Billie Eilish: No Time to Die review a Bond theme befitting the Craig era

The pop sensation sidelines her trademarks for a tasteful track that matches the haunted solitude of its leading man

James Bond was a bit of a mouldy fig when it came to music. There werent many things worse, he opined in Goldfinger, than listening to the Beatles without earmuffs. The Beatles had the last laugh 007 presumably had to reach for hearing protection when Paul McCartney was commissioned to write the theme song for Live and Let Die but for years, the Bond themes pandered to their heros tastes, invariably coming from artists who were more likely to be found playing the Talk of the Town than the Marquee club.

That changed dramatically in the 80s. The more anachronistic the character of Bond became, the more the producers attempted to appeal to a younger audience through music. In recent years, theyve tried everything from grunge (the late Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell) to Madonna to an awkward duet between Jack White and Alicia Keys. But even so, commissioning Billie Eilish seems striking: it tells you as much about the 18-year-olds ascent to the kind of artist your grandparents have heard of as it does the Bond franchises desire to appear hip.

Billie Eilish: No Time to Die audio

Like her cover of Yesterday at the Oscars ceremony, No Time to Die sees Eilish taking a respectful approach. Theres a sense that this may all be part of a concerted effort to broaden her appeal to more mature audiences. Its a moot point whether such an effort is really necessary her multi-platinum debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? won praise from quarters that dont ordinarily take much interest in music that appeals to teenage girls but either way, the glitchy electronics of that record have vanished here, replaced by tasteful orchestration and nods to Bond tunes past.

Artwork for No Time To Die. Photograph: PR handout

Theres a vague hint of the opening of Diamonds Are Forever about the intro, an interpolation from Monty Normans James Bond theme and a guitar part that carries a distinct echo of Vic Flicks iconic twang. Yet Eilish has stamped her own identity on the song. The tendency for vocalists tackling a Bond theme is to belt it out, as if in homage to the most famous Bond singer of the lot: Shirley Bassey is known for many things, but subtle understatement isnt among them. Eilish, however, opts for her standard close-mic approach in which surliness does battle with vulnerability.

It fits what shes singing. The days when the lyrics of Bond themes invariably came laden with woeful double-entendres pertaining to the heros sexual prowess are long gone. (It reached a deranged pinnacle on 1974s The Man With the Golden Gun, which required Lulu to note he has a powerful weapon before wondering, Who will he bang?) More recently, the lyrics of Bond themes have occasionally tended to the baffling the question of what on earth Adele is rattling on about hangs heavy over the otherwise great Skyfall.

No Time to Die, however, smartly refracts the Daniel Craig depiction of Bond dark, solitary and tormented beneath the cool exterior through Eilishs signature brand of teen angst: I should have known Id leave alone it just goes to show that the blood you bleed is just the blood you own. What 007 himself would make of it is an intriguing question, but No Time to Die is a confident, appealing addition to the Bond theme canon.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/feb/14/billie-eilish-no-time-to-die-review-bond-theme

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