Over the years, Bond has tried most possible formulas when it comes to the franchise’s theme song. Garbage went slinking and grungy with the excellent ‘The World is Not Enough’. Carly Simon’s ‘Nobody Does It Better’ (the best Bond theme song of all, and we all know it) delivered on the whopping power ballad front. Lulu hauled out the Carry On… innuendos on ‘The Man With the Golden Gun’. And Madonna, who was clearly on a spy film soundtrack kick as the noughties came around (see also: her Austin Powers effort ‘Beautiful Stranger’ from 1999) channelled chaotic robotics, husking nonsensical slogans like “Sigmund Freud… analyse this” atop warped quasi-techno.
In 2020, meanwhile, the franchise’s relevance feels increasingly uncertain: this is a series that, in the past, relied heavily on token Bond Girls and misogynist undertones. In more recent films, Daniel Craig’s portrayal of MI6’s most irresponsible operative has attempted to move away from those tired tropes, with varying levels of success. The decision to enlist Billie Eilish this time around – one of the most exciting young artists in the world – is a deliberate contemporary move.
Leaving behind the majority of her musical hallmarks, and adhering to the tried-and-tested Bond trajectory instead – sulking twangs of film-noir guitar, dramatically humming strings – ’No Time To Die‘ takes an understated approach. Rather than throwing itself across the rooftops in an all-guns-blazing bout of action movie parkour, Billie Eilish’s spy theme loiters in the shadows, armed with a silenced pistol and a steely gaze.
Majority of the bombast ends up coming from Billie Eilish herself. Usually, her vocal centres around sinister, whispery menace: punctuated by an exquisitely deployed “duh!” on Bad Guy’ or the or bursts of stuttering vocal layering. ‘No Time To Die’ is different – as the strings spiral upwards, Eilish fully belts it out, singing of deceit, entrapment and lies: “Are you death or paradise?”
Taking the understated road means that ‘No Time To Die’ is unlikely to be remembered as a top tier Bond theme in years to come; you also can’t help but wonder how an alternate version – channelling all of the artist’s unmistakable Eilish-isms – may have sounded. But regarded at face value, this is a solid effort that taps into Daniel Craig’s stealthy, solitary Bond with precision.