Billie Eilish has officially filed her James Bond theme, and for anyone who worried that she was too young — dare it be said, too green — for the task, there was no need to worry. The 18-year-old gets it, even if she wasn’t yet born when the Broccolis were commissioning what some of us still think of as “late period” Bond themes from the likes of Garbage and Sheryl Crow. The teen with the Midas touch has not picked this occasion to develop a cold finger.
“No Time to Die” is one of the better Bond songs of the last 25 or 30 years, coming in ahead of a lot of entries that seemed promising and didn’t really work: besides Garbage’s and Crow’s, there were underwhelming efforts from Chris Cornell and the team of Jack White and Alicia Keys, worthy artists that tried to contemporize the idea of what a Bond theme should be, at their mortal peril. (The less remembered about Madonna turning Bond techno, the better.) It’s much more in the successful lineage of the last two tries, Adele’s “Skyfall” and Sam Smith’s “Writing’s on the Wall,” which happened to be the first two to ever win the Oscar (shamefully). But Eilish arguably does a better job than those two of both acknowledging the John Barry musical tradition and sticking with something is very much hers and hers alone.
Stylistically it has some strong similarities with the Adele and Smith songs of late, with a soft keyboard intro eventually giving way to strings and brass. But Eilish extends the stillness far longer than they did; it’s just a little past halfway into a four-minute track that the hint of a beat kicks in, and even then, the percussion disappears again for a hushed coda. You might almost be thinking this is going to be a sort of reprise of Eilish’s quietest songs, “When the Party’s Over” or “I Love You,” before the orchestration and timpani fire up at the end of the first chorus, and you remember, “That’s right, Hans Zimmer did assist with this.”
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