Songwriter's Corner|

Photo: Daniel Craig (from the Official 007 Facebook page) By Elle Hunt, GQ Magazine | It could not have been more fitting that, when Jimmy Napes got the call about composing the next Bond song, he was airport-bound in a water taxi, making a quick getaway through the canals of Venice. “I’d been manifesting this moment for a long time,” Napes says. “To get the call when I was on a speedboat – I honestly thought someone was having me on.”

Songwriter and producer Napes didn’t need to think twice. He was riding high at the time, having just won two Grammy awards for his work with Sam Smith, still his primary collaborator. Napes agreed to work with Smith on a potential theme for the forthcoming Spectre. But as soon as he hung up the phone, he realised the scale of the challenge.

This was not just any brief. It meant mounting an attempt to join a cultural juggernaut, now spanning 27 films and 60 years and known the world over. The Spectre theme had to be as instantly, obviously 007 as “Diamonds are Forever”, “Live and Let Die” or Monty Norman’s original surf-guitar theme.

At the same time it had to be modern, distinctive and original: not just resurrecting Bonds of the past, but moving him into the future. “Bond songs are a sort of genre into themselves: part film score, part pop song,” says Charlie Harding, a musicologist and co-host of the podcast Switched On Pop, which recorded a “spycraft sound” episode on Bond last year.

For all the diversity of the original songs – from the Y2K, almost cyborg Bond of Madonna’s “Die Another Day” to Tom Jones’ bombastic, symphonic “Thunderball” – there are commonalities. Harding’s analysis found that the themes were typically slower ballads, in contemporary styles but with references to the classic Bond theme and motifs. Every Daniel Craig film uses a variation on the thundering opening chords of Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger” – itself based on Norman’s 1962 melody.

“Each film introduces new sounds to keep the franchise contemporary, but points to the past,” Harding says. “When Chris Cornell does it, we’re in peak 2000s rock. Billie Eilish uses the same chords but updates them with a Gen-Z melancholia.” Napes was at least not faced with a blank page. Before the phone call in Venice, he had come up with a simple piano part that had struck him at the time as recognisably Bond. “That’s what helped us to write it quickly: I already had something that felt in essence like it could be quite special for a film,” he says.
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Photo: Daniel Craig (from the 007 Facebook page –

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