Quaran-Scenes: Kath Bloom’s “Come Here” in “Before Sunrise”
Just a series of scenes I’ve been thinking about while in self-quarantine.
The wonder of new attraction is restless, vacillating between excitement and awkwardness, especially when confined in small spaces. As verbally flexible as Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise is often thought of, even acrobatic in nature as Parisian Celine (Julie Delpy) and homegrown American boy Jesse (Ethan Hawke) roll from one subject of conversation to the other, their body language suggests more complexity regarding how the two feel about one another. It’s not the unidimensional, facile overblown love for one another, but rather something more searching, magnetic and strange, hopeful and winsome. Read the rest of this entry »
Dolan Out the Charm: What I’ve Been Writing
In a feeble effort to make this the one stop place for my writing, I’ve come here to update you on some of my stuffs.
Firstly, I’ve been writing a lot about my new favorite filmmaker Xavier Dolan of late.
Over at IndieWire’s /Bent Blog, I wrote about the roles of mothers in his films.
The pet preoccupation of young Quebecois filmmaker Xavier Dolan is not, at first glance, particularly interesting. Mothers. Alright, someone says, he has mommy issues. But the issue runs far deeper than writing it off so dismissively. For Dolan, as a queer filmmaker, uses his experience, position, and talent to explore mothers with atypical approaches. The divide between a mother and their queer child is also nothing particularly new, but, for at least I Killed My Mother and Laurence Anyways, his maternal characters transcend the roles given to them to become much more.
– All About His Mothers: The Role of Mothers in the Films of Xavier Dolan
Over at Movie Mezzanine, I examine obsessive love in Dolan’s Heartbeats via Dalida’s “Bang Bang” and The Knife’s “Pass This On”.
It’s intoxicating. It has the power to the make someone do things out of the ordinary. It augments and manipulates the experience of living. Deep infatuation. Few films are able to pin that experience so accurately as Xavier Dolan’s Heartbeats, a hyper stylistic, elegant piece of filmmaking about two friends who fall in “love” with the same guy. Dolan is able to articulate the spellbinding effect that infatuation has on the two characters through the use of two songs, “Bang Bang”, describing the competition between Francis and Marie, and “Pass This On”, depicting the obsessive nature of their infatuation. Carefully utilized in the film and played nearly consecutively, Dolan nails what it’s like to be obsessively enamored.
Love, Ostentatiously: The Obsessive Infatuation of “Bang Bang” and “Pass This On” in Heartbeats
And recently, I just had the fortune to see Dolan’s fourth film, Tom at the Farm. And I’m seeing it again this week, because that’s how I roll. And he’ll be there in person. (Yes, I realize I’m linking to a post that was already on this blog, but, I thought it made sense regardless.)
It’s hard to describe 25 year old Cannes Grand Jury Prize winner Xavier Dolan as anything but a wunderkind, even if you dislike his work. The rate of output, for one, is impressive, but the products themselves are astonishing. But what happens when an art house enfant terrible steps away from his comfort zone to deliver a straight (or, rather, queer) psychological thriller? Certainly one of the most outstanding, heart racing experiences I’ve had at the theater in ages.
I’ve also been doing other work, such as…
At IndieWire’s /Bent Blog, I watched queer romcoms and came up with the best and the worst.
Queer films often get ghettoized to a point where if you aren’t actively looking for them, you probably won’t see them in the spotlight, not unlike looking for an original cast recording of Company. You have your once in a while bursts of recognition, like Brokeback Mountain or Milk, but queer romantic comedies specifically almost never see the light of day outside of either your indie theater, your LGBT film festival, the Gay and Lesbian section on Netflix, or that unfortunate friend who actively decided to buy Were the World Mine on DVD. But why is it that way, beyond the obvious reasons of heteronormativity in mainstream media? So, I took it upon myself to plop onto my bed with my tub of ice cream, my stone cold bitch face, and my Netflix account to explore all that could technically qualify as a queer romantic comedy on Netflix, coming up with a personal 5 best, and a personal five worst.
Here are the Best 5 LGBT Romcoms on Netflix.
And here are the Worst LGBT Romcoms on Netflix
Will be back later to add more stuff I’ve written lately.
