Friday, November 9, 2012

7 Days 'Til 007: "Skyfall"

The name's McQueen. Steve McQueen.
Each weekday since November 1, I've posted a few grafs about an exemplary vocal theme or instrumental piece from the official 007 movies to count down to today's release of Skyfall in America. The series of posts concludes today with the newest 007 opening title theme, Adele's "Skyfall."

Alright, so it's not the greatest Bond theme, but it's the latest. It's also a solid addition to the Bond music catalog and a good Adele song outside the context of Bond ("Skyfall" has already been covered on YouTube by singers like Willow Smith, who doesn't whip her hair back and forth in her version, but she does a decent job covering it).

Sure, as Julian Sancton wrote in a fascinating Movieline piece where he dissected the Adele theme musicologically and pointed out how it upholds John Barry's classic sound, "Skyfall" isn't as hummable as "Rolling in the Deep." But it's classic Bond music, from the first Barry-style horn blast to Adele's last phrasing of the song title, which echoes what Tina Turner did at the conclusion of "GoldenEye" and what Tom Jones did at the conclusion of "Thunderball." Except Adele didn't pass out like Jones did in the recording booth after hitting a final note that's Tom Jones-ese for "Hand over the panties, honey, because no other bloke can hit a note as high as this."

I'm looking forward to Adele's pregnancy-themed sequel to 'Skyfall,' 'Waterbroke.'
Sancton's analysis of "Skyfall" is so good I want to plagiarize it. This post should just be nothing but excerpts from his essay. The best part is his swipe at Sheena Easton and Bill Conti's "For Your Eyes Only," a tune I don't hate (who can resist a hot Scottish chick singing a Bond song and singing it well?), although it lacks the swagger of "Diamonds Are Forever" and "A View to a Kill" and the brash lyrics that make The Spy Who Loved Me's "Nobody Does It Better" an enjoyable ballad. Sancton compares the Easton ballad to an '80s sitcom theme song, which is funny because its lyrics were written by Michael Leeson, the co-creator of The Cosby Show, I Married Dora and The Bill Engvall Show.

"Imagine it playing over Three's Company-style opening credits, with scenes of Bond walking into MI6's office and throwing his hat onto the coat rack while Ms. Moneypenny rolls her eyes and smiles," wrote Sancton.

But in "Skyfall," which Adele wrote with her regular producer Paul Epworth after they got to read the film's script, we're far from the world of Jack, Chrissy and Mr. Furley. The lyrics are apocalyptic ("Let the sky fall/When it crumbles") and the tone is suitably moody (but not slash-your-wrists moody) because the song accompanies a grim opening where, according to an early TotalFilm review, "James is shot... plunging from the roof of a moving train into Daniel Kleinman-designed titles filled with skulls, tombstones and other totems of death."

I haven't seen Skyfall yet, but I'm dying to, and that's partly because of the Adele song, which the singer recorded with a 77-piece orchestra at London's Abbey Road Studios ("When we recorded the strings, it was one of the proudest moments of my life," said Adele in a press release). We know a new Bond song is good when it whets our appetite for the new Bond film like "Skyfall" did. One of the ways that Epworth whetted our appetite was when he dove into Bond's musical arsenal and pulled out a crucial element that Madonna's much-maligned "Die Another Day" completely ignored.

"Peppered throughout the song are echoes of the original instrumental theme John Barry wrote for Dr. No, including the unmistakable four-note riff here played by the electric guitar 1 minute 50 seconds in," wrote Sancton.

Yep, Bond is back.

002. "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" by John Barry (1969)
003. "A View to a Kill" by Duran Duran (1985)
004. "Diamonds Are Forever" by Shirley Bassey (1971)
005. "Surrender" from Tomorrow Never Dies by k.d. lang (1997)
006. "Capsule in Space" from You Only Live Twice by John Barry (1967)
007. "007" from From Russia with Love by John Barry (1963)

Good thing Daniel Craig isn't wearing a fedora in his gunbarrel because these days, fedora = mega-douchey.
(Photo source: Wikipedia)


  1. Skyfall is an awesome song. It reminds me of the classic Bond films.

  2. Adele and Co. did a bang up job. Was AFOS Ep. WEB100 in rotation prior to Skyfall's release? Waxing nostalgic, I really miss the AFOS Episode WEBs.

    1. "Was AFOS Ep. WEB100 in rotation prior to Skyfall's release?"

      Yeah, on the weekend of International Bond Day.

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