Here are a few thoughts about James Bond theme songs. They’re in no particular order because, try as I might, I find it very hard to rank my favorites.
You can’t talk about Bond songs without praising “A View to a Kill” by Duran Duran. This one holds a special place in my heart because it was the first Bond song by a band I grew up with. I’m not knocking Paul McCartney and Shirley Bassey and all the rest, but they were artists that belonged to previous generations. I bought Duran Duran tapes. I listened to Duran Duran songs on the radio. I tuned in to watch Duran Duran on Top of the Pops. “A View to a Kill” was the first time a Bond theme song seemed targeted to me.
And let’s not forget that the video for “A View to a Kill” is one of the coolest ones ever. Simon LeBon looking hot in a beret. The Eiffel Tower. Walkmen. Flying cameras. Stuff blowing up. Who wouldn’t love it!?
A-Ha’s “The Living Daylights” is another Bond song I enjoy, and the reason is similar — A-Ha is band I grew up with. They’re best known for “Take on Me,” but I think this song is richer and more complex.
I also enjoy “The World Is not Enough” because it comes from Garbage, another GenX favorite. It’s a slick, orchestrated song with a bit of a grunge mentality and impressive vocals by Shirley Manson.
No gay man would leave Madonna’s “Die Another Day” off his list because, you know, it’s Madonna. The video is cinematic and tells a story. You can tell Madonna was deep into the Kabbalah stuff when she made it.
“Live and Let Die” is simply a great song, period, and a masterpiece by Paul McCartney.1 It’s all over the place in the best possible way. What a shame about the faux blacksploitation shitshow of a movie.
Believe it or not, I much prefer Guns N’ Roses’ version of “Live and Let Die” to McCartney’s. I think that Axl Rose’s rough voice and the rock approach give it a raw edge that simply sounds better.
Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger” is big, brassy, and bold — with just a hint of grit. It simply works on all levels.
“Goldfinger” is such an iconic song that it, of course, has been parodied by the Simpsons. It comes from the Season 8 episode “You Only Move Twice,” which is just magnificent.
One of my favorite scenes from that episode is a parody of the laser scene from “Goldfinger.”
Adele’s “Skyfall” is perfection. It’s haunting and dramatic, yet somehow still feels intimate.
Here’s the whole Bond playlist. Enjoy it with a martini. You can stir the martini if you’d like. I won’t tell anyone.
1 In Goldfinger, Bond disses Paul McCartney’s best-known band: “That’s just as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs.”