With the recent release of “Skyfall”, the new James Bond theme song from Adele, there’s been quite a bit of talk about a return to the “classic” Bond sound after efforts from rockers Chris Cornell (Casino Royale‘s “You Know My Name”) and Jack White (Quantum of Solace’s “Another Way To Die”, with Alicia Keys). First of all – “You Know My Name” is a fantastic tune and one of the best Bond themes ever. Secondly – we’re leaving Madonna, Garbage and Sheryl Crow out of this? Come on, now. Let’s not be so selective. (Also – Garbage did a James Bond theme? What the hell was going on in 1999?)
So yes, if you want to go by the so-called “classic” sound, with the orchestra and the soaring vocals and the whole shebang, Adele might be the best current artist to do it. She just won somewhere between six and 127 Grammys (why aren’t these called “Grammies”?) and has the greatest voice of anyone alive, save for Will Ferrell’s character in Step Brothers.
Anyway, here’s Adele, coming to deliver an elegant, powerful theme song over what looks to be a very promising entry in the James Bond series. Does she succeed? Mostly, yes.
“Skyfall” opens with an orchestral flourish followed by a powerfully quiet and haunting piano, with some appropriately eerie lyrics. “This is the end/hold your breath and count to ten” starts the song, perhaps warning us that ol’ Jimmy Bond isn’t going to get off easy in this entry. It’s a promising start, and Adele obviously sounds great, because she’s A Freaking Dele. (That doesn’t really work with one-named people, does it?) There’s a soft buildup to the chorus here, which works great and prepares you for a mammoth moment.
And then it…doesn’t really happen. The chorus is a little bit boring, musically and lyrically. The orchestra comes in with less of a crashing sound than you might think and the exact basic arrangements you would imagine. And the lyrics – “Let the sky fall/When it crumbles/We will stand tall/Face it all together” – sound like they were conceived and delivered in one five-minute recording session. I understand this is a James Bond song, and we’re not getting Bob Dylan, but I’m pretty sure the artist behind 742 Grammyieys can come up with something better than this.
Things get better, musically and vocally, in the next verse. Then the backup singers, or just a stream of pre-recorded Adeles, kick in for the next verse, and the orchestra incorporates the classic Bond theme to grand effect. It’s a bit of a bold statement to put the Bond theme in your song, and the orchestra pulls it off nicely here.
All in all, this is a rather solid return to form for the Bond series after “Another Way To Die”, a nice instrumental that was lyrically atrocious, with a combination that just didn’t work. In a way, “Skyfall” reminds me of Green Day’s latest album, ¡Uno!. Both works are solid and easily listenable, though not much of a risk for their respective artists. In short, they sound like the kind of disposably entertaining stuff that Adele and Green Day could churn out in their sleep.
…that being said, Green Day doesn’t have an orchestra. So Adele gets the one-grand bump.