Listen to All My Sh*t: The Music of Spring Breakers
For all of its universality in portraying seemingly good people revealing their true nihilistic selves and behaving badly, Harmony Korine purposely focuses his debauchery filled new film Spring Breakers at contemporary youth, or what some people have labeled as “Millennials”. But he does this neither in the choice of Spring Break in general nor even choosing the nubile actresses themselves, but, most notably, in the choice of music. Korine is, like Tarantino (but perhaps less well known), good at choosing music, often to ironically tonally subvert a scene, or, in this case, an entire film. Korine’s choice to hire Cliff Martinez and Skrillex is telling, as well as their decision to include certain tracks and music in the film. All of these points to a focus on a particular group of people and how nasty they really are. Three tracks in particular perfectly illustrate the themes of the film and the personalities of the characters: Skrillex’s “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites”, Britney Spears’ “Everytime”, and Ellie Goulding’s “Lights”. The three tracks work not only as a representation and epitome of the generation that this film is directed at, but also as a distillation of the film itself.
The “Monsters” Within
It may be one thing to choose Cliff Martinez to score your film, whose nostalgia drenched Drive is one of the best soundtracks in recent memory, but it is entirely something else to also have Lord of the Bass Drop, dubstep mastermind Skrillex, to also be on board. So, while the film’s score oscillates between various transmutations of dubstep, electro-hip hop, and something a little ‘80s driven as well, it might be a little surprising at first to hear Skrillex’s most famous track begin the film. “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” is originally off of the DJ’s second EP of the same name, and its title alone suggests the characters. When you listen to the track however, the thematic elements of the title play in reverse, almost as they do in the film. Something sweeter and nice starts playing, sort of like an electronically produced candy land, with something sinister underneath. This is, of course, juxtaposed against images of teenagers “celebrating” in Florida. But that sense of unbelievable, too good t be true pureness in electronic sound suits the film’s four characters, played by Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and Rachel Korine.
When you just look at these four attractive actresses, you wrongly have the sense that they’re nice and sort of angelic. Their neon bathing suits, streaked hair, and distinctively feminine qualities are exemplified in the beginning notes of the track. Once you get deeper into the film and get to know the characters, the monsters are let loose. For, what is scarier to the general male that the concept of a woman being in control of her own agency, her own sexuality, and using that as a form of power? These “scary monsters” are scary from a popular cultural perspective, a society which undermines young women’s intelligence, their abilities to decide for themselves, and the fact that they can give any man a run for his money when it comes to toting a gun. The femininity of their “sprite-like” façade is subverted by Skrillex’s trademark “bass drop”, where you hear the screams of a young girl saying, “Yes, oh my gosh!” This is a shout of triumph, the girls perhaps being stunned by their own power and subsequent prowess. The progressive house tone that the song transitions to is intentionally cacophonous, thereby showing that the girls can be mean, but drawing the line at evil. Who are we really to classify these girls as monsters? Or are these the monsters we made ourselves by our reflexive oppression and objectifying? However, the song is able to transition back and forth between these two qualities: the sound of the Nice Sprites and the sound of the Scary Monsters. The girls themselves oscillate between being those sprites and monsters; between the immaturity of young girls and the maturity of grown women. These women are in control, in such a way that we, as an audience, cannot even fathom it.
Hit Me Baby “Everytime”
The centerpiece of the film and what is, by consensus, said to be the very best part, is the use of Britney Spears’ “Everytime”. I made a point in my review to make some comparisons to Britney Spears as a person and as a songstress, but “Everytime” is the kind of majestic scene that only one could ever hope to conceive, never mind execute flawlessly. Calum Marsh wrote a very good, very interesting article about how the song and the scene essentially prove that Spring Breakers isn’t a satire. I would go a step further and assert that, not only is the song not used ironically, but that it fits the relationship between the girls and James Franco’s Alien. The song originally appeared as a single off of the Princess of Pop’s fourth album In the Zone, and was allegedly written in response to ex-boyfriend Justin Timberlake’s hit single “Cry Me a River”. The song plaintively apologizes for all the harm and wrong that occurred in a relationship, where Spears’ persona basically “owns up” to most of those faults. Why is the song played at all? The remaining three girls, Hudgens, Benson, and Korine, ask Alien to play something inspiring and uplifting. Perhaps a little odd considering that the song is basically a breakup… but is it?
This is well into the film, and after the young women have asserted their power over Franco himself. So, now that the girls essentially have shifted the power hierarchy in their bizarre relationship, why not sing a breakup song? Or, rather, a “post-Breakup song”. The girls are saying goodbye to Franco, for they know, for all of their feminine power, they can supersede him in Florida and then return home as if nothing ever happened. That is what college spring break is all about: creating momentary relationships with people you don’t really know, creating a dynamic that doesn’t last, and then leaving it all behind. Not only that, but the song opens with the words “notice me”; by exerting this power, the girls are able to get people to notice them. Even Gucci Mane. It feels a little ironic and a little satirical, though, because of where the song is used and over what. In beautiful slow motion, “Everytime” is played over scenes of Franco’s gang assaulting people, pistol whipping them, while the girls are just as much a part of the action. Who the leader of this gang is becomes incredibly blurred. Even from an aesthetic point, the use of the song is transcendent and one of the film’s most dizzyingly beautiful moments. Like Korine said, it’s all about that haunting piano. It’s sinister yet innocent, and completely beautiful.
