This article originally ran in 2014 and has been updated.
The much-delayed No Time to Die is nearly here. It’s the 25th official James Bond production from Eon, or as we like to think of it: the 24th time James Bond has returned. With Daniel Craig in his fifth and final film as Agent 007, you can be sure that No Time to Die will do everything it can to one-up its predecessors. And, of course, that means a new Bond theme.
This time, alt-pop sensation Billie Eilish is the voice behind the opening credits, and we had to ask ourselves, “Where does his Bond theme land in the full filmography and playlist?” As such, we decided to take a moment to update our power ranking of Bond themes from 2015 and let you know how Eilish stacks up against Shirley Bassey, A-Ha, and all the rest of Bond’s themesters. Some ground rules:
1. Dr. No has no specific theme song. It introduces “The James Bond Theme” and some weird version of “Three Blind Mice.” We didn’t include it, but we fully acknowledge “The James Bond Theme” reigns supreme.
2. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service features an excellent original composition by John Barry in the opening credits, but we chose Louie Armstrong’s song to represent the movie.
Agree? Disagree? Agree to disagree? Either way, please keep your Walther PPKs holstered.
— Blake Goble
Senior Staff Writer
24. Lulu – “The Man with the Golden Gun” (1974)
Best Lyrics: “An assassin that’s second to none/ The man with the golden gun”
Listening to Lulu’s “The Man with the Golden Gun” is like listening to a homeless woman screeching and clawing her way to a karaoke machine off the street. From the jagged and startling horn noises to the unwieldy guitars and Lulu’s cat lady vocals, the whole song just stinks. It’s not just difficult listening or kitsch mania; it’s pretty much just the crummiest song in the Bond theme catalog.
Rumor has it that Alice Cooper also had a version of this song in contention for Man with the Golden Gun, but it was dropped in favor of Lulu’s version. Now, one has to wonder what Mr. No-More-Mister-Nice-Guy singing a Bond song might have been like. Call it a hunch, but it probably would have been better than Lulu’s three-minute record scratch. — Blake Goble
23. Madonna – “Die Another Day” (2002)
Best Lyrics: “Sigmund Freud/ Analyze this”
Whoever coined the phrase “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” could never have predicted the existence of Madonna’s “Die Another Day.” With Auto-Tune brought to new depths of hell and beats previously reserved for the waning hours of 2 a.m. discos in Chernobyl, Madonna arrives about a decade too late to help celebrated Bond #20. It’s appropriate that the second-to-worst song soundtracks what is arguably the worst movie of the franchise. Sometimes song and film are inextricably entwined, and this is one of those moments. Kiss of death for Brosnan’s reign as Bond, or was it the absurd CGI? — Justin Gerber
22. Sheryl Crow – “Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997)
Best Lyrics: “I see it in your eyes/ Tomorrow never dies”
If you’re recruiting James Bond theme singers, you might think to yourself, “Hey, what if we do something completely different and get someone with a shrill, scratchy voice to do vocals? It seemed like a good idea with Lulu that one time!” At least, that’s the imagined and only possible logic for how Sheryl Crow got the honors of singing for 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies, aka Bond fights Fox News and Media Machine. Crow’s “Tomorrow Never Dies” is a whiny song. And it’s a Golden Globe-nominated song as well, so, gross.
Somehow Crow’s work was chosen over another song that was going to be used for the film by K.D. Lang. Lang’s “Surrender,” which was played over the end credits, was originally called “Tomorrow Never Dies,” and it sounds way more like a Bond theme, horns and brass and large vocals and everything. — Blake Goble
21. A-ha – “The Living Daylights” (1987)
Best Lyrics: “Set your hopes up way too high/ The living’s in the way we die”
A-ha’s “Take on Me” is one of the greatest songs of all time; I don’t care who you are. “The Living Daylights” is not. Having to follow up Duran Duran’s “A View to a Kill” wasn’t going to be easy, and A-ha were clearly not up for the challenge. Sure, they borrowed the horns from the song that emerged from Roger Moore’s last appearance, but Timothy Dalton deserved more for his first outing. If only they’d gone with Pet Shop Boys or Chrissie Hynde (who does contribute two other songs to the movie). The greatest offense of “The Living Daylights” is that it’s utterly forgettable. — Justin Gerber