The announcement that Billie Eilish was going to write a Bond song raised a few eyebrows. It didn’t seem the 18 year old firebrand had any real interest in the franchise, that she’d be out of her depth amid great names like Shirley Bassey, Tina Turner, Adele. Not to mention Lulu. It was a tall order.
Those fears are proven unfounded. ‘No Time To Die’ is a very worthy addition to the canon. It pays homage without sounding like a rip-off. But it lacks drama, and ends just as things start to get interesting.
Eilish’s intimate, close-to-mic ASMR style works surprisingly well. Her vocal fry gives this a smoky, sultry sort of sound that you may find suprising. She inhabits this – it isn’t an outfit she’s putting on for a laugh and some clout and then throwing out. She commits to the fatalism-melodrama of James Bond, and proves she belongs here.
The muted piano, subtle atmospherics and fuzzy synth tones are all very much Eilish hallmarks. However she does dip into the series accoutrements – dusty trumpet, swells of strings and a chorus that rises to an operatic swell. In the final seconds, we even get the bond chord played on guitar just to seal the deal.
The issue is none of this is very exciting. It lacks the sort of melodic hook that usually underpins these songs, at least the good ones. The call-and-response horns on ‘Goldfinger’ or ‘Goldeneye’, the gated drums on ‘A View To a Kill’, audacious riff on ‘Live & Let Die’ or classy piano figure in ‘Nobody Does It Better’. Nothing about this song really pops. You probably won’t be humming it, and when you sit down in the theatre in April to watch No Time To Die, you may have forgotten how this one goes.
This is a good Bond song, an admirable effort from Billie and her brother and producer Finneas – but it won’t be a classic. By the time the beat arrives and the chorus really reaches peak momentum, the song’s over. I’d expect this to inhabit the 18 – 15 position on any James Bond themes rundown.
We recently ranked the James Bond songs – you can read that here.