Turn On the “Lights”
The song that plays over the final the neon end credits is fitting to the film: Ellie Goulding’s “Lights”. Off of her album of the same name, Goulding’s ethereal vocals and equally bedazzling song production become sonic manifestations of the glowing and neon soaked cinematography. Deep in the rain and under the water, on the streets and as they drive, the lights shine representing the danger that so entices the girls. But, that danger is what they find alluring and safe. As Ellie Goulding said, she feels safe sleeping with the lights on. By that, the lights reveal things about the characters that they seem to come to understand towards the end of the film. Their Malickian voice over messages colliding with their Godardian rhetoric and a little bit of a sneer of insincerity are the result of this change.
From the 120 beat per second drum/bass line to the star studded eletronica (reminiscent of bounding lights and bouncing piano keys), “Lights” assaults the listener with dark thoughts and a boom that seems like a blast of darkness and then of light. The lights flicker, as they sometimes do in the film. However, here the lights don’t obfuscate. They may be blinding, they may be alluring, but they reveal desire, lust, and dreams. They offer safety and clarity. The importance of light is evident in the film, as lens flare, bright colors, and the lettering of the title are used to intoxicate the viewer and the characters. There is a small bit of irony here, though. Since the song is about feeling safety when the lights are on, this reveals the childish aspect of the four girls’. They may be fascinated by the lights, but they don’t want the dark. Again, as I mentioned earlier, the girls, and the songs, oscillate between the immaturity of young girls and grown women.
Generationally, it makes sense for these tracks to be used. Dubstep is popular amongst the party scene, so Skrillex is an obvious choice. The girls, and the audience, grew up with Britney Spears, watching her rise to fame to her fall from grace and then resurgence years later. And Ellie Goulding is one of the hottest new artists on the scene. It was therefore a wise choice for Korine to use these tracks, appealing to his main demographic and yet fitting them to the characters specifically enough that the film’s commentary on youth culture was that much more on the nose.
If you couldn’t tell by the fact that this is my third post in a row about Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, I’m totally enamored of this film, from every aspect. Every element, thrown against the wall or not, seems to fit. But the key tracks of the film shed light on the characters, the environment, and the commentary. Thus, Skrillex, Britney Spears, and Ellie Goulding all accentuate the atmosphere of the film. Spring Breakers is film fueled by its ability to stagger and stun every sense, and sonically, the film couldn’t do better.
“Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” – Skrillex
“Everytime” – Britney Spears
“Lights” – Ellie Goulding
The Bond Sound
The music of James Bond has always been one of the highlights of the entire franchise. From the likes of Sheryl Crow, Tina Turner, Carly Simon, Tom Jones, Gladys Knight, and even Jack White and Alicia Keys, the Bond music has become its own form of iconography within the canon. But, really, how similar are they and do they really deserve such praise? Granted, from song to song, the opinion has changed and varied, as it should. But everyone talks about a certain song, even if it’s not even related to the Bond series, as having certain Bond-esque qualities, or a song that would seemingly fit the series for one of the films. If anything, the music should embody the film and the character, the themes and the style of the movie, and the music will always, realistically speaking, reflect something of the times. With the big brass of Shirley Bassey’s voice on the title track to Goldfinger to the electronically manipulated sound of Madonna’s take on Die Another Day, each song has its unique place in Bond history. I’ve been enamored of the Bond films since I was 6 and I first heard the strumming sounds of the James Bond theme from, not Dr. No, but the video games 007: Agent Under Fire. It did not, nor ever will, compare to the one featured in Bond’s first adventure from 1962. There will always be something compelling about that music, something very interesting, even if it’s not very Bond-ian. It’s a trademark of the series, which often fits together with some intoxicatingly beautiful images of nude women in each film’s stunning main title sequence. I will be looking at each of the film’s theme songs and see how they compare as truly Bond-esque. The yardstick I will measure the songs against will be none other than John Barry and Monty Norman’s “James Bond Theme”, first featured in the film Dr. No.
