Bond Songs 2: No Time To Die

  • Song/Theme: No Time to Die
  • Created by: Billie Ellish and Finneas O’Connell (+ Hans Zimmer & Johnny Marr)
  • Singer: Billie Ellish
  • Who is it about?: Bond’s feelings about somebody else
  • What’s it about?: Somebody who has been betrayed by their lover

Jumping to the future, we have a song for a film that I haven’t seen yet. The most recent Bond film (and supposedly Daniel Craig’s final Bond film) was repeatedly delayed by the Covid 19 pandemic. I skipped it when it was finally in cinemas locally because of the Omicron wave underway. The delay meant that Billie Ellish’s theme song was released, and won awards, a long time before the public saw the film.

It is easily the most melancholic of the many Bond theme songs, continuing a trend hinted at in Adele’s Skyfall and then taking further in Sam Smith’s Writing’s on the Wall for 2015’s Spectre. However, while the tone is full of betrayal and regret, the lyrics have an element of defiance.

I let it burn
You’re no longer my concern
Faces from my past return
Another lesson yet to learn

That I’d fallen for a lie
You were never on my side
Fool me once, fool me twice
Are you death or paradise?
Now you’ll never see me cry
There’s just no time to die

Lyrics to No Time To Die

The longer running puzzle of how to work in the film’s title into the theme song is managed quite well here. It doesn’t entirely make sense, but if you didn’t know this was a James Bond theme song, the title doesn’t stand out as a weird artefact.

There are some absolutely great Bond theme songs that don’t feel the need to sound like a Bond theme song (e.g. the brilliant Nobody Does It Better), No Time To Die is a bit more subtle about that. Out of context, it’s not obviously a Bond theme at first but as the big orchestra sound begins to dominate the music, the song takes on more of a Bond opening credit sequence sound.

The lyrics are about a feeling of betrayal and like a lot of Bond themes, they work separately from the plot. However, the accompanying music video makes a more direct connection. Featuring Ellish singer into an old fashioned microphone, the video works in footage from the film but in a way that often directly matches the lyrics. So, as Ellish sings “But I saw you there” it cuts from a view of Madeleine Swann (Bond’s love interest in the film) to Daniel Craig’s Bond staring.

The unusual thing here is positioning the song as about James Bond’s inner emotions. There are theme songs that appear to be about Bond & songs about the bad guy (Goldfinger!) and songs that maybe are about the inner emotions of a character in the film but not many from Bond’s perspective about his feelings (one other example comes to mind but it’s easily the worst Bond theme song there is and I don’t want to unpack that one yet). An emotionally vulnerable Bond isn’t a wholly new element to the franchise and feelings of betrayal and/or paranoia don’t really push Bond far away from his frequent depiction of somebody with psychopathic tendencies.

Overall, this is a very good departure for Bond. Yes, yes, I know the franchise is unkillable and will get a new reboot soon but for this project, No Time To Die is the other end of the arc that starts with Monty Norman’s theme. I’ve been listening to a playlist of all the Bond themes and of those 25+ songs, this is definitely a highlight. And, of course, the lyrics themselves promise that the protagonist of the song actually is not really, really going to die…

12 responses to “Bond Songs 2: No Time To Die”

  1. On the franchise front: they really need to do a Doctor Who with it – give it 15 years off and come back fresh with a new set of ‘showrunners’ who don’t have any baggage. I respect Broccoli and Wilson for keeping the show on the road for so long, but I suspect that even they know that their time is up (and No Time To Die isn’t subtle about that either.)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You left out my favourite little easter egg in the song – the way the opening bars are almost-but-not-quite the opening of the classic Bond theme.

    Are you only going to discuss the “official” Bond themes, or do other songs from the movies get a look in too? One of my favourites isn’t actually an official theme song – kd lang’s “Surrender” from the closing credits of Tomorrow Never Dies.

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  3. The movie was better than Craig’s average — I like him as Bond but his villains are poor and their schemes are often dull. The villain was dull but the plot wasn’t bad and the film handled women better than most of his run.
    I’m curious whether they jump to another reboot, a la Craig’s Casino Royale or simply reveal Bond miraculously survived.
    My own review of the film:

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Madeleine Swann? I guess one of the writers was having some fun. Swann is the name of the narrator’s family friend who mingles with aristocrats and whose daughter is the narrator’s first crush. And Madeleine is the name of the confection that begins the process of bringing the narrator’s memories back so vividly.


  5. Hans Zimmer managed to make one of the worst soundtracks I’ve ever heard to Dune, so I’m not surprised I find this one awful too.

    Liked by 1 person

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