PHOTO: Bettmann / Contributor
10 Essential James Bond Theme Songs: From Shirley Bassey To Sam Smith & Adele
Agent 007 turns 60 on Oct. 5, and his taste in music remains impeccable. GRAMMY.com revisits 10 James Bond theme songs by Shirley Bassey, Nancy Sinatra, Adele and others that have soundtracked the adventures of the world's most infamous spy.
Sixty years ago, on October 5, 1962, Agent 007 pointed his Walther PPK at the audience onscreen and fired his first shot. The screen bled red, the surf guitar riff of Monty Norman’s "James Bond Theme" filled the air, and a legend was born. A modestly budgeted noir shot in Jamaica, Dr. No was the first of the many spy adventures inspired by Ian Fleming’s pulpy novels.
No other cinematic franchise has been so thoroughly and completely informed by music like the 007 films. The blueprint developed and chaperoned by John Barry — who wrote the music for the first seven outings, then returned intermittently for an additional five — infused the saga with its existential cosmovision: slightly jaded, ever cosmopolitan, at times beautiful and profound.
Barry’s music made the action scenes soar, and, most importantly, added a tinge of bittersweet complexity to the improbable seduction scenes. It was the music, not the acting or special effects, that made the character of Bond human. By 1965, the theme songs had become a stylized ritual of their own that stretched out the canvas on which the colors and set pieces merged together.
There are 25 official titles in the Bond saga, and dozens of songs — some incidental, others rejected, many of them global hits. These 10 are absolutely essential.
Sam Smith - "Writing’s On The Wall" (2015)
Bond title songs have generated grand moments, but also a few spectacular misfires (remember Lulu and "The Man With The Golden Gun"?). When Sam Smith’s melancholy, strangely monotone track was first unveiled, critics were quick to pan it. But the song has staying power, and its mournful melody works particularly well within the context of Spectre.
In retrospect, it’s one of the series’ deepest anthems. Fun fact: Radiohead submitted a Spectre song, but it was rejected for being — surprise, surprise — a tad depressing.
Shirley Bassey - "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" (1965)
Following the epic success of Goldfinger, Welsh diva Shirley Bassey was asked to return for this jazzy Barry composition meant for Thunderball, the fourth 007 adventure. The lyrics are preposterous ("Damoiselles and danger/Have filled the stranger’s past"), but Barry saves the day with a muted trumpet, stately acoustic bass and a melody filled with longing.
When the finished recording turned out to be too short and Bassey was unavailable, Dionne Warwick was enlisted as a replacement. Her version is just as good, but was also canned in favor of Tom Jones’ "Thunderball" after the producers insisted on a title track featuring the actual name of the movie, even if the word itself had no real meaning.
Louis Armstrong - "We Have All The Time In The World" (1969)
The first official Bond movie without Sean Connery is a bit of an incongruous mess, but it found Barry in a creative high. Combining lush orchestrations with electronic instruments, he wrote an electrifying instrumental for the title sequence, then worked with a dying Louis Armstrong on this moving ballad to accompany the story’s tragic shock ending.
Shirley Bassey - "Moonraker" (1979)
Bassey’s final 007 track — she certainly should have been asked for a few more — found her teaming up with Barry for a luxurious ballad that revels in swirling strings, a Morse code-like triangle pattern and a subliminal nod to late ‘70s disco opulence.
With Bond flying into outer space to fight the megalomaniacal villain, Moonraker was one of the silliest films in the series. Bassey’s regal touch added gravitas and a welcome hint of sadness.
Adele - "Skyfall" (2012)
During the ‘90s, Bond songs strayed away from the majestic sensibility branded in their DNA. It took Adele and a 77-piece orchestra to bring it all back.
"Skyfall" is a self-assured piece of songwriting that mirrored the film's narrative renewal. Written by the singer with producer Paul Epworth, "Skyfall" begins with mysterious piano chords, then matches the immensity of the Shirley Bassey school of thought with Adele’s soulful reading.
