Friday, October 9, 2020

Green Phoenix - Songs That Sound Like Bond Themes

I have now reviewed two James Bond films and one of the elements that I haven't quite been able to speak on, but am deeply excited to explore once we reach it in the third film in the series Goldfinger is the theme songs.

The unique theme songs have always been an iconic element of the franchise and the first and best way to distinguish one movie from another. It is so essential to the James Bond franchise that more often than not, the first thing asked when a new Bond film is announced after who is playing Bond is usually who is performing the opening theme.

Given that the James Bond series is such a cultural touchstone and the music is tied so definitively into that identity, it should come as no surprise that other musicians will often draw inspiration from the iconic sounds of the Bond franchise in their own songs. This is what I mean when I talk about a song that sounds like a "Bond theme". That unique mix of eroticism and action that is distinctly Bond is what I am searching for in this list of songs that, to my ear, sound so much like the themes to James Bond films.
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COUNTDOWN RULES

  1. This list is about songs that sound like Bond themes, not Bond themes themselves. As such, Bond themes will obviously not be included.
  2. My selection will not include 8 selections as is normal for my countdowns, rather it will cover 5 songs that I just felt like highlighting and talking briefly about.
  3. Any medium is welcome, animation, live action films, or maybe even just pure musical pieces without any associated film, show, or video game. That being said, I did try to include a selection from a variety of sources.

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COUNTDOWN

1. Rise Like a Phoenix (Conchita Wurst - Eurovision 2014)

 
When I was first considering this list, it was this song by Conchita Wurst that really brought my attention to this topic as a review. And the idea that Rise Like a Phoenix, Austria's 2014 Eurovision song entry, sounds like the theme to a modern Bond movie like Skyfall is not a new opinion.

In fact, it is actually the most common comment on just about every video of the song. And for good reason as the song is very clearly inspired by the same heroic and emotional beats. The song is an anthem of triumph over adversity and a song about the pride in one's own nature and ability. When mixed with the strong undertones of smooth jazz and heavy brass that characterizes so much of the "Bond sound", Rise Like a Phoenix has become the clear frontrunner for anyone making their own intro for a "fandom Bond film", which has happened quite a few times.

2. Love Dramatic (Kaguya-Sama: Love is War)


I have spoken on Kaguya-Sama: Love is War several times before on this channel and the intro sequence for the first season is defintely what drew me into the series and that is in large part because of its heavy connections to that "James Bond" sound. In fact, the entire intro seems to be deeply inspired by the 1960s era James Bond films.

While not entirely in the same vein, as the song is a bit more uplifting then your standard Bond theme, the overall tone and feel defintely captures a similar spirit. This actually matches the tone that the chracters attempt to emulate with a sort of suave sophistication and smooth intelligence solving their problems, which naturally comes into conflict with their youthful ignorance and teenage angst to create the immensely enjoyable comedy that is Kaguya-Sama: Love is War.

And that job of creating a juxtaposition of tone for comedic effect begins with this very fun and action-packed intro sequence and song.

3. Snake Eater (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater)

Let's be completely honest.

Anyone with even a smattering of understanding of the Metal Gear universe knew that this song was going to be here. I knew it. You knew it. Very likely, we all knew it.
 
I don't even really have to go into all that much detail since this is less of a song that sounds like a Bond theme and essentially Kojima's loving tribute to the entire concept of the 1960s Bond film.

Honestly, this song and intro would be able to go ahead of a James Bond movie and you might not even be able to tell that it doesn't belong. Which of course means that it fits our criteria for a certain, but I think that Snake Eater actually goes beyond that.

This isn't someone taking inspiration from Bond, but rather using the iconography of the Bond franchise to further the narrative focus of their own secret agent story. It really was inspired of Kojima to try this out and since it has long gone down as one of the best intros in the entire franchise, it very clearly worked.

4. Supremacy (Muse)

 This song honestly surprised me when I first heard it. At first, it sounded more like a generic action movie opening. Cool, but I didn't initially pick up on that unique tone that really gives the Bond themes their identity. But then I realized that I was listening for the wrong era of Bond themes.
 
You see, Bond themes have actually changed very slightly over the years, oftentimes matching the overall tone of not only the Bond actors but of the films of that era. Connery-era films are very 1960s and suave, with a unique worldly feel to them. Lazenby was a one-off so he really didn't get a "unique" feel beyond the surreal trippy nonsense that was the entirety On Her Majesty's Secret Service. The Moore-era was much like the actor, a sophisticated goob with a slightly good-humored self-awareness. But then you get into the 80s and 90s Bonds, Dalton and Brosnan.

These were the action Bond's. The ones where Eon Productions tried to experiment with the franchise and go for a tone that might fit more with the gritty realism that 80s action was so attached to, Dalton much more than Brosnan (Brosnan really returned to the slightly campy tone but he was also the Post-Cold War Bond, so the changing politics forced a more rock and pop-oriented Bond to take center stage).
 
And it is in this mindset that I needed to look. Unfortunately due to the popularity of Connery-era films and sheer number of Moore-era films, these two eras tend to dominate the collective consciousness.

Listening to Supremacy by MUSE, I was immediately struck by a similar sadness that tends to be evoked in the more modern Bond. As the decades have worn on, the Bond of the last 30 years has tended to be much more emotionally compromised and this has allowed the accompanying themes of his movies to become more nuanced as well. Being a secret agent in the modern age, in the post-Cold War isn't all that romantic and things are often less black and white. This leads to kind of struggle that really matches Supremacy and is the reason why many comments on the YouTube video for the song include lines like, "This should've been the intro to [insert Bond film here]."
 

5. Ashes (Deadpool 2)

For our last entry on this article, mostly because I ran out of time and options on the top of my head, we switch things up a little bit.

Where Kaguya-Sama: Love is War seems to be an homage to the Bond themes and Snake Eater is a direct creation meant to draw direct comparisons on both a musical and visual level, Ashes from the opening of Deadpool 2 seems to be a genuine parody, and a really high quality one (as is befitting Marvel's most amazing troll).

Watching that intro sequence has scenes taken almost directly from Goldeneye or Skyfall and the fact that Ryan Reynolds got Celine Dion to play along with the joke is honestly just seven kinds of spectacular. The song is really well done on its own, even if I think Dion could stand to enunciate her words a little more clearly. But I think that this really captures the inherent isolation and sorrow of the modern era Bond's like Skyfall or Spectre, but uses that seriousness to play up peak comedy in Deadpool's second cinematic outing (well his true second cinematic outing, X-Men: Origins Wolverine will never count).

This song is just a genuine blast and the perfect song to end our "countdown" on.
 
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CONCLUSION

I realize that this article was very different from my usual fair. I must admit that I have long wanted to show off and talk about some of my favorite songs and how they are attached to one of my favorite film franchises. But upon writing this article, I realized that so very few songs actually capture that spirit of Bond-ness as it were that my normal Top 8 just wouldn't pan out.

But I still wanted to talk about it all so here are. It was honestly quite liberating to lightly cover a number of different semi-related topics back-to-back without trying to list out 8 unique examples. So perhaps in the future, I might very well release more freeform countdowns, just to add more variety to my articles.

Until next time, I hope you all stay safe out there. I will be back next week with a look at my favorite film in the Tom Clancy film franchise.

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