Movie Music

Is Adele's "Skyfall" the Worst Bond Theme of All Time?

Fifty years after the release of the very first Hollywood adaptation of Ian Fleming's superspy, James Bond returns to make his 23rd appearance on the silver screen this month in Skyfall, Daniel Craig's third crack at the character. The media blitz for the film's premiere is already in full effect, led by the release of Adele's new Bond theme song, the sensibly titled "Skyfall."

While the new movie's success has yet to be determined, the theme has all the making of a hit. With Adele in the midst of a self-imposed hiatus from music as she carries her first child to term, pretty much anything the "Rolling In the Deep" singer puts out right now is going to be snatched up greedily by her fans. Expect it to make a big splash on the charts. Just don't expect a masterpiece.

Sure, Adele has won the hearts of millions worldwide with her bold, rich tone, but "Skyfall" diminishes her somehow. Falling well short of sultry, her soft cooing on the track threatens to disappear into the lush arrangement instead of blasting it into the stratosphere where it belongs. Chart-topper or no, this one ain't likely to appear at the top of any Bond best-of lists anytime soon.

But is it bad enough to rank among the worst?

Not a chance. "Skyfall" may underwhelm given its singer's superstar status, but it's more inoffensive than abominable. In 23 tries, the Bond franchise has produced some truly wretched themes that make even hardcore fans wince. To put Adele's effort properly in perspective, we suggest you suffer through the following soundtrack bombs best forgotten. They're the (double-oh) seven worst Bond theme songs of all time.

007. Tom Jones, "Thunderball"

Asking noted lounge lothario Tom Jones to adopt a sexy spy persona on the soundtrack for "Thunderball" probably seemed like a good idea on paper. In truth, however, the theme was a rush job written by longtime Bond composer John Barry after his original song was rejected by the studio.

The track is studded with familiar Bond-theme motifs, but Jones' throaty croon edges closer to a goofy parody of Sean Connery's charming killer than a sexy tribute. A homoerotic love song from Tom Jones to 007 might have become a camp classic, but instead it's a flat-out dud. The worst part is that a theme written by Johnny Cash was also submitted, but ultimately rejected. I'd bet there's little chance it was as bad as this.

006. Gladys Knight, "Licence to Kill"

If it weren't plastered right into the underrated Timothy Dalton's second Bond film, there would be no telling that "License to Kill" was a Bond theme song at all. The track's extremely dated '80s production work is immediately off-putting, with Gladys Knight's voice struggling not to be drowned out by what must be the biggest, boomiest drums ever constructed.

The basic problem here is that this song does not sound like anything that belongs in a Bond film. Instead, it's a fairly generic '80s dance-floor ballad whose chief attribute is that it's among the series' shortest.

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Nathan Smith
Contact: Nathan Smith