Thursday, November 27, 2008

Shaken, Not Stirred: James Bond Songs Part-II

Continuing from my previous post about the songs from James Bond films, this post looks at all the Bond songs which came after 1980.


All the songs which came after 1980 had strong pop influence, with more of keyboards, synthesizers rather than usual trumpets, horns and string orchestra used before. I would say the quality graph of Bond songs went down drastically during the 80s, with songs being made only to compete with other pop chartbusters rather than painting the 'Bond Music' feel on them. The 90s, however, improved and significantly that too, with David Arnold taking the helm of the music of Bond series films. The reason why David Arnold clicked, despite changing the Bond Music template to more contemporary techno-based form, is the fact that his sense of observation of John Barry's music for all Bond films prior to 80s was strong. In a way, he did not completely deviated from that school of thought, but only adapted the nuances, to more evolved sound. As you read/hear along, you can know the difference. For now, let us look at how Bond Music plummeted... and then rose.


12. For Your Eyes Only: This 1981 film had music by someone called Bill Conti, and not John Barry. Originally, the producers roped in a band called 'Blondie' for the theme song, but they never used that composition. This unused song by Blondie has few traces of Bond style of music, with chord-shifts that replicate the original Bond theme. By that characteristic atleast, it could have been a better Bond song, rather than the one that has been used in the film, sung by Sheena Easton. Sheena's version is completely stripped off (just like what you see in Bond film titles ;) ) the Bond music elements. The song ends up as a pretty normal conventional pop number.

Blondie Song Rating: 7/10

Sheena Easton Song Rating: 5/10


13. Octopussy: John Barry returned to compose music for this 13th Bond film, which had the title song "All Time High" sung by Rita Coolidge. The song has sensuous overtures, both musically, replete with Saxophone and lyrically too. In my opinion, this song strikes a fine balance between the Pop fever running at that period and the ingredients of Bond songs, changes not withstanding. Yes, the trademark mysterious feel and suspense evoking trumpets are given a miss, but the song definitely captures Bond's another facet - his fascination for women-sensuality. A compellingly teasing tune with wonderful orchestration, makes me rate this song higher, even though it is devoid of the typical John Barry Bond-ish sound.

Rating: 8.5/10


i) Never Say Never Again: This film was not by EON productions (Franchise which produced all Bond films) and the producers got to make this film due to a legal loophole, which prevented EON productions from doing anything about it. This Sean Connery film was a remake of "Thunderball" and was released simultaneously with "Octopussy". Much like the film, the soundtrack was quite bad, making the Bond song into just another Pop song of the 80s, and a very ordinary Pop Song, that is.

Rating: 3/10


14. A View To Kill: This last Bond film by Roger Moore saw John Barry teaming up with a band called Duran Duran for the soundtrack. I regard this theme song among the weakest Bond songs, signaling the declined quality in the Bond Music. Nothing about Bond, its feel or quality or sound. Just another poor imitation of spirit of a Boney M song. I wonder how this song actually became a hit. Trend, may be.

Rating: 2/10


15. The Living Daylights: Evidently, as can be seen with previous two films, the quality of Bond songs witnessed a down trend, in which songs have become mere pop and disco numbers rather than reflecting James Bond aura. This first film of Thimothy Dalton had a song which is a complete misfit, just like the way Dalton was misfit for the Bond role. It is disbelievable that John Barry was at the helm of this soundtrack, which is completely electronic in sound and un-Bondish in execution. A new band called 'A-Ha' crooned this Pop song which probably can fit in a movie like Mad Max and definitely not a Bond film. The end credits had much better song, with orchestral elements such as Piano and string ensemble and a evocative melody.

A-Ha song Rating: 1/10

End credits song rating: 6/10


16. License to Kill: After spiraling down to ordinary pop songs, James Bond songs got back on the track of Bond aura sounds. This film's theme song was composed by Michael Kamen and was sung by Gladys Knight. The song heavily borrows the lead cue from the opening trumpet-horn notes in the title song of 'Goldfinger'. The only difference being that while the elements have been retained, the execution is more synthesizer based. The pace and tone of the song is reminiscent of Bond songs that appeared in 60s. The end credits has a hummable song, which does not have Bond song chaacteristics and yet makes a good listening. Some redemption atleast.

