We have all the time in the world… to debate the relative merits of 50 years of James Bond music, as we do each time a new entry, like Billie Eilish’s “No Time to Die,” is added to the canon. And in the case of the film of that name, a long-distant Bond song has also been revived for the new soundtrack — Louis Armstrong’s “We Have All the Time in the World” — the impact of which may cause everyone to completely rethink where that love theme from “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” ranks, now that it puts us in mind of sad Daniel Craig instead of sad George Lazenby.
What follows is an unassailable list of 26 Bond songs rated from worst to best. A caveat: I have at least a twinge of respect or affection for every tune in the catalog — even the Jack White and Madonna tracks, which kind of deserve the black eyes they get from the vast majority of Bond buffs, but which deserve at least a little credit… okay, a very little credit… for fearlessness in shaking up what can lean toward a rather algebraic formula. The fact is, we love our post-Shirley Bassey Bond music most when it adheres to tradition in some ways while upending it in others. That could be Paul McCartney juxtaposing a sinister strings break with a goofy reggae bridge in “Live and Let Die,” or it could be Eilish and Finneas working a subtle sliver of Monty Norman’s “James Bond Theme” into their otherwise somber entry before bringing it home with the “spy chord”… the E minor Major 9 that will mean “Bond, James Bond” for the rest of time.