With Monday’s release of the teaser trailer for Skyfall, the twenty-third entry in the official James Bond franchise, the movie world was once again set abuzz with chatter about the long-delayed film. Skyfall is only the third film to feature Daniel Craig as the infamous womanising, martini-swilling* MI6 agent, with a wit as dangerous as his Walther PPK. The reason for the four-year gap between Skyfall and 2008’s Quantum of Solace was due to Bond film distributor MGM’s filing for bankruptcy and subsequent restructuring in 2010.
We already know the cast of the film, along with the basic plot and the film score composer, but the question still remains: Who will sing the title theme for Skyfall? Many Bond title themes are still considered classic songs in their own right. “Live and Let Die”, by Paul McCartney & Wings, immediately comes to mind.
Adele has been talked about as a strong contender for the performer of the Skyfall title theme. Indeed, in a Sept. 3, 2011 Jonathan Ross interview, the Cockney-inflected singer strongly hinted that she was recording the next Bond title song:
ADELE: I haven’t written a song since— I think the last song I wrote on 21 was “Don’t You Remember”. I haven’t written a song since then.
ROSS: Why not?
ADELE: I’m going back in the studio in November. Fingers crossed.
ROSS: Oh, so you have to have to get the material ready before then, though. You can’t just go in—
ADELE: Well, this is actually a theme. What I’ve got to do for, um… Wow, that’s really giving something away, isn’t it?
ROSS: A theme!
ADELE: Um, I need to, um… avoid this. It’s got to…
ROSS: (Humming the “James Bond Theme”)
ADELE: (Bursts out laughing, with audience) No. And so, it’s something I’ve got going on here, you know, a concept.
ROSS: Oh, wow. A concept album?
ADELE: No! It’s one song. (Laughs)
ADELE: (Staccato laugh) No!
Additionally, there are three important factors working in Adele’s favour:
- Adele is nostalgic, yet popular. Adele is arguably the hottest commodity in the world of popular music right now. She swept all six categories in which she was nominated at this year’s Grammy awards, tying the record number of awards won by a female artist, and her latest album, 21, has sold over 20 million copies worldwide. At the same time, Adele’s success is not due to her playing into the cultural zeitgeist but rather, due to her throwback appeal to classic blue-eyed soul singers. Given that Skyfall is premiering a full half-century after the release of the first Bond film, Dr. No, it would stand to reason that the film would feature a singer who would evoke memories of past title theme performers, such as Shirley Bassey, whose Bond title song, “Goldfinger”, is also a classic in its own right. By having Adele sing the next Bond title theme, Skyfall will have a song to its name that will stand the test of time, rather than sound dated in a decade.
- Adele is female. Of the 19 Bond films with sung title themes (1962’s Dr. No, 1963’s From Russia with Love and 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service being the exceptions), 12 have been sung by female soloists. This does not automatically disqualify men from the running to sing Skyfall’s theme, but it does stack the odds heavily in favour of a woman, especially since the previous two Bond films, both in the Craig era, featured a male solo and a male-female duet, respectively. Again, Adele is by far the most popular female music artist right now. This is not to say that there is a sort of female-majority affirmative action policy that needs enforcing, but it does tip the scales further in her direction.
- Adele is British. Despite being a UK creation, recent 007 outings have featured almost entirely American-sung title themes. (And no, Madge, with your positively ghastly faux-English accent, you do not count as a British subject.) The last Bond film to utilise British talent for its title theme was 1985’s A View to a Kill, whose song was performed by Duran Duran. (To be fair, 1999’s The World is Not Enough featured Garbage, whose lead singer, Shirley Manson, is Scottish. Still, the band is primarily considered an American group.) This is admittedly one of the least important factors in picking Skyfall’s theme artist, but it is rather poignant that for nearly three decades, no Bond film has had a British artist or band perform its title theme. As Bond celebrates his golden jubilee, one might consider it appropriate to honour the series’ roots by having the most successful British recording artist — who, currently, just so happens to be one of, if not the, most successful recording artists worldwide — perform his newest movie’s title theme.
The direction in which Adele might take the Bond theme is far from certain. If she were to take the bluesy route, she would have to be careful not to come too close to the R&B/soul sound of Quantum of Solace’s “Another Way to Die”. Two stand-out examples of past Bond themes which come to mind are Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better”, for 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, perhaps the best of the Roger Moore Bond films, and 1989’s “Licence to Kill”, sung by Gladys Knight.
The former is noteworthy insofar as it is a power ballad, whereas most Bond themes are more upbeat. Given that what little of Skyfall’s plot has been revealed appears to be quite dark, it might be inappropriate for the next theme to be a rock or pop song. The latter would be a more conventional model for an Adele song. Knight’s soulful, impassioned delivery could provide inspiration for Skyfall. Conventional or not, an Adele-backed Bond theme would surely soar to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, a feat only achieved by one other Bond theme, “A View to a Kill”.
In a year in which we have lost the great musical talents of both Whitney Houston and Donna Summer, we are fortunate to have young blood like Adele continuing to produce hit after hit. For your humble blogger’s part, here’s hoping it’s Adele or, at least, someone like her.
*Heineken shenanigans notwithstanding.
So, what do you think, readers? Does my choice of Adele leave you shaken, stirred or indifferent? Is there any other artist or band who you feel is most deserving to sing the title theme for Skyfall? Sound off in the comments below!