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Worst To First: Ranking The James Bond Theme Songs

Best_Of_James_Bond

One of the quintessential elements of the James Bond series is music. Of course, you have John Barry’s classic theme song:

Additionally, each entry in the series has its own theme song.  Many of those songs have found life outside of the movies they accompanied. But like the 007 features themselves, these songs vary in quality. Some of them have held up quite well over the years while some have faded as fast as Paris Hilton after getting a dip in Blofeld’s shark tank.

So which Bond themes stand as good to great and which reside in the category of mindless caterwauling. Read on to find out!

22: The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)
Artist: Lulu
Peak Chart Position: Did not chart.

I can’t comment too much on Lulu herself as the only other song of hers I’m that familiar with is another movie theme: “To Sir With Love”. But this one is not on the level of that far better theme to a far better movie. The Man With The Golden Gun is one of the all-time worst Bond movies and the theme song ranks at the bottom of the themes list. The song sounds like an attempt to recapture the success of the Goldfinger theme. But the lyrics are simply ridiculous (“He has a powerful weapon/He charges a million a shot”) and Lulu tends to shout more than actually sing. Hence, its placement at the bottom of the barrel of Bond themes.

21: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Artist: Sheryl Crow
Peak Chart Position: 12 In United Kingdom. Did not chart in America.

No, not a cover of the classic Beatles song “Tomorrow Never Knows”. This theme from the second Brosnan entry features then-at-the-peak-of-her-popularity Sheryl Crow. While I actually like quite a bit of Ms. Crow’s music (her self-titled album from 1996 is very good), her singing style does not mesh that well with Bond. Plus, the lyrics are not very memorable. So it’s not the absolute worst Bond song. But it’s pretty bad.

20: Die Another Day (2002)
Artist: Madonna
Peak Chart Position: 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. 3 in United Kingdom

Ick! Not to slam Madonna who has done many an enjoyable song over the years. But this is most definitely not one of them. The production gives it a techno feel which normally would not be bad. But it doesn’t mesh well with Madonna. In addition, there’s that ridiculous voice distortion and the lyrics are not very memorable. The interesting thing is that 3 years earlier Madonna had recorded “Beautiful Stranger”, a far better song for “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me”. The song for the Bond spoof was far better than the actual Bond theme she sang. Here’s the proof.

Next: Songs 19-16

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Posted on October 30, 2015, in James Bond, Movies, Music, Worst to First and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. Your top 10 leaves out 3 of my favorites completely, as you ranked them too low on your list. Thunderball is in my top 3. You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever would also be in my top 10. Goldfinger, however, is tops and Live and Let Die would also be in my top 3.

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    • Same here. You Only Live Twice is is decent for the Nancy Sinatra performance, but is even better as the instrumental theme throughout the movie.

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  2. Alice Cooper also recorded a song called Man With the Golden Gun, it was passed over in favour of Lulu’s song. It was later included on their album Muscle of Love.

    Although not nearly Coopers best song, it’s better than Lulu’s effort.

    I enjoyed reading your article! Too bad License to Kill too low to get some votes. In my opinion one of the best Bond songs!

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    • Interesting, i wonder how many songs that have been recorded that was meant to be official. I know Ace of Base had one for Goldeneye. I will try too link a version, not sure how it works though.

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  3. Regarding Tomorrow Never Dies, I’ve always felt that k.d. lang’s “Surrender,” which plays over the end credits, might have made a more effective theme song; for one, it was actually incorporated into David Arnold’s score.

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  4. I think this is a hard one to really say we are doing worst to first since there are over 20 songs and we can only rank 10, and you picked possibly the 10 best. Eight of the 10 in your list I like a lot and the other two are perfectly ok.

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  5. I would probably any For Your Eyes Only a little higher, but I definitely agree that the Garbage song is very underrated. I was pretty surprised that it was not a bigger hit.

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    • Garbage is one of my favorite late 90s bands. I was thrilled when I saw they did a James Bond theme. If I was ranking it along the lines of “favorite band/singer to do a Bond theme” I’d probably rank them only behind the Beatles.

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    • I would say the Garbage song (and music video!) The World Is Not Enough is better than the film itself, which is just decidedly average. The song excels.

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  6. I’d rank Tomorrow Never Dies quite a bit higher. Die Another Day would be dead last for me. Despite Shirley Bassey, I could consider dropping Moonraker a notch or two. Count me among the Licence to Kill fans. The a-Ha Living Daylights is somehow more 80’s than a Duran Duran song. You Only Live Twice gets stuck in my head and won’t go away. Kind of like the movie it comes from, Thunderball is a bit much for me.

    I should probably like the Louis Armstrong song more than I do. It wouldn’t make my top 10. For Your Eyes Only is top 5 for me. Definitely above View to a Kill. I like the theme to GoldenEye, but I’m not sure it makes my top 10. Nobody Does it Better (see For Your Eyes Only). I didn’t remember You Know My Name. Now that I have revisited, it’s an okay song. Doesn’t feel like a Bond theme.

    I like Garbage and they did a good job with their Bond theme. It probably wouldn’t make more top 3 or even my top 5. But I like it. I have a love-hate thing with Live and Let Die. It’s almost a satire of a Bond song which is appropriate for a Moore Bond. It just depends on my mood. Sometimes, I’m a fan. Sometimes, not so much.

    No arguing with Goldfinger though. It’s the clear #1.

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  7. Fun list! Some things i disagree with:

    Too low: Licence too kill, You only live twice, A view to a kill (probably my favorite)

    Too high: The living daylights, All time high, For your eyes only

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  8. I went from swapping “A View to a Kill” and “Nobody Does It Better” back and forth a few times on my ranking (actually my favorite Duran Duran song is “Ordinary World” and my favorite Carly Simon song is “Coming Around Again”, although I like many songs from both artists). Eventually, I sided with “Nobody Does It Better”, but I’m still conflicted. I like the order here, but I just did things differently.

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  9. For Your Eyes Only is my all-time favorite Bond tune. Just listening to it again solidifies that for me. My 2nd favorite would be Nobody Does It Better by Carly Simon.

    I’m glad to see Garbage’s The World Is Not Enough ranked so high on your list (I would rank it my 3rd favorite Bond song too), personally I think the song is criminally underrated among Bond songs, it has a grand, lovely sweeping sound to it. I especially love the music video for the song which actually tells a terrific story of its own. If nothing else I nominate the Garbage song as having the best music video among Bond songs.

    I would have to rank Paul McCartney’s Live And Let Die in 4th. What can I say, it’s a classic rock song and Bond tune.

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  10. The Moonraker song was actually offered to Frank Sinatra? So you’re telling me that if ol’ Blue Eyes had been in a different mood on the day of the offer, we might have had a Bond film with Sinatra, the Chairman of the Board himself, singing the theme song? That blows my mind.

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  11. One thing worth noting: Sheena Easton actually appears singing in the opening credits to the film For Your Eyes Only. I’m pretty sure that’s the only time that has been allowed in the Bond franchise. A side note, Madonna appeared in the film Die Another Day in a bit cameo but did not appear in the credit sequence itself.

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  12. NEW PODCAST: The Theme Songs of Bond Part 2: http://buff.ly/1U4viEC #jamesbond #bond #007

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