For the first time in ages, I am excited about the James Bond franchise. Oh, not the forthcoming flick Quantum of Silence. (Although I was heartened when Daniel Craig reiterated in the press that he thinks the amorous super spy should swing both ways.) But its theme song: “Another Way To Die” by Alicia Keys and Jack White.
A confession: I have not seen a Bond movie in its entirety since 1989’s License To Kill. But I still get excited every time they divulge the details about the new theme song. I should know better by now. Things have been on a gradual slide since 1983’s Octopussy, with Rita Coolidge warbling the in-one-ear-and-out-the-other “All Time High.” But I’m an addict. Seriously. I used to warm up for voice lessons in college by singing along with Tom Jones’ “Thunderball.” If I could hit the high B-flat at the song’s climax, I knew it was gonna be a good day.
Despite efforts to bring Bond up to date, the producers keep fumbling when it comes to the theme songs. That Sheryl Crow was tapped for “Tomorrow Never Dies” was an embarrassment. That she was chosen over Pulp (check out their brilliant “Tomorrow Never Lies,” on the CD single of “Help The Aged”) and k.d. lang (who at least made the soundtrack album) was criminal. Much as I love composer David Arnold, who came on board in 1997 at the recommendation of John Barry, the only top-notch Bond theme since Roger Moore retired is “GoldenEye,” written by Bono and The Edge and recorded by Tina Turner.
Until now. White’s original “Another Way to Die” is percussive, punchy, and suspenseful. It might not have quite the melodramatic arc I crave in a Bond song (then again, neither does Lula shouting “The Man With the Golden Gun”), but it definitely achieves the right balance of danger and sophistication. And Alicia and Jack — singing the first duet in Bond theme history — look stunning in the video. Not quite as breathtaking as David McAlmont in his “Diamonds Are Forever” clip, but damn close.
Heck, if the film is a fraction as cool as the song, I might actually go see it.
DJ El Toro is the host of the overnight show In Between Sleep & Reason, Wednesday mornings from 1 AM to 6 AM on KEXP 90.3 FM Seattle and kexp.org. His column, Weird At My School, appears every Monday on the KEXP Blog.