“Another Way to Die,” the Jack White/Alicia Keys duet theme for the brand new James Bond film, Quantum of Solace (out this Friday), has yet to set our ears ablaze, but these five odes to 007 have certainly earned a license to kill. Of note: The newest track included below is 1985’s “A View to a Kill,” by Duran Duran. So while the Jack & Alicia pairing, at least conceptually, is a crafty one, it wouldn’t hurt James Bond’s musical stewards to brush up on these classics the next time they aim for a No. 1 chart-topper for Her Majesty’s No. 1 spy.
No. 5: Carly Simon, “Nobody Does It Better”
You know a Bond theme is massive when it’s better known on its own merits, and such was the case with this song, the theme to 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. Grammy-nominated, the slinky slice of ’70s pop was only eclipsed in Simon’s career by “You’re So Vain.”
No. 4: Nancy Sinatra, “You Only Live Twice”
Younger audiences know Nancy Sinatra from her icy number “Bang Bang,” which featured prominently in Kill Bill, and from her guest spot on one of the final episodes of The Sopranos. But this turn in 1967’s Bond film of the same name embodies the lush, orchestral early years of the 007 franchise, with credit owed mostly to composer John Barry.
No. 3: Duran Duran, “A View to a Kill”
With a villain (the inimitable Christopher Walken) dabbling in early forms of cyberterrorism and a henchwoman played by ’80s style icon Grace Jones, this 1985 film merited a sharp turn into the electronic age, and synth-poppers Duran Duran delivered a gem. Its electronically-produced blasts of brass nodded to Bond’s musical heritage, and its chorus, yelped by Simon LeBon, coerced us all to “Dance into the fire.”
No. 2: Shirley Bassey, “Goldfinger”
It’s no shock that the best Bond film ever also possesses one of the series’ best theme songs, sung by Dame Shirley Bassey, the only vocalist to handle more than one Bond theme. Sadly, Bond babe Jill Masterson wasn’t paying attention in the opening credits when Bassey warned pretty girls to beware of Goldfinger’s heart of gold: She ends up dead in a Miami hotel, suffocated by a full-body coat of golden paint.
No 1: Wings, “Live and Let Die”
The top Bond theme comes from one of the worst Bond movies. Produced by legendary Beatles studio whiz George Martin, “Live and Let Die” seems entirely devoid of Bond influence and simply tacked onto the film; its lyrics have nothing to do with the plot, unlike most of the other themes referenced here. But the reconfiguration of the song’s off-kilter bridge, full of piercing flute notes, for the film’s multitude of chase scenes was a sheer stroke of genius.