For free.