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The recipe for a James Bond song: Strings, brass and awkward lyrics




Daniel Craig plays James Bond in the film <em>Casino Royale</em>. Dramatis, a computer program, can detect suspense from this scene and rates it even higher as the plot thickens.
Daniel Craig plays James Bond in the film Casino Royale. Dramatis, a computer program, can detect suspense from this scene and rates it even higher as the plot thickens.
/MGM/United Artists/Sony/The Kobal Collection

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It's a safe bet that most people associate this song with a certain suave spy from London's MI-6.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUC8dJ0D6sA

But what about this one?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFurkDf6WXg 

Yes? No? That '80s-tastic Bond ballad comes courtesy of the flick "Octopussy."

There's been a lot of action in the two dozen Bond films made over the past five decades. But two Stanford researchers say it's the Bond songs that stick with audiences long after the last love scene.

Adrian Daub and Charles Kronengold explored the songs of Bond in the book, "The James Bond Songs: Pop Anthems of Late Capitalism." They joined host A Martinez to share what they discovered. 

Goldfinger, a gold standard

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fy_PJODH3p0

Author Adrian Daub says Shirley Bassey's "Goldfinger" stands apart from all other Bond songs for a very special reason. 

"Goldfinger is the perfect Bond song partly because it has everything wrong with it that all the later bond songs have too," Daub said. "It's a great song because it has these ridiculous lyrics that Shirley Bassey just has to act as if is are the most meaningful things she's sung."

Adrian Daub says Goldfinger's outdated sound and brass-heavy orchestration, teamed up with Bassey's sincere delivery say a lot about who James Bond is as a character: outdated, and even a little cheesy. 

That awkward decade when Bond was in over his head

Nearly two decades after Goldfinger, Bond was singing a different tune. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eo9uXd48HME

Charles Kronengold tells Take Two that the movie's producers were trying to achieve the sound of Duran Duran in "A View to a Kill," without hiring Duran Duran. They instead chose A-ha, previously known for their song, "Take on Me."  

"This was a very weird choice for a Bond song, even as Duran Duran was, because these were groups that were kind of amateurish," Kronengold said. "You really hear that in the songs. They're really thrown together, their singers sound kind of nervous, which is the opposite of what Shirley Bassey and Nancy Sinatra sound like ..." 

Kronengold adds that, though the orchestration was "lumpy," there is still a lot to like about the song. 

"Spectre" the Lugubrious

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jzDnsjYv9A

Charles Kronengold says the new Bond song for the upcoming "Spectre" bares little resemblance to Bond songs past. 

"It's this — kind of — Bond song as a lugubrious mourning song on steroids," Kronengold said. "Even 'Skyfall' has the whip-you-into-a-frenzy string arrangement, and a little bit of biting brass sounds, and a few Bond song motifs.  The 'Spectre' song takes all of that out. It really gives us nothing but Sam Smith's falsetto," he said. 

Despite Spectre's dirge-like qualities, author Adrian Daub says he'll reserve final judgement until after he sees the opening sequence in theatres. 

Press the blue play button above to hear more James Bond songs.