The best Bond song wasn’t in a Bond movie
I recently listened to Billie Eilish’s “No Time To Die,” the song that will play before the upcoming James Bond film of the same name.
It was fine.
Bond has had his fair share of lackluster songs. From “Octopussy” and Rita Coolidge’s “All Time High,” which sounds more like the intro to an ’80s sitcom, to Madonna’s autotuned and overproduced abomination that is “Die Another Day,” not every Bond song is Oscar-worthy like Adele’s “Skyfall.”
“No Time to Die” falls somewhere in the middle. Eilish is no doubt an incredible singer and prolific music star. She mixes goth and pop into this modern low-fi and totally catchy sound. Her whisper vocals are hard to replicate. Having that much control over such a soft tone is impressive. She’s also not afraid to embrace her Tim Burton-esque weirdness.
For Eilish, “No Time to Die” is a good song. For Bond, I was expecting something a little more epic.
A Bond song needs to start off somewhere quiet and isolated then build into a bombastic eruption. Look at Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die.” The beginning is sweet and sentimental as if he’s singing to his wife. Then you’re slapped in the face with loud pianos, horns and drums. And finally, it transitions to distorted guitar and xylophones. It’s the type of music you hear when Bond and a legion of MI6 agents storm an evil lair and they have to fight all those dudes in multi-colored jumpsuits.
I wrote the majority of this riff before the new Bond film was delayed because of the coronavirus, so I know this is no longer as timely, but just be cool with it.
My favorite James Bond song wasn’t even in a James bond movie. It’s just done in the style of a Bond song. I’m talking about the titular track to the video game “Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.”
For those of you who aren’t big video game nerds like me, I won’t get into the story around Metal Gear Solid. It’s crazy convoluted and involves clones, cyborg ninjas and big robots capable of firing nuclear weapons. All you’ve got to know is the main character is Snake, an homage to Kurt Russell’s character from “Escape from New York.” He’s a real badass.
In MGS 3, right after you fight legendary sniper The End (a delicious callback to the first game’s sniper battle), Snake has to climb an incredibly long ladder. The ladder is actually an interactive loading screen while the rest of the game boots up.
As Snake makes his way up this monumental ladder rung by rung, singer Cynthia Harrell makes her presence known. She starts off quietly and makes you question what the heck is going on. There wasn’t singing at any other part of this game. Where’s it coming from? It simultaneous soothes and ignites your core, making you feel like a real secret agent. She then builds in volume until she’s passionately belting out “SNAKE EATER.”
And that’s not even the full version. The whole song plays during the opening credits (people tend to skip these in video games.) It features an orchestra, a brass section, drums, gongs, and a funky bass-electric guitar combo ripped straight out of a ’70s cop chase movie. It captures the essence of danger, lust, romance and class that all the best Bond songs do.
It’s only about two minutes long, so you’re never antsy. It’s not like “GoldenEye,” where the rest of the song is good, but you’re really there just to hear Tina Turner say “GoldenEye” in that sexy elongated way.
Maybe you’re not a gamer. Maybe you’re a Bond fan or just a music fan. I highly recommend you go take a listen to “Snake Eater.” You’ll wonder why MGM hasn’t hired Cynthia Harrell…yet.
What’s your favorite Bond song?