Bondathon: Ranking the theme tunes (5-1)

Before I get into the final five, after meticulously running through 25-21, 20-16, 15-11, and 10-6 over the past few weeks, I want to give an honourable mention to a song that a lot of people will associate with the Bond theme genre. We Have All the Time in the World by Louis Armstrong is a wonderful song and now linked to both On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and No Time To Die, but as it isn’t an opening theme song it doesn’t place on this list.

As for my final five… I think there’s a good mix in there – and possibly not an unsurprising result if you’ve worked out my taste by now.

5 – Diamonds Are Forever (Shirley Bassey)
No other franchise could get away with a title as audacious as this, and John Barry’s composition (with lyrics by Don Black) really lives up to the spirit that had been firmly established by this point. It is an absolute classic Shirley Bassey number, and remains part of the blueprint for Bond theme songs even now.

4 – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (John Barry Orchestra)
A welcome break from the tradition which had begun to emerge from 1964’s Goldfinger onwards, as the franchise returned to an instrumental theme tune. It very much feels like it’s a relative of the James Bond Theme, but with a few tweaks & quirks of its own – perhaps representing the change in Bond himself. Given that this was Lazenby’s only Bond film, it feels quite fitting that the theme tune stands out from (nearly) all the rest.

3 – Skyfall (Adele)
It’s a case of film, performances & music all blending together to make something close to perfection. Given that this film was slated for release in Bond’s 50th anniversary year, it was clear that some sort of commemoration would be required – and that arrived first in the form of Adele’s song, harking back to Shirley Bassey et al. from decades earlier. An instant classic, and a great fit for a film that garnered critical and popular success.

2 – Live And Let Die (Wings)
Not only a great tune, but also significant as the very first Bond theme to go more down the rock route. Up until then, despite the popular musical revolution that took place in the 60s, Bond was firmly rooted in jazz/theatre/soul territory – but with another change in acting personnel came a change in attitude. Paul McCartney’s theme song came direct from Ian Fleming’s novel, and even manages to make a slightly weird reggae-style section feel completely natural.

1 – You Know My Name from Casino Royale (Chris Cornell)
Where do I start with this one? Well firstly, it brings to life the spirit of the film perfectly: a franchise reboot, and an adrenaline-fuelled action thriller. David Arnold’s score plays with the idea that he’s not quite the 007 we know & love at first, gradually finding his feet and slipping in more recognisable traits (and consequently more of the famous musical motifs) as it goes along, culminating in the catchphrase and full theme to end the film. Cornell’s track encapsulates that idea, as well as the premise of the film, in a classic modern rock song which is supported by easily the best opening credits design in Bond history. I’ve had it on constant rotation since 2006, and I don’t plan on changing that any time soon.

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