Title song Rating: 7.5/10

End credits song: 5.5/10


17. GoldenEye: Bond films witnessed a never before 6 year gap and a lot has changed in the 6 years. The decade turned. The dark backdrops of films in general have been replaced by more vibrant and colourful pictures.The synthesizer backed pop and disco era has transformed into electronic fusion cum techno sounds. The sounds that ruled the charts, changed significantly. And so did the Bond. Pierce Brosnan stepped in. The theme song was composed by Eric Serra and was sung by Tina Turner. Ranked easily among the best Bond songs ever, this song worked because it married Bond music elements and all elements that is, to modern percussion sounds and brilliant vocal rendition reminiscent of Bond songs in 60s. The song was modern, yet had everything about Bond song..the tune, soundscape and orchestral elements. Originally, pop band 'Ace of Base' was approached for theme song. Their song "The Juvenile"(originally supposed to be GoldenEye), was rejected, although they too did a fair job on the Bond song. The end credits had had "Experience of Love" by Eic Serra, a casual romantic ballad, which is does not need much mention.

GoldenEye Rating: 9.5/10

The Juvenile Rating: 8/10


18. Tomorrow Never Dies: David Arnold stepped in as composer for this flick and went on to compose for subsequent Bond films too. His forte was fusing John Barry's classical style of orchestration with modern electronic music. The title song by Sheryl Crow hit the right notes of Bond song, much like GoldenEye song, capturing the mood of the Bond song to the perfect level. The orchestration and rendition, both are top class. Another song "Surrender", sung by K.D.Lang, used in the end credits, comes quite close to the title song, in execution. This song too, is characteized by John Barry elements and modern electronica, filling the with Bond signature. Meanwhile, several other artists/bands vied for clinching the title song of the film. They include Saint Etienne's version, Swan Lee's version, Pulp's Version (rock interpretation) and Propellerheads version (techno).

Sheryl Crow song Rating: 9/10

Surrender Rating:  8/10

Sain Etienne's Version Rating: 7/10

Swan Lee's Version Rating: 7/10

Pulp's Rating: 6/10

Propellerheads version Rating: 6/10


19. The World is Not Enough: David Arnold continued his interpretation of John Barry's touch and painted exactly the same colours on modern canvas of sound. This film's title song was sung by Garbage and the tune, which has shades of Keeravani raaga, has quite an intoxicating melody. The song's lyrics are quite interesting too. Noticeable is the fact that Arnold has retained the flavour of the Bond song, without using the usual trumpets and horns. Probably the signature tune or rather the lead melody was compellingly Bond-ish enough that he could do away with them. Another version by Straw, was also speculated to be the title song but it never made it, despite it having a lazy rendition and being violently enticing. Scott Walker's "Only Myself to Blame" which appears in the end credits is a jazz number with hardly any semblance with Bond music, although the tune is mildly mysterious.

Garbage song Rating: 9.5/10

Straw version Rating: 6/10


20. Die Another Day: One of the weakest soundtracks, apart from being one of the weakest films. Expectations were high when it was publicized as Madonna's first Bond song. The song turned out to be overly techno, which could have made it end in dance floors rather than in the collection of Bond enthusiasts. After two outstanding songs from previous two Bond films, David Arnold disappoints in this one.

Rating: 6/10


21. Casino Royale: In many ways, the title song of this film seems to be inspired, in spirit, by the themes of "On Her Majesty's Secret Service' and "Live and Let die". However, there is no resemblance. The title song "You know my Name" is quite a deviation from the John Barry and David Arnold mould, but still retains the flavour of enigma all within. The trumpets and horns are replaced by electric guitars for sure, but they too make a grand entry much like wind instruments. The rendition is one of the best among the male renditions of Bond songs and given the story of this film, that of re-booting the entire James Bond story, the music had to be little different, which it was. But yet, it maintained the spirit of the Bond song, though the tune and the lyrics. Quite impressive.

Rating: 9/10


22. Quantum of Solace: This song by Alicia Keys and Jack white disappointment me a lot. It sounded as caricature of Bond music, trapped in the cacophony of modern techno sounds. I heard that the film too, deviates completely from the Bond features such as the sense of humour, the gadgets, the smart one-liners, the charm, bond music, etc. Must be so, because the music too does not seem to be a Bond song at all.

Rating: 1/10


I wish the producers bring back the things that made Bond films, and my expectations include Bond music too. Afterall, with so many wonderful Bond songs so far, whats the point in revamping the concept into something that does not identify with them. If the classic John Barry elements are brought back or even like the ones David Arnold created, therein lies the real quantum of solace, of every bond music buff, like me.

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