What a wacky journey it's been for Sam Smith. The British crooner is probably most known for the ubiquitous Top 40 hit "Stay With Me," a single so popular that it brought the attention of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers--the "Heartbreakers" in this case being a code name for his legal team. Oh, and Vin "Family" Diesel once attempted to sing it and I'm pretty sure people's heads exploded like in the film Scanners.
The controversial singer sparked even more controversy by being selected to perform the main theme for the upcoming James Bond film Spectre. Diehard fans felt burned, thinking that Welsh songstress Shirley Bassey (aka the Queen of the Bond theme) or Ellie Goulding (remember her?) would have made a better choice. It's unfortunate that Shirley Bassey would have had a fourth bite at the apple, had they not rejected her submission for the theme to Quantum of Solace despite having the entire score being based off of it. Don't mind me. I'm not bitter. I always clench my fist when I'm happy.
After much discussion on the internet, Sam Smith's song "Writing's On The Wall" premiered online on September 25. As expected, people cried out in anguish as if the collective internet found its genitalia being tortured by a frustrated LeChiffre. (Seriously, watch Casino Royale if you already haven't. It's magical even with the testicular torture scene.) Detractors were calling the Bond producers to change the song and the news that the single fell from iTunes and Spotify charts after 5 days have had some wondering if the derision was well-founded. The argument is that it's dull, it's too long and melancholy and not radio-friendly. Here's the kicker: I think they're right. It's all of those things. However, it's also really fucking beautiful.
After Adele's theme for "Skyfall" wowed audiences and did gangbusters at the Academy Awards, "Writing's On The Wall" just doesn't pack the same punch granted I don't think it was ever meant to be.
I'm not a fan of Sam Smith's voice and as a theme to a James Bond film it feels underwhelming compared to others that have come before it. With that said, it's a beautiful song and lyrically it may very well be one of the best-written themes in the franchise's history. I'll put it to you this way: If the song were more--dare I say--dynamic, something would have been lost in translation. Bond themes with too many bells and whistles are just irksome (I'm looking in your direction, Madonna). The more I listen to it, the more I find myself in love with it and it's been on loop since I first streamed it. Despite the uproar, it's success on the charts is poised to surpass that of Adele's, so there's that.
I hinted at this a while back on a random Facebook post, but one thing I love about most of the modern Bond themes since Garbage's spectacular "The World Is Not Enough" is that they work both as standalone songs or in the context of the storyline. That song works when considering it a twisted love song between the film's antagonists Elektra King and Renard. The dynamic of Adele's "Skyfall" completely changes when you realize that its subjects are James Bond and M. "Another Way To Die," the duet between Jack White and Alicia Keys, is a jumbled mess, but still holds relevance to the plot. I think. It's one of my favorite movies, but I still struggle to defend that theme.
Who are the subjects of "Writing's On The Wall?" It's too early to say and I have been dodging spoilers like so many of the bullets fired at 007. I'll know the answer in several weeks. Until then, consider this when debating the new song: Context is everything.