With his richly soulful voice and trophy cabinet stuffed with Brit and Grammy awards, Sam Smith seemed like a safe pair of hands for the new Bond song. As it turns out, he’s perhaps a bit too safe. ‘Writing’s On The Wall’, Smith’s song for 24th Bond film Spectre, is a solid track and unmistakably in thrall to the the tropes of the spy theme sound, but – unlike the film, we hope – not one that’s packed with surprises.
If we didn’t know that Disclosure were involved (they’re credited as producers alongside Jimmy Napes, who co-wrote the song with Smith), you’d never guess the Lawrence brothers had anything to do with it – this is a tasteful ballad, not a dance track. Initially, it sticks rigidly to the template of a classic Bond theme by mixing sweeping strings with gently melodramatic melodies, but after a promising pre-chorus (“If I risk it all/Could you break my fall?“), the big pay-off never really comes.
Smith’s vocals are flawless, but something about his muted delivery feels a bit too submissive for Bond compared to something like Adele’s Oscar-winning 2012 effort ‘Skyfall’. “For you I have to risk it all, ’cause the writing’s on the wall,” he sings on the chorus, sounding like a man resigned to his fate. It’s a bit like Bond being given a laser-spewing killer hovercraft by Q but using it to pop out to the shops. Shirley Bassey, you suspect, would tell him to pull himself together and give it some welly.