Billie Eilish’s “No Time To Die”

Dept. of Lays and Ditties


There are usually two major reveals in the inevitable lead-up to the release of a James Bond movie. The first being the announcement of the actress (or actresses) who will lay claim to the now archaic mantle of “Bond Girl”. And the second is the unveiling of the theme song which has come to open every Bond movie since 1964’s Goldfinger. And while the world has thankfully moved on from the former, the latter is still the subject of great anticipation.

No Time To Die marks the end of a loose trilogy in the James Bond series. And the theme songs, by Adele, Sam Smith, and (now) Billie Eilish respectively, seem to reflect that. With Bond becoming increasingly anachronistic as a character, the theme songs of these last three movies are on the frontlines with regards to reforming the ageing relic’s image. Not just in the choice of the artists performing them, but also in the style of music and their lyrical decisions.

While the minor keys and melodies that have been used in earlier Bond themes are still present, long gone are the hyper-masculine brass instrumentations, and the use of female vocals as nothing more than glamorous adornments. In contrast, the piano and violins that have replaced them are there to provide tragic commentary on all of the hero’s shortcomings and limitations. As k.d. lang sang in her unused theme tune for Tomorrow Never Dies: “Your life is a story, already written / The news is that I am in control / And I have the power.”

There is also a lyrical through line with all three of these numbers. Beginning with Adele’s prescient opening line (“This is the end…”), through Sam Smith’s crippling self-doubt (“Tell me is this where I give it all up?”), and concluding with Eilish’s tormented revelation (“That the blood you bleed is just the blood you owe…”). All three songs pay homage to the overarching concern of the Daniel Craig era, of a darker, more reflective Bond, who is no longer a fantasy of male vigour and potency.

In “No Time To Die”, Billie Eilish channels her signature teen angst but doesn’t let it overwhelm the composition. The song starts with what sounds like the opening to Diamonds Are Forever in adagio before making way for what is a very understated performance.

Much like her recent rendition of “Yesterday” at the Oscars, Eilish seems to have ditched her trademark straggly whispers for a more mature, full bodied, even soulful style. She pays homage to the Bond themes of the past and, unlike Sam Smith’s schoolboy effort, doesn’t end up sounding like a parody.

Listening to “No Time To Die”, I couldn’t help but wonder if something could be both “smart” yet completely “uninspiring”. This is a song that works within the context of these trilogy of movies but is something that feels wholly pointless outside of it.

Is Billie Eilish’s “No Time To Die” a worthy addition to the Bond canon?

That’s a much harder question to answer. If only because the criteria to what makes a great Bond theme seems to sit at the intersection of contradiction. Representative of the times and yet timeless. Specific to the film and yet strong enough to stand on its own. Original and yet celebratory of the franchise’s rich musical history. (I swear it’s easier making a Star Wars movie!)

It is a Sisyphean endeavour. And Billie Eilish might have just missed a beat.

Uma has been reviewing things for most of his life: movies, television shows, books, video games, his mum's cooking, Bahir's fashion sense. He is a firm believer that the answer to most questions can be found within the cinematic canon. In fact, most of what he knows about life he learned from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. He still hasn't forgiven Christopher Nolan for the travesties that are Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises.

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