Bondathon: Ranking the theme tunes (15-11)

After going through songs 25-21 and songs 20-16, we’re getting down to the nitty gritty now. This is potentially where things start to get a little controversial, as personal preference plays a larger role this time. It’s a bit of a mix, though leaning more towards the modern side of things overall.

15 – From Russia With Love (Matt Monro)
Though, strictly speaking, this isn’t the theme tune (it doesn’t play over the opening credits), I’m permitting it in this list due to its recognisability and the fact that the actual opening theme does at least contain the main melody of this Lionel Bart number. It’s a classic crooner track that captures the feel of the film, whilst also laying the groundwork for future Bond themes.

14 – Thunderball (Tom Jones)
A terrific blend of Tom Jones’ classic 60s style and the signature Bond chord progression – combining to make an exciting and memorable theme tune. Perhaps one of the reasons why it doesn’t find itself higher up in my rankings is that the producers’ need to have a theme song that shares its title with the film led to the word ‘Thunderball’ being misrepresented in the lyrics; in the film it is Operation Thunderball (referencing the atomic bombs being detonated), whereas the song makes it sound like a thunderball is a weapon. It’s a pedantic point, but that’s me down to a tee!

13 – GoldenEye (Tina Turner)
An interesting combination of writers & performer on this one, with Bono and The Edge credited with its composition (1995 was also the year that U2 released Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me from the Batman Forever soundtrack). Stylistically it’s reminiscent of earlier Bond themes, and engaging a powerful female vocalist only adds to this effect; my main issue is that the horns sound a little fake (more like ‘horn sound’ played on a keyboard than real brass instruments), so it just loses a little bit of its strength.

12 – The World Is Not Enough (Garbage)
Both the Bond family motto and the presiding sentiment of the film, this track was written by prolific Bond composer David Arnold (music) and prolific Bond lyricist Don Black (lyrics). Looking back now, Garbage seems like a bit of a leftfield choice to perform the song, but in the mid to late 90s they were at the height of their popularity – and who better to bring the musical voice of Elektra King to life than Shirley Manson? The song itself is an intriguing blend of the classic Bond style with some more modern influences, making it special enough to be a Bond theme but not veering into parody or clichĂ© territory.

11 – No Time To Die (Billie Eilish)
After the Madonna fiasco, I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive about this one – I’d heard a very limited range of Billie Eilish’s output and was struggling to see how she’d fit into the Bond mould. Fortunately, she and brother Finneas understood the assignment! It definitely feels like a contemporary pop song, but the inclusion of lush strings (arranged by the film’s composer, Hans Zimmer) brings out the Bond – and it’s just a bonus to have Johnny Marr on guitar. The lyrics link in well with the film, but it also works as a pop song without this context. It’s moody and atmospheric, so not the cheeriest thing to listen to – but perfect for this Bond in particular.

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