Our Definitive List Of The Best James Bond Theme Songs Ever Written
Earlier this week Radiohead performed their would-be Bond movie theme song, “Spectre” (from the film of the same title), for the crowd at a Chicago show—who can now boast that they were the first fans to ever hear the band play the song live. When Spectre came out back in 2015, it was a showdown between the Radiohead tune and Sam Smith’s “Writing’s on the Wall.” The Smith song won out with the studio—but three years later, is it still seen as the better ballad? No (that answer, however, is admittedly highly subjective.) Everyone has an opinion about the best Bond, the best Bond villain, and the best Bond song. We’re weighing in with a five-song playlist that covers our favourites. Is Smith on it? Read on to find out.
Nancy Sinatra, “You Only Live Twice”
Composer John Barry, the man behind the music on a total of ten Bond movies, wrote this one (originally intended for Frank Sinatra) back in 1967. It’s been more than 50 years but the song still sets our heart racing. Seems it does the same for the showrunners behind Mad Men, too. They repurposed the 1967 Bond tune for the fifth season finale of the show, using it as the perfect tool to announce that Don Draper had put himself back on the market again. Sorry, Megan, but you probably should have seen that one coming.
Duran Duran, “A View To A Kill”
It’s 1985, Roger Moore is the current 007, and James Bond has gone new wave with a theme song sung by none other than Birmingham synthpop masters, Duran Duran. Despite the overwhelming Britishness of it all, this Bond theme song managed to go number one on the North American charts—the only Bond tune to ever do so (hush, we hear you Adele fans).
Speaking of Adele, she didn’t exactly leave her tenure as a Bond theme song queen empty-handed. The Skyfall tune scooped up trophies at both the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. ‘”Skyfall” held the record as the only Bond song to ever win at the Oscars… until Sam Smith (not Radiohead) and Spectre came around.
Wings, “Live and Let Die”
Paul McCartney and his post-Beatles band took on the task of composing a real rocker of a theme song for the 1973 Bond film in which Roger Moore took over the 007 mantle from Sean Connery. As far as lyrics go, this one has the best (read: least nonsensical) words of any Bond tune (yeah, we’re calling out “Skyfall” in particular here). Co-written by Paul and his wife Linda, the song is such a jam that even a Guns ‘N Roses cover couldn’t kill it (in fact, both the original and the cover were nominated for Grammys). If we had to choose, “Live and Let Die” is the song we’d want to kick off our own personal spy adventure soundtrack.
Shirley Bassey, “Diamonds Are Forever”
It’s a tough call choosing between Bassey’s “Goldfinger” theme and her “Diamonds Are Forever” track but, contrarians that we are, we’re going to buck the trend and go with the 1971 song. Both Bassey and then-007 Sean Connery just get better with age. That said, in the interest of pleasing a few more of you, here’s Dame Shirley Bassey, DBE singing both songs live at the 2002 BAFTA James Bond Tribute.