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With “Skyfall,” Adele and co-writer Paul Epworth have created a classic James Bond theme that honors the tradition of Bond and pays homage to the musical themes of the past. How appropriate given this year marks the 50th anniversary of the first Bond film.
The majestic ballad opens with only a heavy piano and very ominous warning from Adele: “This is the end/hold your breath and count to 10.”
Slowly, strings come in, but there’s no change in tempo, which remains steady and stately throughout. Instead, Adele and co-writer/producer Paul Epworth, layer on orchestration —the song was recorded with a 77-piece orchestra— to create a tremendous sense of foreboding as the song progresses and builds. The tension from the arrangement keeps the song from being a little, dare we say it, plodding.
Perhaps appropriately, given the golden anniversary, Adele and Epworth incorporate the heavy strings from the first Bond film, “Dr. No,” which became the theme most associated with Bond. Sadly, for Adele, the Oscar rules disqualify any song that includes non-original elements, so deserving as the tune may be, it can’t be nominated. Happily for the rest of us, its usage grounds the song with a certain gravitas from which her vocals can soar.
The lyrics in the sweeping chorus, which is more grandly impressive than anything you’ll be singing to yourself in the checkout line, presents a unified front: “Let the sky fall/when it crumbles/we will stand tall or face it all together,” she sings, as the strings collide as if the world really may be ending.
The second verse begins and there’s an audible change in the directness of Adele’s delivery. It’s possible that she’s channeling Bond as she sings: “You may have my number/you can take my name/but you’ll never have my heart.”
However, by the third verse, love reigns supreme again: “Where you go I go/what you see I see/I know I’ll never be without the security of your loving arms to keep me from harm/Put your hand in my hand and we’ll stand.
[More after the jump...]
It’s been a long time since there’s been a memorable Bond theme song. Quick: who did the theme for “Casino Royale?” (“Can’t Change Me” by Chris Cornell). What about “Quantum of Solace?” (“Another Way To Die” by Jack White and Alicia Keys) See? In fact, I’d wager you have to go back to Duran Duran’s theme to 1985’s “A View To A Kill” to come up with a Bond theme that got any kind of widespread airplay and had any impact. More than 25 years later, Adele has changed all that.
Since this is the only new song radio is going to get from Adele for quite some time, it will be interesting to see if programmers give it more than a novelty spin since its tempo is completely out of sync with what pop radio is playing right now.
What do you think of “Skyfall?”