Adele, "Skyfall"

>> Saturday, October 06, 2012


Hey, hey, hey--if you haven't already heard it a million-and-twelve times, the title song for Skyfall, the next James Bond film, is out this week.

I like Adele; I'm still trying to process how much I like this song, though.  That shouldn't be surprising: Bond songs occupy this kind of strange pop cultural headspace where what makes a great song doesn't necessarily make for a great Bond song and vice-versa, perhaps because there's that self-imposed constraint that you have to work the movie title in their somewhere, which may or may not work as a lyric.  "Moonraker" is an obvious example; I mean, as soon as you think about the situation you can just picture John Barry sitting down with a heavy thump and putting his head in his hands and moaning aloud, "How the fuck am I going to get that into a song?"  (And I can't say it's surprising Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra and Kate Bush all turned down a chance to sing it.)  Okay, sometimes, maybe, you can cheat and bury the title in the second verse.

No, it's only if you're really lucky that you get a banging title that practically writes itself into a tune.

"Skyfall" is sort of in the middle somewhere.  Sounds neat, but what does it mean?  What could it mean?  Should we even care?

Those are matters of the song, not Adele's performance, obviously.  Adele's performance is exactly as superb as you'd expect, and roping her into doing a Bond track is a total no-brainer; I'm not sure there's anybody who's been better suited for the job since Shirley Bassey's last take on it.  (Quick: I already gave you Moonraker--what are the other two Bond songs she belted?)  Everything is as it should be, as far as that department goes.

As for the movie, which isn't out yet: I'm guardedly optimistic.  It's been on-again-off-again for the past several years, though that's had everything to do with MGM's money problems and nothing (hopefully) to do with the production itself.  I really, really liked Casino Royale and was mostly happy with Quantum Of Solace.  (Speaking of which: "Another Way To Die" is a fairly good example of a song that's a decent song but kind of awful as a Bond song, illustrating how things can go wrong the other way and mapping out some of the scope of that "strange pop cultural headspace" I mentioned earlier.)  Daniel Craig, anyway, has simply been the best Bond since Sean Connery; I'm not sure if two films is enough to judge whether Craig's tenure has been the most consistently good since Connery's run, but it only took Roger Moore two movies to get well along a downward spiral.  (Moore's first outing, Live And Let Die is fairly enjoyable despite a really questionable attempt to piggyback on the Blaxploitation trend in genre cinema and a sort of flirtation with racism that unfortunately is a little faithful to the original novel; but followed, then, by The Man With The Golden Gun, which is slightly better than it's usually regarded but only slightly, notwithstanding Christopher Lee's presence, and then things actually got much worse from there on with maybe an exception for the not-too-bad-at-all For Your Eyes Only.)

So we'll see in November.  I'm looking forward to it.  Meanwhile... yeah, I think I am liking the song.


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