1. “The James Bond Theme” from Dr. No (1962), performed by Monty Norman
The theme that started it all. Creeping up on the audience right from the get go, as Bond shoots his gun at the audience and through the gun barrel, thus revealing a gorgeously minimalistic title sequence from title creator Maurice Binder, the Bond theme will always be incredibly iconic with all film goers. The strumming guitar riffs, which were held to a microphone and then manipulated in the studio adding a kind of echo, were originally intended for a musical Norman had been writing. After that had been scrapped, Dr. No composer John Barry requested to use it for a new spy/espionage/action movie. And then history was made. The theme plays in all suspenseful moments, being utilized for, what else, mood music. It makes the most indelible impression, and makes cinematic history, with a simple, “Bond. James Bond.” The heavy brass of the chorus is what it’s all about. The strumming riffs are like the stealthy entrance from the super spy and the big brass is Bond kicking ass. The theme is so smooth, so suave, and so cool that no one could possibly think of another theme being better suited for such a cold, calculated character as James Bond. Despite it being Bond’s first time on the screen, Sean Connery and the music burst onto the silver screen with as more confidence one could have thought. They know exactly what they’re doing here. It’s become a part of popular culture, and has inspired countless rip off and pastiches. But, really, nobody does it better. – A+
2. “James Bond is Back” (John Barry) and “From Russia with Love” (Matt Monro) from From Russia with Love (1963)
Maybe trying to chase the high that was the first James Bond theme, John Barry opted to use another instrumental for the titles of Bond’s second outing, From Russia with Love. Combining the title song (written by Barry, performed by crooner Matt Monro) and the James Bond theme, it feels very much like one of those “A new adventure, but still the same spy” kind of track. The exciting brass will always be iconic within the Bond music. The brass represents that thrill of the Bond films, an element that would disappear later in the themes. The song itself is an interesting piece. It doesn’t quite fit the character, but it somehow fits the film. Bond has never been an actual romantic. As Judi Dench’s M tells him in 1995’s GoldenEye, he’s a “misogynist dinosaur”. Thus, it’s kind of odd to encounter such gorgeous refrains worthy of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin in a James Bond film. Bond sleeps with women and then disposes of them, and even though it was the second film, audiences already knew this. How many women did he go through in Dr. No? Three. The lyrics are cute, with the bridge pleading, “I’ve seen face, places, and smiles for a moment; but oh, you haunted me so”. The film’s Bond girl, Tatiana, is hardly the love of Bond’s life and would barely leave an impression on him. That being said, although the lyrics most definitely do not fit the film itself, the general composition and tone of the song certainly does. Full of lush strings, and gypsy-sounding tambourines, the tonal quality fits the locale and feel of the film. It’s a personal favorite of mine to listen to, yet it remains fairly underrated and obscure. – A-/B+
3. “Goldfinger” from Goldfinger (1964), performed by Shirley Bassey
The brass is back and louder than ever. Strong with the strings and ominous tone, “Goldfinger” is one of the most memorable tracks Bond has ever produced. With Shirley Bassey at the front, this began a grand tradition of hiring famous people to sing the Bond themes. The lyrics here are probably a lot weaker than people are willing to admit. It’s not the lyrics that make the song (“Such a cold finger; beckons you to enter his web of sin; but don’t go in”), it’s Bassey’s great voice. Resounding with thunder, Bassey makes the track so good; you kind of forget the lyrics are kind of terrible. Who else can hold a note like that end note? This most definitely fits the Bond type of music, and with good reason. – A
4. “Thunderball” from Thunderball (1965), performed by Tom Jones
With big brass remaining a hallmark of the Bond themes, we also have music whose lyrics talk about the film’s villain, rather than Bond himself. I don’t know if I quite agree with that, but it would work for the next forty or so years. Tom Jones powerful voice thunders during the track, which uses big brass much better than “Goldfinger”. With a title like “Thunderball”, it’s a good thing they took it to heart and made it as jazzy, classy, and loud as possible. It a strange way, although the lyrics are relatively simple, it manages to explore certain themes within the villainous canon of Bond bad guys than any other song in the series. Yet another winner in my book. – A-
5. “You Only Live Twice” from You Only Live Twice (1967), performed by Nancy Sinatra
Her boots are made for walking, she was shot down, and apparently, she only lives twice. Yes, Bond managed to snag Old Blue Eyes’ daughter for a Bond theme. But, the trend of songs only very vaguely related to the villains, themes, characters, etc. can be once again found here. Although Ian Fleming opened his original novel with a haiku (“You only live twice/ Once when you are born/ and once when you look death in the face.”), the song itself speaks vaguely of love and danger and being a stranger. It’s muddled and lacks enough of the Japanese influence to really suit the movie. It’s also kind of boring. – C
