Listen to Sam Smith's SPECTRE theme song!

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To describe me as just a bit of a James Bond fanboy, is like saying that South Africa just a had a bit of a poor start to the Rugby World Cup. I’m obsessed with the 007 franchise, and have rewatched every single movie more times than I could count. And when it comes to the iconic theme songs, I’m even more obsessive, with not a week going by that I’m not listening to one of them.

So for me, a new Bond theme song is really a big deal, especially when it’s following in the footsteps of Adele’s award-winning title track for Skyfall. A diversion from the more grungy and rock-centric divisive recent efforts in the Daniel Craig era of Bond, Adele’s offering was a big swooning throwback to the heyday of the franchise, when queen crooner Shirley Bassey ruled all. It was sweeping and dramatic with classic John Barry overtones and boasted a belter of a vocal climax from the Brit songstress, earning an Oscar, a Grammy and a Golden Globe in the process.

So in other words, no pressure Sam Smith. The British vocalist, the first male solo artist to tackle a Bond theme song since Tom Jones on 1965’s Thunderball, can certainly boast the same levels of critical success as Adele and an equally burgeoning trophy shelf, but will his “Writing On the Wall”, the new theme song for Bond’s upcoming 24th cinematic adventure Spectre, measure up to that kind of high watermark? In a word: no.

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While it continues the return to classic opulence like Skyfall did, once again featuring some distinct John Barry-esque James Bond arrangements, Smith never quite pushes himself as much as Adele did to land those big dramatic notes. The same can be said of the more sparse instrumental lineup of just strings and piano, leaving the song feeling as if it’s building to a crescendo that just-just never quite arrives. The Smith-penned lyrics, which are written from the perspective of Bond himself, also describes an unexpected vulnerability in its lead character. Coupled with Smith’s emotional falsetto vocals during the bridge and chorus, this may not sit well with some fans’ image of 007 as this coolly pragmatic alpha male power fantasy (even though it does actually factor into Daniel Craig’s version of the character).

I’ve been here before
But always hit the floor
I’ve spent a lifetime running
And I always get away
But with you I’m feeling something
That makes me want to stay

I’m prepared for this
I never shoot to miss
But I feel like a storm is coming
If I’m gonna make it through the day
Then there’s no more use in running
This is something I gotta face

If I risk it all
Could you break my fall?

How do I live? How do I breathe?
When you’re not here I’m suffocating
I want to feel love, run through my blood
Tell me is this where I give it all up?
For you I have to risk it all
Cause the writing’s on the wall

A million shards of glass
That haunt me from my past
As the stars begin to gather
And the light begins to fade
When all hope begins to shatter
Know that I won’t be afraid

If I risk it all
Could you break my fall?

How do I live? How do I breathe?
When you’re not here I’m suffocating
I want to feel love, run through my blood
Tell me is this where I give it all up?
For you I have to risk it all
Cause the writing’s on the wall

The writing’s on the wall

How do I live? How do I breathe?
When you’re not here I’m suffocating
I want to feel love, run through my blood
Tell me is this where I give it all up?
How do I live? How do I breathe?
When you’re not here I’m suffocating
I want to feel love, run through my blood
Tell me is this where I give it all up?
For you I have to risk it all
Cause the writing’s on the wall

I have to say though that that since a lot of Spectre’s narrative is still a mystery, these lyrics actually feel to me like they could have been a great fit to Casino Royale and the doomed relationship seen there between Bond and Vesper Lynd. Is this our first hint that a similar romantic engagement awaits us in this new movie? Perhaps between Craig and Lea Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann? Could this song play better once we’ve heard it in the context of the actual movie?

In the end though, there’s no doubt that this song is not as universally successful as its predecessor, meaning that whether you like it or not will probably just come down to personal preference. For example, fellow Bond fanboy Darryn prefers his Bond theme songs with a lot more kinetic energy, and so this dramatic offering is really not working for him at all. Personally, my tastes run a bit wider as I may always bop my head and grin like an idiot through Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die”, but I also swoon every time I hear Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better” from The Spy Who Loved Me.

And when it comes Bond themes, I always judge them independently as both a theme song and a just plain normal song, and in this case I think we have a great normal song that translates to a good, but not great  Bond theme song. It’s undoubtedly got some catchy musical hooks (those strings!) and you can’t beat that distinct Bond arrangement, but I doubt it it will become a modern day classic like Skyfall did. That being said, it’s still a damn sight better than some of the franchise’s other misguided offerings (I’m looking at you, “Another Way To Die” from Alicia Keyes and Jack Black!).

Have a listen of it below, and let me know what you think.

UPDATE: Alas, the legal folks at Sony have swooped down and the video has been removed. But the song is still officially available to stream on Spotify, and you can download it from iTunes. I’ve posted an embed of the Spotify stream below.

 

Spectre releases locally on 26 November.

Last Updated: September 28, 2015

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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