Thursday, November 5, 2015

Riske Business: Ranking the Bond Theme Songs

by Adam Riske
I have a license to drive.

Here are my picks from the worst to the best Bond themes. Please note I’m picking only one song from each Bond movie and I’m putting the “James Bond Theme” (by Monty Norman and John Barry) originally from Dr. No in a separate special category because that reigns supreme for sure. No contest. It’s as iconic as the Star Spangled Banner. It should be the world’s national anthem. Anyways, to the list.

23) Title: “All Time High”
By: Rita Coolidge
From: Octopussy
Chlorophyll? More like Bore-A-Phyll. This song turns me off to music. Even your grandma hates this song. #AllTimeLow Grade: F

22) Title: “GoldenEye”
By: Tina Turner
From: GoldenEye
This is maybe the corniest of all the Bond themes. The lyrics are just ridiculous e.g. “You’ll never know… how I watched you from the shadows as a child.” More like StalkerEye. This sounds like a song a Cougar would sing a Cub to seduce him while she’s thinking “this is sexy, right?” I like how Tina Turner just gives up in the last 30 seconds and just keeps yelling the title of the song. Grade: D

21) Title: “The World is Not Enough”
By: Garbage
From: The World is Not Enough
I don’t like the band Garbage very much. And this song blows. It sounds like something Shirley Manson is singing as someone is waking her up out of bed. I couldn’t wait for this song to end. Sort of like this movie. Grade: D+

20) Title: “Another Way to Die”
By: Jack White and Alicia Keys
From: Quantum of Solace
I’m not a big fan of Jack White but this song is ok….I guess…just barely. I like the instrumental aspects of it but the voices of White and Keys (who I like but not here) just about ruin it. The chorus is complete ass. I’m surprised the Bond people were like “yeah, this works” and didn’t send these two knuckleheads back to the studio and try it again. This was a tough song to re-listen to all the way to the end. Grade: C-

19) Title: “Die Another Day”
By: Madonna
From: Die Another Day
Madonna is so far up her own butt that it doesn’t surprise me that her song for Die Another Day is some sort of weird dance/techno song that sounds like Club Bond. What is unforgiveable is the awful lyrics like “Sigmund Freud! Analyze This Analyze This Analyze This This This” WHAT??? That wouldn’t even make sense being the theme song for Analyze This. Remember that movie? This is such a bad song that I almost like it ironically. Almost. SIGMUND FREUND! Grade: C-

18) Title: “The Man with the Golden Gun”
By: Lulu
From: The Man with the Golden Gun
I like the duna.duna..du at the beginning. I’ll give it that much. As for the rest, meh. Not one of K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the 70s. Grade: C

17) Title: “Moonraker”
By: Shirley Bassey
From: Moonraker
Shirley Bassey knows her way around a Bond theme. The song is nice but a little flat. Pretty instrumentals though. Grade: B-

16) Title: “Thunderball”
By: Tom Jones
From: Thunderball
Not bad but kind of blah. The instrumental section is on point but Tom Jones (who I usually am OK with) is just kind of rambling on and on here. Grade: B-

15) Title: “Writing’s On the Wall”
By: Sam Smith
From: Spectre
This song has grown on me and I think it’s actually pretty good. It’s a little bit like a baby lullaby CD version of a Bond theme, though. If you knew nothing about Bond and then heard this theme song you would think his big move is tickling the bad guys TO DEATH! Grade: B

14) Title: “From Russia with Love”
By: Matt Monro
From: From Russia with Love
Pretty good but in the pantheon of Bond themes it just sort of blends in for me. Grade: B

13) Title: “You Know My Name”
By: Chris Cornell
From: Casino Royale
I hate hearing Soundgarden every fourth song on Sirius XM’s Lithium station so I have a little bit of residual angst about Chris Cornell while reviewing this song. That being said, this Bond theme pretty decent. It’s up-tempo and the chorus is pretty good. Not great, but good enough. This would be a fun song to listen to while driving fast in your car. Grade: B+

12) Title: “We Have All the Time in the World”
By: Louis Armstrong
From: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Louis Armstrong is an odd fit for a James Bond song, but this one’s pretty decent. I’m not as big of a fan of this one as most but it’s good enough to give a Grade: B+

