Billie Eilish's "No Time to Die" is the Perfect Bond Theme for Today's OO7
Updated: Mar 23
Singer Billie Eilish recently released the highly anticipated theme song for the upcoming James Bond film, No Time to Die, and contrary to many people’s fears, Eilish’s subdued and moody ballad has already become the perfect theme for today’s OO7.
Full disclosure. When it was first announced that director Cary Fukunaga and MGM were turning to eighteen-year-old Billie Eilish to take on the title song for the 25thfilm in the Bond franchise, I, like most, was a little skeptical.
When you think of some of the great Bond themes and the singers who’ve brought them to life over the years, you tend to think of names like Shirley Bassey (Goldfinger, Diamonds are Forever, Moonraker), Nancy Sinatra (You Only Live Twice), and Carly Simon (The Spy Who Loved Me). Since 1962, musical icons and vocal powerhouses like Bassey, Sinatra, Tom Jones (Thunderball), Paul McCartney (Live and Let Die), Louis Armstrong (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), Gladys Knight (License to Kill), Tina Turner (Goldeneye), and Adele (Skyfall) have lent their voices to the Bond franchise and the set the tone for the films that followed. There have been some a few pop sensations mixed in along the way, Duran Duran (A View to a Kill), a-ha (The Living Daylights), Garbage (The World is Not Enough), Madonna (Die Another Day), Jack White/Alicia Keys (Quantum of Solace).
And now… Billie Eilish has joined these iconic ranks.
If that seems as odd as the patch of sour-apple-green hair on the top of Eilish’s head, you and I are operating on the same wavelength.
Angsty teen. Pop sensation. Whispery, almost muted voice. Was this the right fit for Bond or just a feeble attempt to attract a younger audience to one of Hollywood’s oldest franchises?
Bond themes are famous for being bold, theatrical, and grandiose, with soaring vocals and sweeping melodies leading the charge. Billie Eilish’s voice, like her music, has none of that. So why is “No Time to Die” such a perfect fit for today’s James Bond?
Stripped of all grandeur, glamour, and theatrically, “No Time to Die” is a brooding, emotional, and subdued reflection of who James Bond has become in the modern era. Lonely. Brooding. Broken. Subdued. Words that describe Daniel Craig’s James Bond to perfection.
And let’s not forget:
In Casino Royale (2006), Bond had actually fallen in love with one of the women in his life (Vesper), only to watch her die in his arms, having been lied to and betrayed along the way.
In the climax of Skyfall (2012), Bond was stripped of all the things he normally relied on (or hid behind) as he tried to protect the one person he cared about most: M (Judy Dench). And in the end, he watched his surrogate mother and the one person who believed in him, die in his arms.
And in Spectre (2015), the ghosts of Bond’s past returned to shatter his world and any hope he might have of solace and absolution. At the conclusion of that film, Bond was able to walk away from MI:6 and the life that had brought him so much pain, in hopes of starting a new life with Madelein Swam (Lea Seydoux). But we were always left to wonder, was it already too late for Bond and Madeleine? Has Bond’s soul been fragmented beyond repair, as he feared might happen in Casino Royale? Will he ever find solace or absolution for the things he’s done? And how long will his “retirement” last?
The fact that James Bond is back for another mission in No Time to Die, may answer that question.
I’ve said it before: the trajectory of Bond’s life is ultimately tragedy.
This is the theme the Bond writers have been building to since Casino Royale.
With James Bond, author Ian Flemming tried to create the “ideal” man, with all the martinis, womanizing, and violence as his superpower. And men idolized that ideal for decades. Only recently has the Bond franchise, like society, recognized that the “ideal” man of early Bond was a fantasy and a lie, and not a very good or admirable one at that.
Of course, James Bond will always be classy, sophisticated, resourceful, witty, persistent, and calm under pressure. These are entertaining and admirable enough traits. But the recent Bond films have also shown us a much more complex and tortured hero, a man who is deeply tormented by the costs of his profession and the consequences of the life he lives and the lives he’s taken. This is a broken man, shattered by the violence of the double-O life.
Following the tone set by its predecessors in Adele’s “Skyfall” and Sam Smith’s “Writing’s on the Wall”, Billie Eilish’s “No Time to Die” has the emotional resonance of a life that’s been broken and a heart that’s been lied to, abandoned, and betrayed. And how does one feel when they are broken with nothing left to live for? Hollow and alone.
But in this instance, Eilish’s whispery, ethereal voice, balanced with traditional Bond instrumentation, captures these emotions to thematic perfection, perhaps more than any Bond theme we’ve heard in the series.
And as far as the lyrics go, Eilish reinforces the notion of betrayal, abandonment, and “falling for a lie.” Accepting that the one she trusted was never actually on her side and had her fooled the entire time, Eilish’s narrator closes herself off from the world, singing, “now you’ll never see me cry. There’s just no time to die.”
There are many moments in “No Time to Die” where you’re just waiting for things to pick up and build to a triumphant chorus, the kind we’re used to hearing from traditional Bond themes. But this time, that booming chorus and belting high note are withheld. But maybe that’s intentional.
Maybe the style and subdued nature of “No Time to Die” are meant to reflect all that’s been denied to the character on this journey. So instead of Bond being given the absolution he desires (and deserves), whether through redemption or his ultimate death, maybe Bond is destined to remain closed off and alone, saving the world but losing his soul in the process, an emotion deeply felt in “No Time to Die”.
That is a moving and tragic arc for one of the longest running heroes who’s never really had one up until now. It’s also a theme I hope No Time to Die explores to the fullest in what might be Daniel Craig’s final outing as OO7.
Now the question becomes: does “No Time to Die” speak to events that have already happened in Bond’s life or ones about to occur? We’ll have to wait until April 10th to find out.
So while I was initially unwilling to get on the Billie Eilish train for No Time to Die, I have found that this song beautifully honors the legacy of James Bond and journey up to this point, while also providing a wonderful, if not ominous, hint of what’s to come.
I am a fan.
No Time to Die arrives in theaters on April 10th. Check back to Perspectives off the Page that week for my thoughts on the film in relation to its title song. And if you haven’t listened to Billie Eilish’s theme, I encourage you to do so when you get the chance.
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