6. “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service Theme” (John Barry) and “We Have All the Time in the World” (Louis Armstrong), from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Was it because “You Only Live Twice” kind of sucked or did John Barry just have an itch to have an instrumental “reminiscent” of the original Bond theme start the film? Either way, it was unsuccessful. Using a strange, maybe electronic technique for the bass guitar, the music does not truly allude to the style of Bond, even with the use of the brass. I suppose I can give them kudos for making it sound like you’re going down a mountain, sort of. But, OHMSS was the introduction of the first new actor to play James Bond, Australian actor George Lazenby. So, I guess a new theme was in order for a new Bond? The title sequence uses images and scenes from past Bond films and passes them through an hour glass. And then we have the great Louis Armstrong, Satchmo, on his last recording ever with the sweet, melancholy “We Have All the Time in the World”. This wonderfully romantic tune does make sense here, as James Bond marries Tracy Vicenzo (Dianna Rigg). However, I’m not a big fan of his voice, so it isn’t something I would listen to. – C/B-
7. “Diamonds Are Forever” from Diamonds Are Forever (1971), performed by Shirley Bassey
Once again, Shirley Bassey returns to make mediocre lyrics look splendid in a very chilling theme. Also, Sean Connery makes his final return as James Bond, after Lazenby had stepped out after only one film. The main problem of many of the Bond songs is you have no idea who’s narrating the song. But here, again, it doesn’t really matter. I suppose one could assume that it’s Blofeld, because he’s the villain, but then she begins talking about men, so maybe Jill St. John’s diamond smuggler Tiffany Case. The song combines the chilling tone, the brass we know and love, and carefully chosen strains of disco-esque tones. It creates something pretty perfect, and that’s mostly thanks to Bassey’s helluva voice. – A
8. “Live and Let Die” from Live and Let Die (1973), performed by Paul McCartney and Wings
If you can’t have the Beatles, I guess you might as well have McCartney and Wings. The lyrics have nothing to do with the movie or anything. It’s only vaguely, and I mean vaguely related to the title. McCartney and his wife apparently could barely muster enough wit to explore the actual philosophy that Fleming satirizes in his title. If anything, it’s an exercise in self-indulgence and excess. Yes, the loud parts of the song are action pack and thrilling, but it means nothing and fails to leave any real mark emotionally on the viewer other than “oh that is so cool”. Even though it is, in my opinion, one of the series’ weakest songs, and honestly, most pointless, it has enduring strength. It’s like a half-assed version of “Band on the Run” in the way that it transitions (without reason) from style to style, but here it’s back and forth and not nearly as well composed. Despite the movie taking cues from Blaxploitation movies like Shaq and the films of Pam Grier, there’s no obvious influence of that music style in the theme. This was also Roger Moore’s first Bond, one out of seven. I guess they wanted to market him as exciting. Instead of honestly marketing him as kind of pithy and corny. – D
9. “The Man with the Golden Gun” from The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), performed by Lulu
Again, we find ourselves going back to our roots and vaguely talking about the villain in question, one Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee). Where “Live and Let Die” failed to marry Bond’s jazzy roots with newer, cooler rock and roll, “The Man with the Golden Gun” does so much more successfully. It feels like a crossover of jazz to rock, probably more the latter than the former. The electric guitar slashes through the song, and Lulu’s pop-esque voice works well for the song. While not nearly as skilled or convincing as Bassey, Lulu still manages to some extent disguise the fact that the words are poorly written and lackluster. – B+
10. “Nobody Does it Better” from The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), performed by Carly Simon
This song is definitely about you, Mr. Bond, and it is one of the first to have the lyrics explicitly address James Bond himself. I’m not sure why everyone loves this song, and I’m not sure why I even love it. It’s sweet, tender, and honest; qualities that do not match the Bond series in any way. Marvin Hamlisch’s disco inspired song manages to work, somehow. From the beginning piano riff, it’s totally romantic and somehow totally works. Carly Simon’s beautiful voice, so pop inspired and so recognizable from her song about that other singer, just fills the speakers with sweetness. I don’t know how, because it shouldn’t work. It doesn’t fit the rest of the music, where even “You Only Live Twice” hypothetically makes more tonal sense than this song. But it just does. – A
11. “Moonraker” from Moonraker (1978), performed by Shirley Bassey
