Let’s Celebrate Global James Bond Day By Ranking All The Bond Songs!
October 5th has been Global James Bond Day since 2012. In that time, it has been customary for the production team behind the 007 films to release the theme song for the next Bond flick, starting with Adele’s Skyfall. Being as the latest Bond film has not started filming yet and as such there will be no new theme song unveiled this year, I thought it might be a good bit of fun to rank the Bond songs in order from my absolute favorites to my least favorite. Whereas I will primarily be using songs from Eon Productions long line of excellent Bond movies, I have a few extra tracks from outside the main line that I will be adding to the list for a good bit of fun and variety. Before the fun starts, I thought it might be good you to know the following:
Why I Love James Bond, by Packy – Head Llama: Everyone has a favorite movie series, and I am no exception. A ton of folks love Star Wars, Harry Potter, and other such fantastic films (and I do enjoy them too), but I have always been drawn to the dashing spy with a Walther PPK and a martini – shaken, not stirred. James Bond has been travelling around the globe saving the world in impeccable style for over 50 years on the big screen. During at least 39 of those years, I have been dazzled by the man with a “License to Kill” for a veritable cornucopia of reasons: the righteous opening credits and songs, the snappy banter, the cool action, the gadgets, the exotic locations, the fantastic over the top stories, the wild villains, and of course the wide variety of beautiful women that shared the screen with 007. Although, what I find truly fascinating about the Bond films is that they have existed for so long that they offer an amazing snap shot of each point in time. There is a progression in time that is noticeable throughout the decades, as the Bond of the 1960s is not the same as the Bond of the 1970s, and certainly nothing like the Bond of 2016. James Bond movies are a product of their times, and as such they give us a wonderful insight into the world at that time. As the overall views on a variety of hotly contested topics changed throughout the years (especially in regards to the treatment of women in society), Bond grew with the times to be a more representative spy of the times. And it’s not just the societal views that have changed, it’s also technology, from the early 1960s computers that filled entire rooms to the tiny smartphones that we all use today. What’s great about all of this variation and with so many changes over the years, that means that there is literally a Bond film that suits just about any mood that you are in. No other film series (that comes to mind) shows off these drastic changes and evolution in all of the different facets of our lives over the last 50 years better than the James Bond movies. Above and beyond that, the Bond flicks are like soul food for my brain. I can watch them all the way through with gleeful abandon, or put them on in the background as I do other things. Bottom Line, James Bond flicks are my jam for a whole lot of reasons!
All James Bond Theme Songs Officially Ranked by Nerfed Llamas:
- The James Bond Theme – Monty Norman, Dr. No 1962. You can’t beat the original theme. You just can’t. To this day it is still one of the most iconic themes, instantly recognizable even by film goers that only catch the occasional Bond film. Monty Norman knocked it out of the park when he scored this theme!
- Live and Let Die – Paul McCartney & Wings 1973. When Bond is recast, it is best if the film and all of the parts that make it up fire on all cylinders to help give the new actor the best foot forward possible. In 1973, Paul McCartney did his part and recorded the best bond theme with vocals ever. Almost as iconic as the core Bond theme itself, the driving force behind the song Live and Let Die is instantly recognizable.
- You Know My Name – Chris Cornell, Casino Royale 2006. Another relaunch Bond song, Chris Cornell really drives home the cold and calculating themes of a newly recruited Bond, while at the same time reassuring the audience that “you know my name”, deftly mixing the new with the old and instantly putting the viewer at ease. Also, the guitar hook is killer.
- Nobody Does It Better – Carly Simon, The Spy Who Loved Me 1977. This track, recorded by Carly Simon, has the distinction of not sounding much like a Bond song, but more like a traditional pop ballad. All the same, it is a classy track that exemplifies the Bond experience, as illustrated by the following lyrics, “Nobody does it better, sometimes I wish someone could”. Ultimately Bond is the hero we deserve, not the hero we need.
- You Only Live Twice – Nancy Sinatra 1967. A song that rides a fine line between Bond, pop, and Japanese traditional music, all with a killer vocal delivery by Nancy Sinatra. This also came from the last good “official” Connery Bond film, so it has a bit of emotional attachment because of that as well.
- On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – John Barry 1969/ PropellerHeads 1997. When the decision was made to use an instrumental track for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, John Barry rose to the occasion with a tremendous score that has thematic elements that are still used in modern Bond films. I have included both the 1967 original recording and the PropellerHeads 1997 cover, which adds modern club/dance elements. Both are amazing and well worth a listen, as they have a sound that is quintessentially 007.
- We Have All the Time in the World – Louis Armstrong, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service 1969. Louis Armstrong and James Bond seems like it would be like trying to fit a square peg through a round hole, but it works on an amazing level. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is at it’s core a romantic adventure film where (47 year old spoiler warning) Bond settles down and gets married. In the spirit of settling down, this peacefully and serene little ditty makes perfect sense. Something about Armstrong’s unique voice makes his ballads wonderful.
- The Living Daylights – A-Ha 1987. Best known for “Take On Me”, A-Ha landed the Bond theme in 1987 and gave us a smashing new wave track with a good hook and a lot of variety. The lyrics have multiple progressions and the vocals change in delivery style with each one. I love this song because on the surface it seems rather simple, but as the song plays it becomes quite clear that it is rather densely filled with vocal and instrumental layers. Also, the falsetto before the chorus gets stuck in my head for days at a time.
- Skyfall – Adele 2012. Skyfall was a special Bond experience. It took the more modern portrayal of 007 by Daniel Craig and seamlessly merged it with elements from the classic series, creating a Bond that was new, still in the moment, but yet very familiar. This dichotomy was present for the theme song as well, with Adele having crafted a track that felt like a classic Bond song, yet was undeniably Adele.
