If there’s one dirty secret that unites all Bond themes from the Nineties, it’s that the songs ache to have been performed by Björk. That said, Garbage frontwoman Shirley Manson, who has turned 55, is a perfectly decent substitute for the Icelandic swanstress, and the silky cognac of a song she had to work with is a strong fit for her lush Caledonian tone.
Following on from our exploration of Sheena Easton’s For Your Eyes Only earlier this month, it’s kind of fitting that the 007 tunes in the 1990s ended pretty much like the 1980s had begun: with a sultry Scot vocalising over a slice of mysterious majesty courtesy of a hot new(ish) composer in Bondland, in this case Luton’s David Arnold. This is The World Is Not Enough.
1999’s The World Is Not Enough is another Bond theme that, like The Living Daylights a dozen years prior, finds a way to wed diverse rock, orchestral and electronic elements. The Bond film‘s new resident composer Arnold brought legendary wordsmith Don Black (Thunderball, Diamonds Are Forever, The Man With The Golden Gun et al) back to fine effect, with the intention of creating a classic theme that could be incorporated in varying variations throughout the movie, a process pioneered by John Barry that had virtually died out in the ‘80s, though it almost happened with Arnold‘s criminally demoted theme for Tomorrow Never Dies as sung by Canadian chanteuse k.d. lang.
The last 007 tune before the turn of the millennium roared with more drama than almost anything in the film to which it was attached. The trademark Barry chromaticism, lush strings, and brass is all there — but so, too, are filtered house drums and keyboard loops of Garbage’s signature postmodern sound.
Happily, the song is well-crafted enough to survive the musical baubles that slightly clutter its production. The verses are a little wishy-washy, but the chorus is a killer earworm, with Manson’s elastic vocals characterfully languid and darkly dramatic, almost pulling the rest of her body into each note by sheer force of will.
The World Is Not Enough reached the Top Ten in several countries, including No.6 in Italy. In the UK, it peaked in 11th place in Britain and as of 2021 marks the last time a Bond main title song was sung by someone not involved in its writing.
The next effort would be by someone called Madonna.
Call out the national guard.
Adapted from For Your Ears Only: all 30 Bond themes ranked and reviewed
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