Not even Bassey’s flawless voice can save the lyrics of this song. Not only is the title track to one of the worst Bond movies asinine, it is painful to listen to. It does not make any sense from anyone’s perspective. Not Bond’s, not the villain’s, not even the Bond girl’s. This is a new low for Bond. – D-
12. “For Your Eyes Only” from For Your Eyes Only (1981), performed by Sheena Easton
Yet another song that is only vaguely related to the title and so totally does not make sense to the series or the film. If “Nobody Does It Better” was suited to The Spy Who Loved Me somewhat in tone, this one again fails to make any sense. This track is probably most explicitly related to disco/pop and thus most explicitly nonsensical and annoying. Sheena Easton’s voice is good though, but it would be much more suited for a romantic comedy of some sort than a James Bond film, of all things. – C+
13. “All Time High” from Octopussy (1983), performed by Rita Coolidge
The song that is fun to listen to but has no relation to even the title. It’s like the lyricists are getting really lazy here. Granted, the song itself is pleasant, with its soft rock inflections and pleasant performance, just not right for Bond. – C
14. “A View to a Kill” from A View to a Kill (1985), performed by Duran Duran
By track fourteen, you begin to question why the Bond songs are iconic at all. Besides Shirley Bassey, Carly Simon, and the Bond Theme itself, most of the songs have been incredibly lack luster. Here, with the number one band of the 1980’s, Duran Duran, we do have a little hope., The lyrics are still fairly terrible, but there is some kind of marriage of Bond’s themes and characters with that of very contemporary music. “Dance into the fire” is very action packed sounding, and that’s the best you can hope for this far into the game. (It may be sad that I only knew who Duran Duran was because of this song whenever people would bring them up.) – B
15. “The Living Daylights” from The Living Daylights (1987), performed by a-Ha
By now, Bond’s brassy sound of action had been pretty much thrown away In favor of sounding as contemporary as possible, and thus barely acknowledging the roots of Bond’s style or theme. It’s that theme that made Bond so iconic. Yes, it was all those other factors, but that theme left an impression so indelible on music history, that it’s something exclusive to that brand and to that character. Any spy can drive a cool car, play poker, and have gadgets and girls, but only one man has that theme. I’m not really sure what to make of a-Ha’s Bond theme for The Living Daylights. I’m not sure what the music means. It sounds somewhat orchestral, somewhat electronic, and somewhat like rock. It’s like an amalgam of those genres that is not messy exactly, but it’s far from perfectly executed. The falsetto singing throws one off a little. It’s not a terrible song, but it doesn’t really make sense. – B-
16. “Licence to Kill” from Licence to Kill (1989), performed by Gladys Knight
Much like “Moonraker” and “Live and Let Die”, “License to Kill” is the kind of song I will skip over if it comes up on my iPod. And since I happen to have the album The Best of Bond…James Bond on my iPod, it happens every so often. Continuing the trend of irrelevant lyrics and contemporary style over any relation to roots or the film’s themes, it has a very R&B feel to it. You would think that a film dealing with a Colombian drug lord would have a little spice to it. But, no, instead we get a plodding pseudo-ballad about heartbreak and the singer belting, “I got a license to kill, and you know I’m aiming straight for your heart”. So trite and annoying. – D
17. “GoldenEye” from GoldenEye (1995), performed by Tina Turner
Is it wrong for me to just expect Tina Turner doing a Bond theme to be damn good? I hope not. The song is a nice return after a series of stupid, trite, and irrelevant tracks, a nice return to quality and mystery, much like the film itself. Pierce Brosnan’s first adventure as James Bond will always be one of my favorites, because, in a nut shell, it’s just a damn good movie. The song was penned by U2’s Bono and the Edge, so that definitely adds to the “hell yes” factor. Paying homage vocally to Shirley Bassey, Turner handles the song with integrity, adding throaty and gritty vocals to every note. The lyrics make sense too! Sung from the perspective of Alec Trevelyan, Agent 006, Janus, and the man who betrayed Bond, the song is actually a deep and interesting look at jealousy and greed. A Bond song that not only makes sense to the film but is also actually good? You’re kidding! I am not. “GoldenEye” begins with string plucks and walks the line of contemporary pop music and sweet, mysterious jazz, and does so beautifully. And Tina Turner is always, shall we say, Onatopp of things. – A
18. “Tomorrow Never Dies” from Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), performed by Sheryl Crow