- Take It All, Joss Stone & Dave Stewart, Blood Stone (Video Game) 2010. This is a tricky addition, as it does not coincide with a filmed release, but with a video game. I include it in the list because it is a great Bond song, and also because the game starred Daniel Craig in the title role and had a plot that was very in line with the current Bond mythos. With some tweaks made to the script, and some added depth, Blood Stone could have been a Bond film. Also, it cannot be understated how amazing this song by Joss Stone & Dave Stewart (from the Eurythmics!) is. It made the top 10 for a reason!
- A View To A Kill – Duran Duran, 1985. Another new wave Bond gem, this time from the power pop band Duran Duran. At a time when Bond needed to seem hip, this song came out and proved that the franchise could appeal to the older fans and the younger ones. Plus, it’s Duran Duran, so it’s super catchy!
- Diamonds Are Forever – Shirley Bassey 1971. With multiple Bond songs under her belt, Shirley Bassey was bound to show up sooner or later. Diamonds are Forever is without a doubt her best track. It has luxurious vocals, fantastic orchestrations, and feels exactly like a 007 theme should.
- Another Way To Die – Jack White & Alicia Keys, Quantum of Solace 2008. Jack White & Alicia Keys seem like an odd mix, but it works on a lot of levels. White’s guitar shreds throughout the cut, but it’s Keys’ piano that grounds this song firmly into Bond territory. Sung as a duet of sorts, it rocks and it tells an oblique spy story that is a wonderful set up for the film that it was recorded for.
- Tomorrow Never Dies – Sheryl Crow, 1997. I love the smoky barroom/lounge vibe of this song. It feels, not only in instrumentation and vocals, like a Bond song, but in the lyrics that are an unforgiving take on the rigors of attempting to love a Spy. The perfect track to listen to with a Vodka martini shaken, not stirred in your hand.
- All Time High – Rita Coolidge, Octopussy 1983. I like this mellow Bond song. It’s really sappy, but in all the right ways. It’s just a nice and easy listen.
- Surrender – K.D. Lang, Tomorrow Never Dies, 1997. Originally pitched as the theme for Tomorrow Never Dies, the song, and K.D. Lang both made it into the film regardless. I truly believe that Sheryl Crow’s song was the better of the 2, but Lang’s cut is definitely a good song and stands firmly in the middle of the pack.
- For Your Eyes Only – Sheena Easton, 1981. This song has a special place in my heart, as this was the first Bond film that I saw in theaters. Sheen Easton was a big deal at the time, and this song was Bond ballad done right. Still love hearing this song in my Bond and/or 80s mixes.
- License To Kill – Gladys Knight, 1989. Gladys Knight puts on a sultry R&B vocal presentation that works exceptionally well for this song. Although not one of the amazing songs in the franchise, it is still a wonderful listen. Give it a shot!
- The Man With the Golden Gun – Lulu, 1974. This kitschy mod/pop song by Lulu is kinda catchy and fun. At the very least it makes you want to dance like you are in an Austin Powers film… I just have never been able to decide if that is a good or bad thing. Although, the phallic lyrics laced throughout the song are a bonus, and as such that gets it rated just a cut above the other lamer “gold” titled Bond songs.
- The World Is Not Enough – Garbage, 1999. This song is OK. That’s all I have to say about it. It’s just OK.
- Goldfinger – Shirley Bassey, 1964. Goldfinger the movie is an absolute classic, this song however falls far short of classic status. There is a theme running here, and it’s that “gold” should never be in the title of a Bond song. It just doesn’t work out.
- GoldenEye – Tina Turner, 1995. Not even a sing written by Bono & the Edge could help Tina Turner make a song titled GoldenEye be any good. The chorus is decent, but the rest is relatively forgettable and the accompaniment is droning and super repetitive. Perhaps Bond songs should stay away from the word gold.
- From Russia With Love, Matt Monro, 1963. There’s nothing fundamental wrong with Munro’s track from the second Bond film, it’s honestly more that it is just a boring song. Kind of like if Frank Sinatra was singing in his sleep about something he didn’t care about. It’s not bad, it’s just not good either.
- Moonraker – Shirley Bassey, 1979. This is where the Bond themes go way south of good. Some of the best Bond songs shuck the title of the film and are just good songs that feel like they belong in a 007 film. Then there is this song, which keeps the ridiculous title from the movie and somehow tries to work it into the chorus, like it’s a good idea. For the most part, this song just doesn’t work.
- Thunderball – Tom Jones, 1965. Cut and paste everything that I said Moonraker’s theme right here:
- Die Another Day – Madonna, 2002. This song is like, what if somebody didn’t know anything about Bond, but liked obnoxiously looping a single vocal loop over again about a billion times and set it to a club mix that was getting a hand job from dub step. Yes, it really is that bad.
- Never Say Never Again – Lani Hall, 1983. For nearly my entire life, this “unofficial” Bond theme was the absolute worst attempt at a 007 song. It is boring, lifeless, forgettable, and somehow worse than the Madonna song listed above. But fear not Lani Hall… Sam Smith came around to steal your thunder in 2015.
- Writing’s On The Wall – Sam Smith, Spectre, 2015. King Stinker! This song is hot garbage, and I feel sorry for you if you take the time to listen to it. Sam Smith should be ashamed of himself. Yes, it truly is that bad. I understand that they want to make the new Bond feel emotions, but that doesn’t mean that he has to go full emo. Sheesh.
Agree or disagree with the list? Sound off in the comments and let me know which are your favorite Bond songs, and which need to go away forever!