The James Bond franchise has finally unveiled the artist to sing the theme of the forthcoming new instalment Skyfall.
The choice of the UK soul singer Adele was not really a surprise, as a grandiose and sultry set of pipes is one of the many prerequisites for the job.
But one wonders how Adele, who normally works with a small songwriting team, reacted to the barrage of music and film producers all chiming in with their own “important” suggestions.
This committee-like approach to creating James Bond theme songs has resulted in a chequered history for the franchise and there are enough candidates released over the years to fill separate greatest hits and duds compilations.
While releasing any pop song to the public is a gamble, a marathon listening session of Bond themes reveals reasons behind the hits and misses.
Recently, a BBC poll revealed the top 10 Bond tunes voted by listeners.
The big debate centred on Paul McCartney and Wings hitting the top spot with 1973’s Live and Let Die while 1964’s Goldfinger by Shirley Bassey came a surprising third.
While the second-place song Nobody Does it Better by Carly Simon (1977) is indeed great, the aforementioned epitomise the magic that happens when the franchise gets the decision right.
Live and Let Die was a watershed for the series in both film and music.
The film represented the first post-Sean Connery 007, with Roger Moore taking over. Producers required a big musical statement to go with the shake-up on screen.
The crooners, torch singers and spa-funk sounds were ditched for what remains its brawniest theme yet.
The songs possessed all the character traits embodying 007: the character’s cool demeanour is displayed in the gentle opening verse while the change to pummelling rock is in line with Bond’s whiplash killer instinct.
Bassey’s Goldfinger is the best example of the old-school song formula. Her wide vocal range and the brass-driven production, like Bond, marry class with decadence.
While the past two decades have not been anything to brag about in the song stakes, Garbage’s 1999 rendition of The World Is Not Enough stands out.
Where previous female singers often resembled the on-screen females swooning over Bond, the lead singer Shirley Manson was the femme fatal.
There are different reasons behind the failure of the franchise’s musical clunkers.
After Live and Let Die, the producers’ decision to return to a safer pop sound with Lulu’s The Man with the Golden Gun (1975) irked rather than comforted. The Living Daylights (1987) by a-ha crashes due to its woefully dated 1980s production. Meanwhile, the hip collaboration of Jack White and Alicia Keys in 2008’s Quantum of Solace warranted only a resounding “meh”.
With less than a month to go until Skyfall’s premiere, perhaps Adele can rescue the franchise’s dipping musical reputation.
Saeed Saeed is a reporter for The National’s Arts&Life