11) Title: “A View to a Kill”
By: Duran Duran
From: A View to a Kill
While not as good as “The Living Daylights” by A-ha, there is a lot to like in the song “A View to a Kill.” The chorus rules and the whole song is more up-tempo and re-listenable than most other Bond themes. Yes, I will dance into the fire thank you very much. Grade: B+

10) Title: “License to Kill”
By: Gladys Knight
From: License to Kill
This is the Bond song that is perhaps my guiltiest pleasure. I love how '80s it sounds and that it would be just as much at home in a grocery store or doctor’s waiting room as it would be in an action movie. Also, I just like the sound of Gladys’ voice. Not much more to it than that. This is the type of song you would slow-dance with your mom to at your wedding. This is such a Timothy Dalton Bond type of song. It’s so appropriate, chivalrous and classy. I love it. Grade: A-

9) Title: “Tomorrow Never Dies”
By: Sheryl Crow
From: Tomorrow Never Dies
Such an underrated Bond theme. Sheryl Crow is an odd choice for a Bond theme and yet somehow it really works (for me) here. I love the whininess of her voice and the weird strain she almost has getting through the chorus. The instrumental aspects of this song are the best too. This is the type of song you would hear a girl sing at a coffee house and then instantly fall in love with her. Grade: A-

8) Title: “The Living Daylights”
By: A-ha
From: The Living Daylights
This song rules. I have a theory that if I were more of a music fan in the '80s, New Wave would have totally been my scene. “The Living Daylights” is New Wave gold. Grade: A

7) Title: “Skyfall”
By: Adele
From: Skyfall
The opening piano part is great. It really sets the mood for the movie and Adele sings the shit out of this theme. It’s one of her best songs and she has many good ones. I remember JB saying this song was “very Bond-y” once and that’s always stuck in my head about the song "Skyfall." That and how easy it is to sub in the word Skymall in for the title. Every time I was on a plane for a while I would think in my head “at the SKYMALL, where yooooouuu can paaayy MSRP…at SkyMall.” Grade: A

6) Title: “Diamonds Are Forever”
By: Shirley Bassey
From: Diamonds Are Forever
A great song. I don’t have much more to say about it other than Shirley Bassey is the best. It’s funky, groovy and altogether cool. Grade: A

5) Title: “You Only Live Twice”
By: Nancy Sinatra
From: You Only Live Twice
The lush instrumental music is just out of this world in this song. I love it. Plus that Nancy Sinatra. Baby’s got a sweet voice. Grade: A

4) Title: “Nobody Does It Better”
By: Carly Simon
From: The Spy Who Loved Me
Adam like! I would like to think that someone is out there thinking this about me. This is just a really pleasant, nice song with an awesome close. Am I a Carly Simon fan? Huh. Grade: A

3) Title: “For Your Eyes Only”
By: Sheena Easton
From: For Your Eyes Only
This is the Time Life infomercial of Bond theme songs. But it’s lovely. The chorus is very sweet. It’s the type of song you listen to after you wake up next to your lover and think “wow, this person’s great….I’m going to make them eggs…for their mouth only.” This song actually makes me want to cry a little bit. Grade: A

2) Title: “Goldfinger”
By: Shirley Bassey
From: Goldfinger
This is the song I think about when I think about James Bond theme songs. It’s got everything that’s great about these themes all rolled into one. So perfect. This could have very easily been #1 but I would rather listen to my next choice even more if, say, I heard it on the radio. Grade: A+

1)Title: “Live and Let Die”
By: Paul McCartney & Wings
From: Live and Let Die
A pretty good song made better by Axl Rose. Just kidding. The original by Paul McCartney & Wings is fucking phenomenal. I love it love it love it love it. It ranks among one of the best songs of all time let alone Bond songs. P.S. This is the best song ever to run to while on the treadmill. Cardi-yo! This is baby making music. Grade: A+

Happy Spectre-ing everyone! I can’t wait!!!

What is your favorite Bond theme?


