4. “Live and Let Die”
From Live and Let Die; Performed by Paul McCartney and Wings
Hell yeah. It may be silly, stupid, and completely meaningless, but you don’t hire Paul McCartney and Wings to create great poetic masterpieces. McCartney is the king of catchy, frivolous pop, and “Live and Let Die” is one of his finest non-Beatles compositions, a ridiculously fun piece that still lights up arenas in concert. I like the song so much that I am willing to overlook how proportionately disappointing the visuals are. The design – African American woman projected over fire and skulls – certainly isn’t bad, but it doesn’t have the same energy as the song itself, which is a shame. No matter. The song is awesome, and that’s enough for me.
3. “You Only Live Twice”
From You Only Live Twice; Performed by Nancy Sinatra
“You only live twice, or so it seems / One life for yourself and one for your dreams.”
How cool are those lyrics? “You Only Live Twice” certainly has the most poetic, gorgeous writing of any Bond song, so much so that AMC’s Mad Men actually used the piece in their latest season finale. Nancy Sinatra’s performance is absolutely rapturous, and the use of a string orchestra and Japanese instrumentation gives it an extremely unique flavor. It’s simply a tremendous song, James Bond or no, and the incredible visuals kick it to the next level. Comprised of natural volcanic vistas, lava, Japanese women, and crossfades aplenty, there’s a remarkable sense of atmosphere to the sequence. As hellfire reigns down over beautiful, mysterious women, we get a sense of true, undeniable danger, the exact sort of tone a good Bond film should establish at the outset. You Only Live Twice is a very good Bond film, of course, and this sequence is the perfect starting point.
2. “You Know My Name”
From Casino Royale; Performed by Chris Cornell
Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name” is my personal favorite song in the James Bond canon. For one, it plays very strongly to my personal tastes – rock n’ roll is my favorite genre, and Cornell knows exactly how to put a good rock song together – and lyrically reflects my preferred interpretation of Bond: As a hardened military gun, ready to kill or be killed at any second, just as Ian Fleming originally wrote him. Casino Royale was all about bring Bond back to his literary roots, and “You Know My Name” is like the film’s thesis statement. It establishes not only who Bond is in base form, but who he may grow to be as he experiences true love for the first time. I wish more Bond songs dealt directly with the psyche of the character, but until that becomes the norm, I will just have to make do with this song, which is just fine by me. It’s spectacular.
That being said, I don’t think the visuals are quite up to snuff with the song itself. They’re fantastic, don’t get me wrong – I love how the familiar concept of silhouettes is used to demonstrate Bond’s violence, or how Daniel Craig walks forth from the animation at the very end – but the imagery doesn’t inspire the same passion as the music, at least not to the degree my number one pick achieves. Nevertheless, there’s no doubt in my mind this is the franchise’s second best title sequence, and part of why I hold Casino Royale in such high regard.
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