Duran Duran - "A View To A Kill" (1985)
Keeping Barry as the official 007 composer well into the ‘80s was a wise decision, but updating his sound was also necessary. Reportedly, the pairing of Academy Award winning Barry with such chart toppers as Duran Duran and A-ha created friction — but you could never tell by listening to this wicked new wave romp that glitters with the band’s glamor while maintaining that solemn Bondian touch. Playing it live was an altogether different story, as Simon Le Bon’s infamous bum note became one of Live Aid’s most talked about moments.
Jack White and Alicia Keys - "Another Way To Die" (2008)
On paper, inviting the White Stripes front man and the exquisitely gifted Keys for a joint 007 composition was an intriguing concept. The resulting track not only exceeded every possible expectation, but it also brought Bond closer to the redemptive noise of blues-fueled rock’n’roll.
White performed the ferocious drum beat himself, while kick-in-the-pants brass, grungy guitar licks and Keys’ exhilarating vocal gymnastics add to the exuberance. The repetitive piano note in the intro stands as a cool tribute to spy movie fundamentals.
Shirley Bassey – "Goldfinger" (1964)
A jazz star at the time, 27-year-old Shirley Bassey was inside the vocal booth on Aug. 20, 1964, struggling to reach those impossibly high notes at the end of "Goldfinger." Suddenly, the orchestra musicians heard some fidgeting, then saw a bustier land on top of the booth. After which the awesome Miss Bassey delivered the notes just the way they were supposed to sound: reckless, liberated, bombastic.
The message was loud and clear: by definition, Bond songs were meant to be fun and loopy ("such a cold finger beckons you to enter his web of sin"), interpreted with both panache and a serious touch. For an alternative reading, try the velvety, pared-down demo by original lyricist Anthony Newley.
Paul McCartney and Wings - "Live and Let Die" (1973)
"Live and Let Die" was rock royalty: written by Paul and Linda, recorded with Wings and 10cc’s Eric Stewart, produced by Beatles helmer George Martin. Linda came up with the idea of a reggae section in the middle, and the instrumental pyrotechnics featured a massive symphony orchestra.
Ironically, one of the 007 producers suggested re-recording the vocals with Thelma Houston after Martin played him the finished "demo." Logic prevailed, and "Live and Let Die" remains to this day a highlight of McCartney’s concerts, hitting a sweet spot between the exalted and the meditative.
Nancy Sinatra – "You Only Live Twice" (1967)
If you need one desert island Bond theme that perfectly encapsulates the elusive poetry of Barry’s vision, "You Only Live Twice" is it. Self-professed "problem child" Nancy Sinatra was terrified of recording the song in London in front of an orchestra, and her final performance was composed using bits and pieces from 25 different takes.
Perhaps it was Sinatra’s underwhelming vocal power that made her performance so incredibly vulnerable. It is also one of Barry’s best arrangements — languid, exotic, devastatingly sensuous. And that spiraling melody... The song has been sampled by Robbie Williams, covered by Bjork and Natacha Atlas, and used on TV shows to evoke the idealized splendor of ‘60s pop culture.
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016
Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.
Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.
A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.
This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system.
"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."
He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.
"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.
To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood."
Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes.
Photo: John Shearer/MTV VMAs 2021/Getty Images for MTV/ViacomCBS
10 Albums On Divorce & Heartache, From Fleetwood Mac's 'Rumours' To Kelly Clarkson's 'Chemistry'
Divorce albums have been a staple of the music industry for decades. Take a look at some of the most notable musings on a breaking heart, from Kacey Musgraves, Kanye West and more.
Divorce can be complicated, messy, and heartbreaking. But those feelings are prime fodder for songwriting — and it's something that artists of all genres have harnessed for decades.
Writing through the pain can serve many benefits for an artist. Marvin Gaye used Here, My Dear as a way to find closure in the aftermath of his divorce. Adele told Vogue that her recording process gave her somewhere to feel safe while recording 30, a raw account of the aftermath of her marriage ending. And Kelly Clarkson's new album, chemistry, finds her reclaiming herself, while fully taking stock of everything that happened in her marriage, good and bad.