With an entirely new Bond of the 1990’s we get an entirely new kind of song for each film. “Tomorrow Never Dies”, while not the masterpiece I think “GoldenEye” is, is nonetheless an interesting examination of Bond’s cold heart. The best guess as to whose point of view the song is supposed to be would be Paris Carver (Teri Hatcher), Bond’s former lover and current wife to villain. Or maybe it’s the cynical view of Wai Linn (Michelle Yeoh), who is, essentially, Bond’s match (one of the first legitimate matches, from what I remember). Sheryl Crow’s soaring vocals are always a treat, and the orchestral nature of the music is a lovely acknowledgement of Bond’s orchestral days. The song, though, is a bit enigmatic, but it at least makes some sense to an extent. – B+
19. “The World is Not Enough” from The World is Not Enough (1999), performed by Garbage
Another one of my personal favorites, and what I can say is a nice psychoanalysis of the film’s villain Elektra King, Garbage’s take on a Bond theme involves lush strings and passionate guitar. A proper homage to the Bond films of yore, with lyrics that correspond to dialogue in both TWINE and OHMSS. It is one of the most perfect examples of a rock crossover to whatever genre also makes up this fantastic song. Shirley Manson, the band’s lead vocalist, hits some pretty great notes in the song, and she looks fabulous doing it in the track’s music video. This span of great Bond tracks is short lived though. *sigh* – A
20. “Die Another Day” from Die Another Day (2002), performed by Madonna
I imagine that when it was announced that Madonna would sing the title track to Brosnan’s last Bond film, some people were thinking, “Wait, why didn’t they ask her in the ‘80’s, or even ‘90’s?” The lady who is still releasing singles to this day brought us a weird electro pop song that is so much less than what it aspires to be. Instead, it feels like the lackluster songs of the Moore films, the ones that basically made no connection between the lyrics of the song and the film itself, as opposed to the title. Maybe I’m being a little harsh, as one could make the connection that it relates to the movie’s bad guy, Gustav Graves. (On the electro pop note, it should be noted that here, more than ever, composer David Arnold employed a lot of electronic manipulation to the music.) But that’s stretching it. They probably should have asked her more than a decade ago to do it. – C
21. “You Know My Name” (Chris Cornell) and “The James Bond Theme” (David Arnold) from Casino Royale (2006)
Apparently, an origin story calls for a whole new theme, so rocking and rollicking that it’ll blow your mind. We’ve had songs that talk vaguely about the title, or about the villain, or talk vaguely about James Bond himself, and the occasional one that talks explicitly, and well, about Bond. But we’ve never had a James Bond theme that’s from the point of view of the Master Spy himself. Woo, we get an existential self-evaluation about what it’s like to be a cold killing machine. And, because it’s addressed to someone, we can then assume he’s talking to Vesper Lynd, the gorgeous beauty. What do I love about this song? Besides everything, the lyrics are powerful and relevant, the music pulsates, and, as an origin song, it totally makes sense. Is there any homage to the Bond theme itself? Not really, and with good reason. Yes there’s a little bras, but this is Bond for a new generation, one that is starting from scratch. So, the musical motif throughout the film is not the James Bond theme, but actually refrains from “You Know My Name”. But that isn’t to say Bond’s theme has disappeared completely. On the contrary, just as Bond finally discovers that he is the man with the license to kill, and we hear his “first” utterance of “Bond. James Bond.”, David Arnold serves us up with a retro, neo-classical update of the Bond theme. It honors the original but has its own kind of cool tone. I would say “You Know My Name” is my all-time favorite Bond theme, for it is song writing and storytelling at its best. – A+/A
22. “Another Way to Die” from Quantum of Solace (2008), performed by Jack White and Alicia Keys
I will forever resent Jack White and Alicia Keys for even stepping foot in the studio to do this song. The opening riff sounds like it was literally ripped from “You Know My Name”’s opening riffs and just put in bass form. The lyrics seem strangely more suited to something like, I don’t know, a hybrid of rap, pop, and R&B. The overall sound is a confusing mess, trying to do what Casino Royale did, but failing completely. That’s how I feel about Quantum of Solace in general; Casino Royale was so good that they wanted to recreate that feeling. The voices aren’t suited to the song and here we have a song that, perhaps like “All Time High”, seems to have nothing to do with the movie. A huge letdown, like the film itself. – C-
The Bond music will always be memorable, but the only reason that is because of a select few songs that are deservingly iconic. There are a couple that are underrated, but for the most part, that “Bond sound” only exists in about six or seven of the over twenty-two themes produced in the entire franchise. The longest lasting franchise has inexplicably created the longest lasting impression of a certain kind of sound. Yet that “sound” is inconsistent, and nearly disappears for an entire set of the songs, which means almost a decade. Let’s hope that with the new song for the upcoming Bond film Skyfall, it’ll be a song with integrity and with good lyrics. We need that music to let us know that one man is on the screen, Bond. James Bond.
