Types of Bond Songs

Different people categorize the Bond songs in different ways. One person I know has broken them down by who sings them; not by the singers, but by the point of view. That is, songs sung by Bond, by the Bond girl, by the villain, etc. Other people want to categorize by musical genre; pop, rock, jazz, etc.

Ultimately, though, I think there are only two, or perhaps three, meaningful categories.

A Bond song is either an action song or a love song.

The action songs, I think, are what most people consider a “real” Bond song. Starting with the James Bond Theme, Bond music moves in a thrilling way. The first real Bond title song, Goldfinger, is clearly an action song, despite the female point of view. Live and Let Die was a breakthrough as the first “modern,” rock-inflected Bond song, and it was also clearly an action song.

From Russia With Love was the first love song-as-title song (Underneath the Mango Tree was also a love song, but most people consider it incidental music, and not a real “Bond song”). The great breakthrough love song, the love song equivalent of Live and Let Die, was obviously Nobody Does It Better. That song single-handedly shifted the tone of Bond songs from then on. Despite two strong action songs in the 1980s (A View to a Kill and The Living Daylights), the tone of Bond music was love song ever since Carly Simon did it better.

Now, here’s where I might add a third category: Mystery song.

GoldenEye strikes me as a mystery song. It is haunting, compelling, mysterious. The theme is almost “the enemy within,” and this is appropriate for a movie in which Bond is betrayed by a close friend. And the next mystery song is also in a movie with a betrayal theme: Die Another Day. Madonna’s song is almost impossible to categorize by Bond standards, it is haunting and bizarre. I hated it, and then I grew to love it. It’s daring and strange.

By contrast, Chris Cornell’s You Know My Name is a disappointment. It’s a standard action song with below-standard vocals. Not a bad song, just, eh.

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8 Responses to “Types of Bond Songs”

  1. Very interesting post. I like to think of these songs as simply Bond songs. For most of them there is something intrinsically Bond, starting of course with the seminal James Bond Theme. Few of the songs used in the title sequences I would not consider Bond songs. Two of those would be Madonna’s and Chris Cornell’s. You may have grown to love Madonna’s Die Another Day, but I still cannot stand it and is a slap in the face to what I always considered a highlight of the Bond films. Chris Cornell’s song is simply drab and boring and not worthy of being the title song to a James Bond film, especially one so strong and viral. I so wish Eon would go back more to the Bond roots when it comes to title songs. To wonderful songs while being very contemporary while also being very Bond are Garbage’s The World is Not Enough and Sheryl Crow’s Tomorrow Never Dies. They succeeded in keeping younger audiences intrigue while keeping true to the Bond formula.

  2. Persephone Says:

    Personally I think Chris Cornell’s song for the reboot “Casino Royale” was the first song in years (since the days of John Barry, really…) to be genuinely strong and vital (um, not “viral”, Zippertuck, that would necessitate a trip to the doctors). In short, it had balls – and musically it was bold enough to blend beautifully into David Arnold’s full score without its themes being lost. The lyrics were intelligent, too, with deft wordplay and evocative and relevant imagery.

    As for below standard vocals – Jesus, Deborah, are you really saying Madonna’s Minnie Mouse squeal is preferable to a flavoursome rock baritone like Cornell’s? I don’t think even Maddy herself would claim to be a better singer, for all her flagrant egotism.

  3. Deborah Lipp Says:

    Oh, I didn’t say anything about Madonna’s voice, which I’ve never liked. But Die Another Day isn’t trying to do anything interesting vocally; all the interest is in the composition and rhythms. Whereas Cornell does try to sing a straight-ahead, this-is-my-voice song, and I don’t think he has the chops. His voice is thready to my ears (and I got Raymond Benson’s agreement on that, teehe).

    I liked the Garbage song a lot, and Cheryl Crow, also a less-than-ideal vocalist, did a good job with Tomorrow Never Dies, although k.d. lang buries her.

  4. Zippertuck Says:

    Please excuse the typo. I meant to type virile. When those fingers get to going lookout!

    Persephone, no matter what anyone says I will always find Cornell’s song ball-less, impotent and limp. If you compare the song to our new Bond, well there is no comparison. I am glad you like it and love you have another opinion, but you will never change this mind on that one song. I would love to know what songs they decided not to use just see if they are any better.

    Deborah I agree about KD Lang, but since her song is not used in the title sequence I tend to overlook it. I tend to do that with most songs not used in the title sequences. Maybe one of these days I will download all of the non-title sequence songs into my iPod. Needs to be done.

  5. I find Die Another Day and The World is Not Enough to be two worthy additions to the 007 Title song collection. YKMN is very drab indeed — however, the incidental orchestral versions work tremendously.

  6. Deborah Lipp Says:

    Joe, both of those songs are so different from each other; TWINE is a “classic” sort of Bond song, almost a John Barry song. DAD is utterly different from anything that came before.

  7. Zippertuck Says:

    Just went back and seriously listened to Die Another Day and You Know My Name. I have to admit I don’t hate them as much as I thought I did. How can you hate anything Bond huh? Anyway, I must admit that You Know My Name is a pretty good song, but as a Bond title song it is a little flat. I want more orchestration and classic Bond sounds. It’s so close, but as though someone got lazy when arraigning it. On the other hand Die Another Day is just not my cup of tea, but it’s better then I thought.

  8. Deborah Lipp Says:

    “How can you hate anything Bond?” is true for me as well.

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