Friday, February 21st, 2020

Billie Eilish – No Time to Die

It’s no “Sontum of Qualace”


Katherine St Asaph: The boomerest shit ever: hearing Billie Eilish’s debut and thinking immediately, or ever, “Hey, this sounds sad and mentions dying. You know where this would be great? To introduce that classic series of spy intrigue, clearly still beloved by the 18-to-34s — you know, the one with the gyrating silhouettes of naked ladies!” Dark is not noir, and youth is not this; the industry machinations responsible can sap creativity in an 800-mile radius, like some Q-issued electromagnetic pulse. But I like both Bond themes and Billie Eilish a lot, as well as their ill-fitting combination. Billie takes to it surprisingly well, singing in the quavery part of her voice where she sounds startlingly like Róisín Murphy, though what she’s singing is an unsurprising miscasting. (You could really cite it all, but in particular “you’re no longer my concern” is a Grizabella-ed version of some more normal teenage no-fucks-given line, quite possibly containing “duh.”) Like most Bond themes, the heartbreak and melodrama are more authentic in song than film.

Alfred Soto: There’s a sliver of a subversive idea: ask a putative introvert whose wit tends to the puckish to co-write a tune for the world’s biggest, most superannuated film series. And the track as expected builds to the chorus release. But the fact remains: Billie Eilish and 007 represent a tragic clash of sensibilities. 

Brad Shoup: If doing a “Bond song” was so cool, why wait for Bond’s sclerotic contentkeepers to tab you? Just put one out! Every couple years someone issues a press release about how cool it is to be selected to release a “Bond song” and it’s usually cold compost with an EmM9 chord. This “Bond song” makes the orchestra do the hard work, makes Eilish feign concern about the mechanics of the Bond cinematic universe, makes no sense out of its ridiculous context.

Thomas Inskeep: This ticks all the “Bond theme” boxes: swelling orchestration (hi, Hans Zimmer), a slow build and burn, a quietly confident vocal (often female — women have generally done the best Bond themes). Speaking of the last, this is undoubtedly the best vocal performance I’ve heard by Eilish. And this has the added bonus of some subtle guitar work by Johnny Marr!

Edward Okulicz: Okay as a Bond theme, although the cinematic strings feel a little heavy when they barge in, because some concessions to convention have to be made. A better argument for Eilish’s versatility in the face of a stolid template than it is for the value of the template itself, though. I really do like the piano, even if what it makes me think of isn’t “massive movie franchise,” but “Billie and Finneas are scoring a live-action adaptation of Celeste.” 

Tobi Tella: Billie’s macabre and dramatic enough for a Bond theme, but in the same vein as Sam Smith, this doesn’t seem to aim for anything deeper than moody.

Will Adams: Billie Eilish doing a Bond Theme was the closest we were going to get to a “Die Another Day” successor in a long while; instead we get the same dour sweeps as “Skyfall” and “Writing’s On the Wall.” Between this and the song choice at her Grammys performance, I’m increasingly concerned that Billie is being funneled into Serious Artistry that takes the form of joyless, authentic ballads. To be clear, she is capable of those stirring, devastating songs that take it slow; but “No Time to Die” feels more like an assignment completed satisfactorily.

Scott Mildenhall: It’s a wonder when the next Bond theme will come that isn’t so classicist and straight-faced. This one carries so many echoes of the revisionist history built by the most recent themes that for a decent while into it, it could almost be mistaken for “Writing’s on the Wall”. Still, that’s not to let a yearning for archness or bombast detract from what “No Time to Die” does have: a clear-minded commitment to its cause. This will fit perfectly with whatever monochrome inkblot opening titles it accompanies, drifting, swirling and presaging a barely camp self-seriousness that will doubtless follow in the film itself. It seems to have been made with heart, too; it’s just a shame that it feels bound to let its blood run cold.

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