1. James Bond Theme – Dr. No
2. You Know My Name – Casino Royale
3. GoldenEye – GoldenEye
4. Goldfinger – Goldfinger
5. Thunderball – Thunderball
All You Need Is “Love”: Review for The Beatles Love Album
It certainly isn’t everyday that you encounter a band like the Beatles. They were game changers like almost no one in the history of music, with the exception of the inventors of the individual instruments and of the phonograph. The Beatles, compiled from a foursome of Liverpool lads who wore leather and played in clubs, accomplished so much in their 7 years recording career, with 13 studio albums under their belt and countless number one singles. They wrote some of the most memorable music ever to hit the radio waves. In 2006, the Canadian circus extravaganza Cirque du Soleil decided to create a Beatles-themed show, the story revolving around the Beatles and incorporating a Beatles-only score. George Martin, the original band’s record producer, and his on Giles Martin took the original Beatles tapes and, OH NO! mashed the tracks up and remixed them! The final product: amazing. And could we really have expected less from the two them?
Because George Martin was there for the original sessions and because his son would be using newer technology to create the album, it was a great pairing. But what they did was not some contemporary mash up or remix, using gratuitous synthesizers or sounds; the duo mixed in different elements of the original songs to create a most pleasant sound. For example: The piano riff from “Hey Bulldog” is layered on top of the Eric Clapton guitar solo in “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and that is mixed into the song “Lady Madonna”. It sounds perfect. All three elements sound completely in synch. It would only be those two who would think that those track sections would go so great together.
The album starts off very serenely, with the vocal track from “Because” and the bird and nature sounds from the single release of “Across the Universe”. This sets the mood that the Beatles are here and it’s “because” we love them so much. It transitions to “Get Back” and then to “Glass Onion”, incorporating elements from “Hello Goodbye” and “I Am the Walrus”. Some of the most moving moments on the album are the subtle things, such as the string climax from “A Day in the Life” (which is used throughout the album). It continues on a journey, as vast as the stage at the Mirage in Las Vegas and as fun as witnessing the Beatles perform live.
Some really great finds are on the album. A heartbreaking rendition for “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is on the album, an original acoustic demo that George Harrison recorded that never ended up on The White Album. (It can be found on the Anthology.) The strains are so heartfelt and so emotional, it creates an entirely new feeling for the song. A brand new string back track was composed by Martin and placed in the background, again adding an element of both sadness and true emotion that seems to have been vacant from the released track. It has become one of my favorite songs by the Beatles, and even without Clapton to give the awesome solo; it reaches a new height of emotional resonance.
There’s a great remix of “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” as well. If it didn’t sound psychedelic enough, then have a listen. It doesn’t sound too different, but what’s different about it is that it sounds, if anything, a little spookier. At the end of the big climax of the song, it bursts, bangs, explodes into the long, moving, and awesome chords of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy”. It’s a full bodied move from psychedelic to amazing and larger than life.
The most fun part of the album for die-hard Beatlemaniacs is trying to spot and name all the elements in the songs, even the smallest measures or only a couple words from a song. Picture you and your friend listening as “Get Back” plays and you suddenly realize something and you smile, probably sit up, and say excitedly, “Oh, that’s the intro to ‘A Hard Day’s Night’!” It’s so much fun for the ones who have been in love with the music and know it by heart; the ones who used to have the original LPs and the posters on their walls; the fans who watched them at Shea Stadium and on the Ed Sullivan Show. Not a travesty, buy any means, this preserves the original intent of the music and keeps it fresh, making it sound new and exciting.
It also provides the younger generation, probably just getting exposed to the music their parents and possibly grandparents listened to, an excellent introduction to the Beatles. Love by no means changes the music or makes it any more different than the original songs; it just adds a fresh element. It gives an introduction to one of the greatest bands in history, which will lead them to discover the original albums and go back to the great Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road. The Beatles sound new, not to say that they’ve ever sounded old, but—(says in old timer voice) kids these days…they don’t know what real music is.
If you didn’t know about this album before but you were indeed a Fab Four fan, you probably nearly had a stroke when I said remix and mash up. But, have no fear, the album is much more. Both fun for the old fans and a wonderful way to introduce the music to a new generation, Love provides a totally amazing experience for the ears. Sounding fresher and newer than they have in years, the Martins did a tremendous job. Each chord resounds more clearly; each piano note sounds more emotional, and each song sounds more fantastical. But, then again, what more can we expect? This is the Beatles.
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” Acoustic Love version: