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Ranking: James Bond Theme Songs From Worst to Best

on May 23, 2017, 11:30am
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23. Lulu – “The Man with the Golden Gun” (1974)

Best Lyrics: “An assassin that’s second to none/ The man with the golden gun”

Listening to Lulu’s “The Man with the Golden Gun” is like listening to a homeless woman screeching and clawing her way to a karaoke machine off the street. From the jagged and startling horn noises to the unwieldy guitars and Lulu’s cat lady vocals, the whole song just stinks. It’s not just difficult listening or kitsch mania; it’s pretty much just the crummiest song in the Bond theme catalog.

Rumor has it that Alice Cooper also had a version of this song in contention for Man with the Golden Gun, but it was dropped in favor of Lulu’s version. Now, one has to wonder what Mr. No-More-Mister-Nice-Guy singing a Bond song might have been like. Call it a hunch, but it probably would have been better than Lulu’s three-minute record scratch. –Blake Goble

22. Madonna – “Die Another Day” (2002)

Best Lyrics: “Sigmund Freud/ Analyze this”

Whoever coined the phrase “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” could never have predicted the existence of Madonna’s “Die Another Day”. With Auto-Tune brought to new depths of hell and beats previously reserved for the waning hours of 2 a.m. discos in Chernobyl, Madonna arrives about a decade too late to help celebrated Bond #20. It’s appropriate that the second-to-worst song soundtracks what is arguably the worst movie of the franchise. Sometimes song and film are inextricably entwined, and this is one of those moments. Kiss of death for Brosnan’s reign as Bond, or was it the absurd CGI? –Justin Gerber

21. Sheryl Crow – “Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997)

Best Lyrics: “I see it in your eyes/ Tomorrow never dies”

If you’re recruiting James Bond theme singers, you might think to yourself, “Hey, what if we do something completely different and get someone with a shrill, scratchy voice to do vocals? It seemed like a good idea with Lulu that one time!” At least, that’s the imagined and only possible logic for how Sheryl Crow got the honors of singing for 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies, aka Bond fights Fox News and Media Machine. Crow’s “Tomorrow Never Dies” is a whiny song. And it’s a Golden Globe-nominated song as well, so, gross.

Somehow Crow’s work was chosen over another song that was going to be used for the film by K.D. Lang. Lang’s “Surrender”, which was played over the end credits, was originally called “Tomorrow Never Dies”, and it sounds way more like a Bond theme, horns and brass and large vocals and everything. –Blake Goble

20. A-ha – “The Living Daylights” (1987)

Best Lyrics: “Set your hopes up way too high/ The living’s in the way we die”

A-ha’s “Take on Me” is one of the greatest songs of all time; I don’t care who you are. “The Living Daylights” is not. Having to follow up Duran Duran’s “A View to a Kill” wasn’t going to be easy, and A-ha were clearly not up for the challenge. Sure, they borrowed the horns from the song that emerged from Roger Moore’s last appearance, but Timothy Dalton deserved more for his first outing. If only they’d gone with Pet Shop Boys or Chrissie Hynde (who does contribute two other songs to the movie). The greatest offense of “The Living Daylights” is that it’s utterly forgettable. –Justin Gerber

19. Gladys Knight – “License to Kill” (1989)

Best Lyrics: “Got a licence to kill (to kill)/ And you know I’m going straight for your heart”

I’ve seen License to Kill roughly 100 times thanks to frequent airings on TBS before the network was allegedly “Very Funny.” Despite this, I couldn’t recall a single lyric from this, the first Bond song to rip off “Goldfinger”. It took repeated listens to assign it an appropriate position on this here list. Oh, well. Gladys Knight sans her Pips gives a fine vocal performance, but not even she can make listening to this track from Dalton’s last Bond worthwhile. Side note: Patti LaBelle’s “If You Asked Me To”, which plays during the closing credits, was a huge hit for Celine Dion a few years later. This song is also bad. –Justin Gerber

18. Jack White & Alicia Keys – “Another Way to Die” from Quantum of Solace (2008)

Best Lyrics: “Or someone that you think that you can trust/ It’s just another way to die”

Who wasn’t excited for this? Jack White, a god in some circles here at CoS, teaming up with the booming vocals of Alicia Keys for a James Bond theme? But, alas, the dream never lived up to the reality. As the first duet in Bond song history, “Another Way to Die” doesn’t know if it’s a rock song or an R&B song. The clean horns and garage rock sound strange together. White’s vocals are more affected than Keys’. These fusions don’t work. I can appreciate White trying to shake it up, but we’re left stirred and not shaken. That was meant to come off as more negative than it does. –Justin Gerber

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