Emo a go-go: why Billie Eilish’s James Bond theme is the perfect way to kill off 007

With today’s announcement that she will co-write and perform the title song for No Time To Die, California teen idol Billie Eilish becomes the youngest ever Bond Girl. Not only that, but her downbeat doom-mongery is the perfect way to help kill off James Bond.

Her miserablist minimalist music and edgy bordering on creepy imagery scream “emo”. And with her dry dyed hair, black baggy clothes accessorised with a myriad of chains and spikes, and that almost constant forlorn expression, she certainly looks it.

But actually Billie Eilish’s music defies categorisation. With her minor harmonic progressions and heavily manipulated, synthesized sounds, this most intriguing of teenagers crafts genre-blurring outcast anthems that bridge the gap between ethereal electro, industrial indie and dark alternative pop. The angsty, introspective lyrics don’t shy away from issues of mental health, often an exhilarating exploration into nihilism and sadism on the surface, with raw emotion at its very core.

Perfect for Bond then.

Depression, guilt, lies, and heartbreak inspired her first EP Don’t Smile At Me, subjects (very Bondian ones at that) which were more angrily evoked in 2019 when she tore up the charts with her debut album, the Grammy nominated When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

With twisted funhouse electro-pop like the singles Bad Guy and Bury A Friend, Eilish comes over as Lorde’s spiritual cousin from the other side of the Pacific. Interestingly, her material is usually co-authored with her brother, Finneas O’Connell, who also serves as producer, giving the sonics an often filmic feel. 

I touched on this when I wrote an article detailing my fave raves of the 2010s at the end of last year. It did cross my mind—very fleetingly—as to whether she might have put herself forward for the 007 tune, and clearly I should have paid a little more attention to my subconscious.

This 18 year-old Los Angeleno really is the most extraordinary and telling choice to provide the latest Bond theme. It will be just fine if she’s given half a chance. Eon are always at paint to make sure that their latest theme fits the Bond remit with a subtle sprinkling of John Barry-style musical motifs

Madonna’s Die Another Day was an inconsequential blob of bubble gum electronica, but once they added a dollop of strings and riffs it was great (well, OK, passable), so let’s wait and see before we judge.

As I expounded a few weeks ago, I’m absolutely certain that the retirement of Daniel Craig in the role sees Eon Productions do the unthinkable and bring to an end this timeline of 007. So what better way to go out than with a maudlin slice of melancholia lamenting that the end is nigh?

Immediately prior to the official announcement, Variety ran a story concerning how Eilish compares with previous Bond song performers.

“The choice of Eilish would be a dramatic change of direction for the legendary franchise’s long history of theme-song performers, which have progressed from Shirley Bassey* and Paul McCartney to Duran Duran and Tina Turner over the decades. More recent films have featured younger artists like Adele — who sang the smash hit Skyfall — and Sam Smith, both of whom, while contemporary artists in their 20s, are both British and create more adult-leaning music than Eilish: Her music is innovative and enormously popular, but her audience skews much younger than those artists.”

Eon also announced that Hans Zimmer will do the score for the 25th James Bond film, featuring Johnny Marr on guitar. No Time to Die will continue a pattern where the title song is produced separately from the score. A Bond film composer hasn’t been involved with the title song since 2006’s Casino Royale, when David Arnold collaborated with Chris Cornell.

Me? I’m just relieved that Ed Sheeran didn’t get his grubby ginger mitts on the coveted song, though obviously it’s a shame Cliff Richard got passed over again. 

Congratulations and celebrations Billie. Now it’s time to bury an old friend.

Steve Pafford 

BONUS: And I think we can guess what our Shirt thinks about Billie

https://youtu.be/5dGHJLCCm7w
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Steve Pafford
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