Film and TV

007 James Bond Songs: The Best, Worst, and Rejected Themes

Of course we're including Duran Duran's A View to a Kill!
Of course we're including Duran Duran's A View to a Kill! Stephanie Pistel
It was confirmed yesterday that Billie Eilish has penned with her brother FINNEAS the theme song for the upcoming James Bond film No Time to Die, which hits movie theaters on Friday, April 10.

That got us thinking about the songs from the previous 24 official 007 films (this disqualifies Never Say Never Again and the '60s version of Casino Royale starring Peter Sellers), so we break down the best, worst, and rejected tracks that have been the hallmark of the long-running franchise. Sit back and enjoy this playlist with a shaken, not stirred vodka martini.

Best: 'Skyfall' by Adele

The British singer-songwriter's sultry vocals are a throwback to the Shirley Bassey themes of the '60s and '70s while giving the Bond theme song trope a modern touch. The song won numerous awards, including an Oscar for Best Original Song, the first Bond theme to do so.

Best: 'A View to a Kill' by Duran Duran

As legend has it, Duran Duran bassist John Taylor drunkenly approached Bond film producer Albert Broccoli at a party and asked him when he was going to get someone decent to do a 007 movie theme. That got the New Wave legends the job. They also scored their second No. 1 hit and gave the franchise's music a more contemporary feel.

Best: 'Nobody Does It Better' by Carly Simon

Carly Simon's contribution to the Bond franchise is also the most popular as the song's title has been used as a tagline for nearly every 007 film to follow. Used as the opener to The Spy Who Loved Me, the track, written by Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager, has been covered in concert by everyone from Celine Dion to Radiohead.

Worst: 'The Man With The Golden Gun' by Lulu

You have to give the Bond producers credit: They at least tried to incorporate the movie's title into the song. Lulu really sells the entendre-filled lyrics (The opening line is, "He has a powerful weapon"), but the song fails to hit the mark. Fun fact: Arizona-rocker Alice Cooper was tapped to write the theme, but his version was rejected. It did end up on his Muscle of Love record.

Worst: 'Writing's On The Wall' by Sam Smith

After the massive success of "Skyfall," producers must have wanted to try to replicate the song's success. Sam Smith's vocals are lovely, but the song moves at a snail's pace and doesn't fit the heart-pounding action sequence that opened SPECTRE. It was the second Bond theme to win an Academy Award, so someone liked it. It's especially difficult to listen to after you learn that producers passed on ...

Rejected: 'SPECTRE' by Radiohead

Radiohead's attempt at a Bond theme rides the line of the paranoid, experimental music the group is famous for, but it also could fit in with the alternative acts that have succeeded at the enterprise, including Garbage and a-ha. But they're in good company, as evidenced by...

Rejected: 'For Your Eyes Only' by Blondie

Sheena Easton's theme ultimately won out, but this song is a highlight on Blondie's album The Hunter. Debbie Harry sounds like she was born to sing a Bond theme on this track. Who knows? She may get her chance when Daniel Craig hangs up his Walther PPK.
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Jason Keil was the Phoenix New Times culture editor from August 2019 to May 2020.
Contact: Jason Keil