This morning, as we expected, we woke up to an announcement from the official 007 Twitter account:
A press release from the film's producers followed, with some interesting trivia and the usual subtle setting of expectations from Eon:
The theme song for SPECTRE will be performed by Sam Smith it was officially announced today. The track, ‘Writing’s On The Wall’, was co-written by Smith and fellow GRAMMY© Award winner Jimmy Napes and it’s the first James Bond theme song recorded by a British male solo artist since 1965.
Commenting on the announcement, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, the producers of SPECTRE, said, “Sam and Jimmy have written the most inspirational song for Spectre and with Sam’s extraordinary vocal performance, ‘Writing’s On The Wall’ will surely be considered one of the greatest Bond songs of all time.”
Smith said: “This is one of the highlights of my career. I am honoured to finally announce that I will be singing the next Bond theme song. I am so excited to be a part of this iconic British legacy and join an incredible line up of some of my biggest musical inspirations. I hope you all enjoy the song as much as I enjoyed making it.”
The song will debut and be available to purchase and stream on September 25.
A link tweeted out by Smith offers both vinyl and CD singles featuring the theme song and an instrumental version (which is interesting, if not telling in some way). At the moment it’s unclear if we’ll be able to hear the song before its announced September 25th debut. (I bet we will, though! Internet!) If it does go live today, we will update this space to include the song, as well as our impressions.
So the big news here is that the SPECTRE “title song” is not titled "Spectre." Bond nerds like me will tell you that’s not exactly a first; lots of 007 theme songs have a different name, or otherwise leave out the film’s title. The very first Bond film, 1962’s Dr. No, has a theme song - it’s that iconic "James Bond Theme" you know so well. In 1969, faced with incorporating “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” into a rhyming chorus, the filmmakers went with another (amazing) instrumental title track instead. (That film had a secondary theme song, “We Have All The Time In The World”, rendered by Louis Armstrong, that likewise leaves out the film’s unwieldy title.) Jump forward to 1983, and for reasons completely lost to the mists of time, Rita Coolidge’s theme song for Octopussy is not titled “Octopussy” and contains nowhere in its lyrics the word “octopussy.” Octopussy.
So it's certainly happened before. But how hard is "spectre" to fold into a song chorus? And what’s really wild about Smith’s Spectre theme being titled “Writing’s On The Wall” is that it means that Daniel Craig’s four films have among them only ONE theme song that shares its film’s title. Casino Royale’s “You Know My Name” has some casino imagery in it, and Jack White and Alicia Keys’ “Another Way To Die” from Quantum Of Solace has the word “solace” buried in the lyrics, but that it! 75% of Craig’s 007 theme songs jettison the title. Points for not going back to the Skyfall well and repeating what worked there, I guess?
As for Sam Smith himself, I saw all the usual complaints about the choice. Not cool or edgy enough, “the male Adele”, “why not Radiohead/Goldfrapp/Muse”, etc. All I can say is that Bond themes have, since 1963, embraced the mellow, non-threatening grooves of mom-pop, and there’s no reason to expect that to stop. Or to want it to! There have been some refreshingly outside the box choices over the years- Paul McCartney in 1973, Duran Duran in 1984, Chris Cornell in 2006, Jack White in 2008 - but the results have been, as illustrated, quite mixed. Some of the franchise’s best theme songs have come from middle of the road pop stars like Carly Simon and Sheena Easton (and Adele), and I’m pretty sure their discographies aren’t too well represented on the playlists of today’s complainers. I'm excited to hear Smith's take; I definitely don’t need the new Bond theme to spring from my record collection. As much as I’d like a Bond theme from Nick Cave or Morrissey, realistically that’s just not going to happen. And that's probably a good thing.