Sam Smith’s ‘Writing’s on the Wall,’ the theme song for the James Bond movie ‘Spectre’ has had its premire and as social media has its say so too do the music critics. Is this a hit or a miss or somewhere in between? Here’s a round of reviews.
The multi-Grammy winning British soul singer Sam Smith has called landing the much coveted theme song “a dream of mine for a long, long time.” And, as the new song is released, the parallels are already being drawn to ‘Skyfall,’ not just because it was recorded by Adele — and Sam Smith has been called the “male Adele” — but because the song became a bona fide international hit. Not to mention it swept up three major awards, an Oscar, a Grammy and a Golden Globe. And suddenly now, a bar is set high. Expectations have been primed.
Sam Smith not only recorded the song, but he also co-wrote it with Jimmy Napes. In an interview with NPR he spoke about his intentions, saying, “”I tried to put myself in the shoes of Bond…My music is a diary and it’s a recap of my life, and I wanted to bring that kind of honesty.”
The song has provoked a strong reaction on social media in general and Twiter in particular where it’s received polarizing responses, and yes, all in 140 characters and hastags galore in our snap-judgement instantaneous online world.
But what do the critics say, who, presumably, have listened to the song and perhaps even considered it within the long tradition of James Bond songs going back to the iconic ‘Goldfinger’ theme sung by the inimitable Shirley Bassey which still rings in our ears more than 50 years later as perhaps the benchmark, long before ‘Skyfall.’
A roundup reveals critics too are divided on Sam Smith’s take on what truthfully is a genre of music.
“….But Writing’s on the Wall doesn’t feel anywhere near as striking as Skyfall. That may be because it’s essentially offering more of the same, while Skyfall felt like a break with the recent past, or it may be because it just isn’t as good a song. There’s something quite bold about a male singer using a Bond theme to convey vulnerability – you need a high falsetto threshold to get through the whole thing – but the melody doesn’t dig into your brain: you keep expecting it to arrive at a showstopping chorus that never comes. ….”– The Guardian
“….It is very, very slow and surprisingly restrained, at times floating by on resonant piano notes, the faintest brush stroke of orchestra, with all the focus on Smith’s intense, tremulous vocal, rising with controlled pace and tension to an audacious chorus pay-off. ….” — The Telegraph
“….Smith delivers a grand accomplishment by entertaining the romantic danger of the Bond character while staying true to his hallmark simplicity and elegance. His subtle orchestral cheer team is present, but augments his typical heartbroken persona with a confidence rising up to the level of the iconic secret agent…..” – Rolling Stone
“….But when Smith sings lines like “I wanna feel love, run through my blood”, it’s an emotional tug that’s alien to Bond’s love-them-and-leave-them schtick. Unless we’re about to meet a Bond crying over a girl he met on Tinder in Spectre, the heart of ‘Writing’s On The Wall’ is too tender for the newly-brutal spy….”– Digital Spy
“….In fact, “Writing’s on the Wall” hearkens to a time before “Goldfinger,” before Bond on screen, or at least to a tradition that has run parallel to the Bond sonic universe: that of music without rock-and-roll influence, music where no one craves propulsion, rhythm, or groove…..”– The Atlantic
We still have a few weeks before the movie hits theaters and who knows, there may be award nominations and there may be global sales that are worth envying. As we say, time will tell. The music buying public is as unpredictable as are the critics. Listen to the full audio of Sam Smith’s James Bond ‘Spectre’ theme song below!
Pictures: PR Photos