Saturday, 17 May 2014

Bond songs in search of Bond films

When Austrian drag-artist Conchita Wurst won the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest last week with 'Rise Like a Pheonix, I tweeted, “The Bond song won it.” Looking at the response on Twitter, it seems I wasn't the only one who thought her entry sounded Bondian. Stephe Meloy said, “Welcome home Ms Bond”, while Pop Topoi asked, “Would you like to be the next Bond girl?” Kevin Brennan MP thought that, “They should sign her up to sing the next Bond theme,” and BBC One tweeted, “Conchita Wurst for the next James Bond theme! She has a licence to thrill.” There were many more tweets expressing a similar sentiment.

Conchita's song has the hallmarks of a classic Bond song. It's majestic, bold, orchestral, and dramatic – the same qualities that characterise other Bond themes, particularly Adele's 'Skyfall', but including 'Surrender', by k d lang, and all three of Shirley Bassey's songs ('Diamonds Are Forever', 'Moonraker', and the genre-defining 'Goldfinger').

The 'Bassey-esque' number isn't the only model for writers penning songs to accompany the titles to Bond films. Rockier-sounding tunes, among them 'Live and Let Die' (Paul McCartney), 'A View To A Kill' (Duran Duran), and 'You Know My Name' (Chris Cornell), offer another important type of Bond song. As with dramatic ballads, the type is well established as a model for Bond music, as is evident from a press release by US rockers Colourmusic, whose latest album, May You Marry Rich, contains several tracks which the band describes as their 'James Bond songs'. The video for one of the tracks, 'Horse Race' (below), was also Bond-inspired.

That many people recognised elements or memes of Bond songs in Conchita's winning Eurovision entry is a measure of the extent to which the Bond sound has escaped the films and become established as a genre and cultural phenomenon in its own right. Indeed, it could be argued that Bond songs can exist even without the Bond films to go with them.

3 comments:

  1. Great article. I agree that Conchita Wurst should do the next Bond song. God knows it's a better idea than letting Madonna loose on one.
    And musically, Massive Attack's "Unfinished Sympathy" always seemed to me to have the hallmarks of a Bond song. If you can separate Shari Nelson's brilliant vocals from it, you are left with a great spy thriller tune.

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    1. Glad you like the article! A Conchita Bond song would certainly be interesting. Great Adele/Bassey-like voice. I'm in two minds about Madonna's effort, though. It plays all right over the titles in DAD, but is virtually impossible to listen to on its own. I think you're right about Massive Attack. I can just see the titles that might have accompanied it.

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    2. Actually, yes, you're right about DAD. Works during the credits, but nowhere else.

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