The best and worst James Bond songs

6 mins read

The release of the new James Bond song No Time to Die made me realise that there are very few of the Bond themes that I have heard. So, I decided to take the time to listen to all 24 of them and I have compiled this list of the best and worst.

The Worst

5. Writing’s on the Wall – Sam Smith (2015)

Potentially the most controversial opinion, Writing’s on the Wall just didn’t deliver in the way I had expected from Smith. They produced a generic ballad that lacked that something special. It is by no means bad, it just could’ve been so much better which is why it is in my bottom 5. 

4. For Your Eyes Only – Sheena Easton (1981)

There is nothing particularly wrong with this song it just falls a little flat. It is a drama-less, cheesy throwaway that I can’t actually picture in the film. Somehow it managed to collect an Oscar nomination for best original song in 1982 and made it to the Top 10 in the UK. 

3. The Man With the Golden Gun – Lulu (1974)

The best way to describe this song is confused, it doesn’t seem to be able to decide what kind of song it wants to be. It begins moody but completely flips into an upbeat tune with very a repetitive melody. On top of that, the lyrics are basically a play by play of the film plot which isn’t exactly what one wants in a theme song.

2. All Time High – Rita Coolidge (1983)

All Time High opens with a tacky saxophone solo and then moves into a lacklustre, somewhat boring (and very 80s) song. There isn’t much else to say except I don’t particularly want to listen to it ever again.

1. Die Another Day – Madonna (2002)

When I first listened to this song I thought it was a mistake. The electronic dance beat and autotuned vocals feel borderline trashy. The whole thing is messy and, frankly, doesn’t feel like it belongs in a Bond film. Surprisingly the song did well commercially, it managed to make it to number 8 on the US Billboard 100 and got nominated for both a Grammy and a Golden Globe, but it received a mixed reception from critics. Some liked the departure from the traditional Bond style while others called it ‘dumb’ and ‘banal’. It is by far the worst James Bond song. 

The Best

5. GoldenEye – Tina Turner (1995)

This fantastic song, written by U2’s Bono and The Edge, is the most dramatic song on the list and is over the top in the most enjoyable way. Tina Turner’s R’n’B style and seductive vocals are simply perfect. It was received well both by critics and by the public, reaching number 2 on the UK Singles Chart.

4. Another Way to Die – Alicia Keys and Jack White (2008)

Jack White and Alicia Keys have given us an alternative and quirky take on the theme and is the only duet in the Bond catalogue. This song was received well as a single but was heavily criticised as a theme song as people felt it didn’t fit what Bond themes should sound like. The fact that it is different is exactly why I like it, the stripped-back guitar and simple piano alongside the grungy feel really works and provides an excellent level of drama in a new and exciting way.

3. Goldfinger – Shirley Bassey (1964)

Goldfinger is one of the most recognisable theme songs and is widely thought of as the best. It starts boldly before transitioning softening to give room for Bassey’s vocals. Her voice is strong the whole way through and the final note is incredibly striking and climactic, a truly terrific song

2. No Time to Die – Billie Eilish (2020)

At eighteen, Billie Eilish is the youngest person to write and record a James Bond theme. After the incredibly successful year she has had, Eilish was an obvious choice to start off the new decade. No Time to Die is sultry and dramatic but soft and really showcases her vocals. Her modern style is clear but she keeps it classy and recognisably Bond.

1. Diamonds Are Forever – Shirley Bassey (1971)

An absolute classic. It’s moody and sultry, almost hypnotic in its rhythm and has everything you need to make a perfect Bond song. Bassey was the go-to girl for the theme songs with a total of 3, the only person to get the gig more than once. Diamonds are Forever is positively the epitome of James Bond songs. 

Featured image credit: udiscovermusic.com

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3rd year Journalism student | Film and Television Editor @ Brig Newspaper

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