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45 at 33: the gutsy chav chops of Adele’s Skyfall

Haunting, enigmatic and absolutely perfect for the movie, if it weren’t for the fact that Adele has become as ubiquitously mediocre as Nando’s, the dark and dramatic Skyfall would be a near perfect James Bond song. The subtle symphonic start, that goosebump inspiring brass line and the sweeping chords of the chorus that give a knowing nod to John Barry.

With its palpable air of mystery, this lush piano ballad certainly has all the makings of a Bond classic, and is the only theme of the Daniel Craig era that doesn’t deviate too far from the franchise’s original Sixties template, just with less bombast. Although there is an argument that that’s just playing it safe and the contemporary 007 movies are better suited to an edgier sound. The intelligent sounding choir is a nice touch, bringing a heightened sense of foreboding and making Skyfall unique in boasting the best backing vocals in a Bond song, ‘cos they don’t happen too often.

The only thing for me is the lyrics to Skyfall feel a little lacklustre. They foreshadow the climactic final scenes at 007’s ancestral home but somehow they come across as perfunctory. And I always think she’s going to say apple crumble (“Skyfole, Crumbole…”) Still, Adele’s a got a good set of pipes (when she’s not in over-singing mode), and the big bellowing notes suit her gutsy chav chops to a tee.

A while back, the singer — who has turned 33 — told an audience here in Sydney a little about the background of the song. This isn’t it.

“I got to read the script and I thought it was amazing. I was heavily pregnant and very emotional by the time I was recording it. And a side effect or symptom was my voice got a lot lower. So, my larynx dropped. That’s why the verse is so very low. And these days I do struggle to get down there.”

With admirable metrosexual tendencies, Craig admitted he was quite emotional hearing Skyfall for the first time. “I cried. From the opening bars I knew immediately, then the voice kicked in and it was exactly what I’d wanted from the beginning.” It’s not a wonder that the theme for the 50th anniversary film (the first billion dollar Bond in fact) was the very first 007 tune to win an Oscar, but after Sam Smith and Billie Elish repeated the trick in 2016 and 2019 something tells me that in the bigger better box office of Bondland the Academy Award will return.

Steve Pafford

For your ears only: all 30 Bond themes ranked from worst to best is here 

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