The new James Bond theme was unveiled last night: No Time to Die by Billie Eilish, destined for the opening sequence of the film of the same name in April. The Californian follows Sam Smith, Adele, Jack White with Alicia Keys, and Chris Cornell in providing the music for Daniel Craig’s spell playing the philandering martini enthusiast.
Securing the services of Eilish and her co-writing brother Finneas O’Connell was a smart move from the filmmakers, especially when today’s premier femme fatale, Lana Del Rey, would have been the obvious choice. Eilish is currently the hottest singer in the world, fresh from winning five Grammys last month, having put a creepy spin on electronic pop music with her macabre lyrics and whisper-in-your-ear vocals.
At 18 , she’s the youngest person to sing a Bond Theme, but that doesn’t mean she breaks the rules with teenage recklessness. A Bond film, and accordingly its music, is like your wedding: you want it to feel unique but at the same time there about 200 conventions to which you are handcuffed. So that means there’s no sign of her clever synth concoctions, and indeed not much evidence of Johnny Marr, who’s apparently in there somewhere on guitar. Instead the sound is dominated by luxurious washes of strings from composer Hans Zimmer, who scores everything these days but is doing his first Bond.
Eilish’s sad, understated vocals suit the sound, which is less overblown than usual. “Fool me once, fool me twice/Are you death or paradise?” she sings. Having generally given the impression in her brief career that it’s deeply uncool to put any effort in, she hits a surprising big note near the close, but then it’s gone and it’s back to the softly-softly approach.
The film itself is unlikely to be so subtle. Though Bond himself may look increasingly anachronistic, musically this time he has his finger on the pulse.