Bland, James Bland

January 19, 2016


Bond songs were once renowned for their seductive strings and sleazy brass, lubricating the masses for another roll in the Secret Service hay with the gut growling gravitas of Shirley Bassey and Louis Armstrong, or the salted caramel of Nancy Sinatra and Carly Simon.

Lately, however, the genre has been neither shaken nor stirred, rather cuckold by asinine appropriations.

With Spectre, the 24th installment of the series out this week, the films producers have chosen another mass appeal meh to attract franchise virgins.

The Daniel Craig-era Bond is a series that is high octane and raging with emotion. It’s also po-faced and un-ironic. The song’s that have fired the starters pistol on their promotional campaigns have none of the former, and lashings of the latter, dumping an ice-bucket on all the wink-wink nudge-nudge danger-f@£k innuendo, which made past Bond tracks such a pure and honky high.

I mean, just who is Adele braying to when she wails about the Sky Fall? What is it even about? What personality do she and Sam Smith betray, beyond the usual woe is me sad-sackery that define their own craft?

When Bassey belts out Goldfinger it’s as a warning to all others not to enter his web of sin, her rising incantations in the crescendo betraying the panic of a woman loosing control.

In Diamonds Are Forever we have a woman hardened by love, subduing heartache with glistening possessions, the badges of her dishonor.

While Tina Turner’s Goldeneye is a woman loosing her shit emotionally, hence vocally, as desire moves from obsession to psychosis, cascading strings drawn over resolute ones as she descends into madness.

Adele and Sam Smith can sing. Yet their voices contain the safe, predictable heat of a gas fire, moving between prefixed settings rather than the crackle of an open hearth, flamed by the disturbed tinder at its core.

There’s just no investment in Adele’s voice in Skyfall. The horns at the start are definitively Bond, but musically it goes nowhere and vocally she ascends like a bridge rising mechanically for an ocean liner.

Smith’s weary wail on ‘The Writing’s On The Wall’ meanwhile–aided by it’s “All because the lady loves, Milktray” strings, surmises the “the show must go on’ attitude of a spy who once again must trundle into danger.

But its so worthy and whiney you can’t imagine Bond ending up with a girl in the end, rather a teary, soapy self-service.

The problem with their entries is not only are they derivative, but they derive from the wrong checklist. What they imitate is aesthetic (the strings, the horns) not the emotive, so that their drag is recognisable yet flat.

There’s no wit, no sex and no charm. Bond Songs are effectively mood setters, a snapshot of the world we are about to enter, played over the opening credits. As different masculine and feminine shapes pirouette about the screen, the music draws us into a world of danger, sub-defuse and deluxe glamour.

Paul McCartney’s Live and Let Die is proud and defiant but collapses into chaos.

A-Ha’s The Living Daylights synth orchestrations, its riddling guitars they’re indicative of a world with danger around every corner.

While never have the credits rescued a song so thoroughly as Madonna’s Die Another Day. Derided unduly by critics upon its release, Producer Mirwais’ reimagining of the ‘bond’ strings with ratcheting electro was a fantastic tribute to the tenacity of 007, who goes to hell and back in the name of duty (if only she’d have ditched the anaphylactic auto-tuned vocals on the chorus).

The Writing’s on the Wall is arguably groundbreaking due to its revision of the spy from a wham bam- then scram, type, to a pinning, lovelorn emo.

But it’s a song that modulates the character beyond recognition, breaking him down so he can be digested by the people who buy Adele and Sam Smith records.

THREE (MORE) OF THE BEST:

    Nobody Does it Better
    Carly Simon

    Perhaps the least feminist Bond song on the list, the gob-smacked admiration of Simon’s Bond Girl is so blatant and awe-filled it’s the perfect accompaniment to the most blatant and excessive of the Bonds, Roger Moore.

    It also balances the credible infatuation necessary to be a Bond Girl, with the self-awareness for her to still maintain allure.

    Plusthe way she works in the movie title “The Spy Who Loves Me” is, quite simply, divine.

    We Have All The Time In The World
    Louis Armstrong

    You have a heart of stone if your eyes don’t dew up as Louis’s intonation of the title, the last words spoken by Bond to his dead wife in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. As his delivery cracks and the trumpets parp on, you can hear the pain straining through his love, as John Barry’s signature strings whirl in reminiscence. Gorgeous and gut wrenching.

    You Only Live Twice
    Nancy Sinatra

    The perils- and plusses, of love on the job are sumptuously strung out by a 60-piece orchestra; a bed Nancy Sinatra proceeds to lay her voice across, in a manner that both seduces, yet begs caution.

    The emotional security of a woman in every port is countered by the secret longing for something more serious.When the dream shatters through to reality, will Bond be penetrated by the shards? Love, the Achilles heel of the 00 class? It’s thematic Perfection.

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