Review: Sam Smith’s new Bond song leaves us neither shaken nor stirred

Typically, Bond songs aim to do one of two things: emulate the Bassey-esque, big band, classic style, or attempt to break the mould by achieving something innovative. Sam Smith is guilty of the former, and he does a perfectly okay job of it. 

Smith’s offering, ‘Writing on the Wall’, doesn’t really seem to have a clear idea of where it is going. In fact, as a friend pointed out to me, it feels like 3 different songs stuck together. That might explain why it feels so long, despite being shorter than Adele’s Skyfallof the previous film.

Admittedly, part of the problem is that, in putting forward a Bond song, Smith is joining a pantheon of greats: Louis Armstrong, Carly Simon, Tom Jones, Nancy Sinatra, and, of course, Shirley Bassey. Anyone would pale in comparison to Bassey (you could almost say: nobody does it better…). Even Skyfall won an Oscar. But maybe I’m being unfair - the song is set to go number 1 when the charts are released this week, so obviously some people must like it.

Photo Credit: Flickr

It’s just that - for me, Writing on the Wall doesn’t quite meet all of the qualifications for a good Bond song. For starters, it doesn’t even reference the title of the film. The absurdity of having to force a rhyme with a title like Goldfinger (‘coldfinger’, anyone?) is part of what makes bond songs so great: they can’t take themselves too seriously. Plus, it’s not like Sam Smith even had a difficult one -  there are loads of things you can do with Spectre (protector, collector, ejector… Bo Selecta?). 

In fact, Smith’s Bond song is completely devoid of this element of the silliness that is so characteristic of the Bond tradition. The song is just too soupy and emotional. Maybe Smith was trying to keep some continuity following the melancholy tone of Adele’s Skyfall, or maybe he was trying to reflect the plot of the film, which is reported to reveal details of Bond’s origin story. Either way, there’s no sense of playfulness or fun which I feel is integral to all of the best Bond songs. Indeed, it’s this sense of fun which defines the franchise - think of all those one-liners that 007 comes out with at ridiculous moments, like seconds after throwing a villain over a mountainside (‘he had no head for heights’).  The fact that this light-heartedness is missing from Writing's on the Wall makes it seem less Bond and more… bland.

So, although I’ll have to reserve any final judgement until the film itself is released, at this stage it’s fair to say that the writing is on the wall for Smith’s new bond song... and what’s written isn’t all that exciting. 

Watch Sam Smith's video here: 'Writing's on the Wall' 

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