The theme for the new James Bond movie The Quantum Of Solace was released
this week. “Another Way To Die,” written and performed by Jack White, with Alicia Keys,
starts off promisingly enough, with some raucous spy guitar sparring with horns and strings.
And then the vocals enter.
Whatever you may think of White and Keys as vocalists, they are not the right agents for this very important musical assignment.
The first problem is that there is no discernible melody for them to sing. It’s just that overused two-note hip-hop rat-a-tat thing that we’ve heard a zillion times. There’s a lot to live up to when it comes to melody in James Bond themes. Composer John Barry set the bar very high with his memorable tunes, from “Thunderball” to “From Russia With Love” to “You Only Live Twice.” Over the years, Paul McCartney upheld the franchise magnificently with “Live and Let Die,” as did Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager with “Nobody Does It Better.” Even Duran Duran (teamed with Barry) kept things rolling nicely with “A View To A Kill.” But even after a few listens, this new one just doesn’t cut it.
If I had to rate it, I’d put it in a tie with “The Living Daylights” by a-ha. That is, for last place.
What’s also puzzling about this record is that it’s difficult to make out all the lyrics. A sloppy mix?
Bad enunciation? Whatever, there is no excuse. C’mon, it’s a Bond theme, for god’s sake. It’s supposed
to be a sleek, bigger than life production. And when it comes to understanding a lyric, you have to think
Shirley Bassey. “They luster on . . . !”
As a lifelong fan of Bond and a huge John Barry fan, I’m feel completely let down by this
new theme. I’m sure that the accompanying graphics will be amazing, and will help distract from the
absence of melody and the cringe-worthy vocal blend between White and Keys. And I’m sure
the film itself will be great. The trailer certainly is.
Poking around online, I see that the reaction to the theme in the Bond fan community seems to be mostly negative, which makes me wonder if there might be a replacement theme. Probably not, but it’s interesting to consider.
It wouldn’t be the first time. Other names who have been rejected for the 007 seal of approval include Dionne Warwick (Thunderball), Aretha Franklin (You Only Live Twice), Alice Cooper (The Man With the Golden Gun) and Blondie (For Your Eyes Only).
While we ponder the fate of “Another Way To Die,” here are my top 5 favorite Bond themes:
“Diamonds Are Forever”
“From Russia With Love”
“You Only Live Twice”
“Nobody Does It Better”