As fans dive into chemistry, GRAMMY.com has compiled a list of 10 divorce albums from all walks of music. Whether you need to cry, vent, or maybe even laugh, there's a divorce album that has what you need.
Tammy Wynette, D-I-V-O-R-C-E (1968)
During her life, Tammy Wynette was a prolific country songwriter and singer, releasing numerous albums exploring all aspects of love. She was also deeply familiar with divorce, with five marriages throughout her adulthood.
The most intimate album on the topic is her bluntly titled 1968 project D-I-V-O-R-C-E, which explores how sensitive the topic was to speak about. The title track is a mournful tune about hiding a separation from her children, but also conveys the general difficulty of discussing the topic with anyone. Elsewhere on the album, "Kiss Away" is a longing ballad about wishing for a more tender resolution when words have failed.
Fleetwood Mac, Rumours (1977)
After recording 10 albums together, Fleetwood Mac were in disarray. During the recording of their eleventh record, the members of the band were going through affairs, divorces, and breakups, even some with each other. Against all odds, they created Rumours — and it became the band's most successful and iconic album.
The spectrum of emotions and sounds on the album is wide. "The Chain" is all fire and bombast, while the laidback acceptance of "Dreams" seeks to find peace in the storm. Fleetwood Mac sorted out their issues and are still going strong to this day, but their heartbreak created something special in Rumours.
Beck, Sea Change (2002)
Beck has had a prolific career, with 14 studio albums to his name. One of his most affecting is 2002's Sea Change, written in the aftermath of his engagement and nine-year relationship ending.
It's a deeply insular album, even by Beck's standards. Tracks like "Already Dead" are slow and mournful, while standout "It's All In Your Mind" finds him burrowing deep into his own thoughts to parse out how exactly he's feeling with his new life.
Open Mike Eagle, Anime, Trauma, and Divorce (2020)
Divorce isn't a topic that immediately brings laughter, but rapper Open Mike Eagle seemed to find humor in his personal story with his album Anime, Trauma, and Divorce. The album title gives a pretty good rundown of what inspired the project, and Mike's laidback rapping sells how silly the aftermath of pain can be.
"Sweatpants Spiderman" finds him trying to become a functional adult again, and discovering the various ailments of his aging body and thinner wallet that are getting in the way. The fed-up delivery on standout track "Wtf is Self Care" is a hilarious lesson on how learning to be kind to yourself post-breakup is harder than it sounds.
Carly Pearce, 29: Written In Stone (2021)
Heartbreak is a common topic in all genres, but country has some of the most profound narratives of sorrow. Carly Pearce added to that legacy with 29: Written in Stone, her 2021 album centered around her 29th year — a year that included both a marriage and a subsequent divorce.
The emotional whiplash of such a quick change can be felt all over the project, from an upbeat diss track like "Next Girl" to more poignant pieces like the title track, which finds Pearce reflecting on her tumultuous year. Her vulnerability resonated, as single "Never Wanted To Be That Girl" won Pearce her first GRAMMY, and her latest single, "What He Didn't Do," scored the singer her fourth No. 1 at country radio.
Kanye West, 808s & Heartbreak (2008)
Kanye West's fourth album 808s & Heartbreak came from a deep well of pain. Besides the end of his relationship, West was also in turmoil from the death of his mother, Donda. The result is one of the bleakest sounding records on this list — but also one of West's most impactful.
808s & Heartbreak is minimalistic, dark, and brooding, with a focus on somber strings and 808 drum loops (hence the album's title). West delivers most of his lyrics in a monotone drone through a thick layer of autotune, a stylistic choice that heightens the sense of loss. Besides being a testament to West's pain, the electronic sound pioneered on 808s & Heartbreak would serve as a foundational inspiration for the next several years of hip-hop.
Toni Braxton & Babyface, Love, Marriage, & Divorce (2014)
Toni Braxton and Babyface are two stalwarts of R&B in their own rights, and in 2014, the pair connected over their shared experiences going through divorce. Their bond sparked Love, Marriage, & Divorce, a GRAMMY-winning album that intended to capture the more universal feelings the life of a relationship conjures up.