  1. Living Daylights is my favorite. Great list Adam.

  2. The writing's on the wall, it's 20 chapters long, it's gonna take all afternoon to read, the author insists on watching you read to see your reaction, very little happens...I love Bond but that song does nothing for me. When I think Bond I think Shirley Bassey but I do like some of the departures like Jack White/Alicia keys, Cheryl Crow and Chris Cornell.

  3. I want to like Live and Let Due, but the weird reggae breakdown totally kills it for me. Goldfinger is my fave, it's the quintessential Bond song.

    Also, the instrumental OHMSS opening theme is one of the best things ever. It's up there with the Dr. No theme for me.

  4. I don't really have enough time to go into great detail at the moment, but my favorites in no particular order are

    - A View to a Kill
    - Nobody Does it Better
    - Skyfall
    - You Know My Name
    - Goldfinger

    I have a feeling it won't be as good as Skyfall or Casino Royale, but I'm still stoked for Spectre!

    1. The reviews for Spectre are starting to worry me :-(

    2. Indeed. They aren't very reassuring. :-/ I'll go in as positively as possible, but I guess they can't all be winners. At least we've gotten a couple good entries in the franchise lately (from my perspective anyway).

    3. I saw it tonight. Pretty underwhelming unfortunately. I thought it was fine, there was cool stuff in it. Dave Bautista was awesome and there's a fight with him and Craig that was my favorite part of the movie. My issues were mostly with the script. Really bloated, the final act feels stapled together and it has a major villain problem. Christoph Waltz was ok but he doesn't really come in until late in the movie and once you find out what's going on with him it's like really that's what all this was for? The organization Spectre was also underused and didn't factor in much. It's generic Bond but there's some good stuff in it too. I'd give it like a B-.

    4. Darn. I'm going tomorrow night but it sounds like the best spy movie I'll see this week was when I saw Bridge of Spies a couple days ago.

    5. B- is still a pretty good Bond movie, but I suppose a bit disappointing considering we had to wait for Sam Mendes schedule

    6. Yea it's really not bad I think I'm just focusing on the things that didn't work for me and they sort of mess with some iconic Bond things that are shoehorned in and that's been frustrating me. If I watched it again I might like it a little more but who knows. It probably lands right in the middle of my Bond rankings if I had to throw it in right now.

    7. It has problems, but its such a fun, traditional 'Bond film'. I feel like non-huge-Bond fans won't be very happy, but Bond fans will. I really dug it a lot. Its such a blast and Daniel Craig might be more fun to watch in this than ever.

    8. I plan to go see it tomorrow along with The Peanuts Movie. I'll report back.

    9. So I saw Spectre last night, and it's very much sort of "it's fine..." for me. It's neither the best nor the worst of the Daniel Craig Bond entries. I did like the villains, but I didn't think they had enough screen time. I would have liked to see more of them. Dave Boutista was a great henchman, and the train fight was cool.

  5. I really like "All Time High" as cheesy comfort food, and rank "For Your Eyes Only" at or near the bottom.

    There's stuff to like in "Writing's on the Wall" - a downbeat, morose ballad sung by a guy amidst classic Bond orchestration is a different and interesting choice, but Smith's abrupt jaunts into falsetto are maddeningly show-off-y, and pretty much wreck it for me. Dude, just because you have an objectively amazing range doesn't mean that shoving it down our throats won't ruin your whole damn song! I'd really like to hear a cover of this one in which the vocals stay at the verses' levels the whole time.

  6. Solid list. Love that you ranked The Living Daylights in the Top 10. Here are our Bond Theme rankings from #Bond_age_ for a comparable set (minus Sam Smith because we wanted to see it in context before ranking it near the bloody bottom.)

  7. Goldfinger
    Diamonds are forever
    For your eyes only
    You know my name
    Nobody does it better
    To live and let die
    Die another day
    Another way to die

    Shirley Bassey is just the best for me. Great songs for a great voice.
    Sorry to put your number 1 that low in my little list but I never liked To live and let die. I also never was a fan of Paul McCartney or even The Beatles.

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  9. Best Bond theme that's not actually a Bond theme: "Supremacy" from Muse's 2nd Law album a couple years ago. Seriously I love this song so much as a Bond theme that I want them to make a movie called Supremacy just so they can use it.