Each artist has solo tracks on the record — Babyface wishing the best for his ex on "I Hope That You're Okay" and Braxton sharing her justified anger on "I Wish" and "I'd Rather Be Broke" — but where they shine is on their collaborations. The agonizing "Where Did We Go Wrong?" is heartbreaking, and the album ends with painful what-ifs in the soulful "The D Word."
Adele, 30 (2021)
Divorce is hard no matter the circumstances, but it gets even more complicated when children are involved. That was the reality for Adele, and it served as major inspiration for her fourth album, 30.
Like every album on this list, there's plenty of sorrow on the record, but what really sets it apart is just how honestly Adele grapples with the guilt of putting her son Angelo through turmoil as well. The album's GRAMMY-winning lead single "Easy On Me" addresses it in relation to her son, and standout track "I Drink Wine" is a full examination of the messy feelings she went through during her divorce.
Kacey Musgraves, star-crossed (2021)
As many of these albums prove, divorce triggers a hoard of emotions, from anger to sadness to eventual happiness. On star-crossed, Kacey Musgraves goes through it all.
There's the anthemic "breadwinner" about being better on her own, "camera roll" looking back on happier times with sorrow, and "hookup scene" about the confusion of adjusting back to single life. Star-crossed sees Musgraves continue to evolve sonically — incorporating more electronic sounds into her country roots — but ultimately, she comes out the other side at a place of renewed acceptance and growth.
Kelly Clarkson, chemistry (2023)
Kelly Clarkson's tenth album chemistry was born out of her 2020 divorce. In true Kelly fashion, she addresses the subject with thoughtful songwriting and a pop-rock vibe fans have adored for 20 years on.
Chemistry focuses not just on the pain of divorce, but on the tender feelings that many couples still have for each other even after the end. Tracks like "favorite kind of high" mirror the euphoria of love, juxtaposed with ballads like "me," in which Clarkson finds comfort in herself and her inner strength — an inspiring sentiment for anyone who has had their heart broken.
Raven B. Varona
Look Inside Adele’s Extended Las Vegas Residency: Photos & Social Media Reactions
“Weekends With Adele,“ the singer’s residency at the Colisseum at Caesar’s Palace has been extended into November. Take a look inside the 16-time GRAMMY winner’s stint in Sin City.
Sixteen-time GRAMMY winner and 25-time nominee Adele had a strong showing at the 2023 GRAMMYs; she won Best Pop Solo Performance (“Easy On Me”) and collected six nominations, including Album Of The Year (30), Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year.
Now, this leading light’s residency at the Colisseum at Caesar’s Palace, dubbed “Weekends With Adele,“ has been extended into Nov. 2023; the original run stretched from Nov. 2022 to Mar. 2023.
Accordingly, photos and social media reactions of the vocal phenom are all over the Internet. Below, immerse yourself in Adele’s reinvigorated Vegas residency, which opened June 16.
All photos by Raven B. Varona.
Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez
GRAMMY Rewind: Watch Kim Petras Honor Transgender Trailblazers After Historic Win For "Unholy" In 2023
Kim Petras was full of emotions as she and Sam Smith accepted their gramophone for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for "Unholy" — a game-changing moment for the transgender community.
First thanking Smith for the "incredible journey" the song created for her, she noted that they were also going to give her the spotlight. "Sam graciously wanted me to accept this award because I'm the first transgender woman to win," Petras revealed, prompting a standing ovation in the crowd.
Petras went on to thank the transgender artists who paved the way — most notably, DJ and producer SOPHIE. "[She] told me this would happen and always believed in me. Thank you so much for your inspiration, SOPHIE," Petras praised. "I adore you, and your inspiration will forever be in my music."
Before heading off the stage, Petras acknowledged Madonna for being an LGBTQ+ advocate, and her mother for supporting her identity since the beginning.
Press play on the video above to watch Kim Petras and Sam Smith accept their award for "Unholy" at the 2023 Annual GRAMMY Awards, and check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind.