Welcome to the 1980s in our trip through the songs of the James Bond films. Let’s get right to it!
“For Your Eyes Only” – Here we have a perfect title for a love song. So it’s a new era, let’s get a new singer! Sheena Easton was the newest of new hitmakers at the time, and she nailed the performance of this torchy song. The producers also realized she was hot, so, for the first time (and only time to date), they featured her in the opening title sequence. Musically, we can see the uneasy transfer from sappy late-70s to tech-heavy-early-80s, with the atmospheric piano and the subtle synthesizer riffs. (Sorry, no brass this time around.) Presaging the simple, optomistic 80s, this is a nonironic love song. Either James Bond really reformed his character during the 70s, or this woman doesn’t know who she’s dealing with. But, even with all of that, this is a great song. In the ballad category, “For Your Eyes Only” just barely edges out “Nobody Does it Better” as the best in the series.
“All Time High” – For the first time the title of the film makes no appearance in the song. (Imagine Shirley Bassey belting out a song called “Octopussy”. Go ahead. I dare you.) Rita Coolidge takes us back about ten years with a song that could have been produced in 1975. Oh, enough with the emotional strings and the eccentric guitars. And a saxophone? Yikes! This is Bond! We don’t want reeds, we want horns? There’s not really much to say about the lyrics. This is easily the least impressive of all the songs in the series.
“A View to a Kill” – It took the producers until 1985 to realize that they were in the 80s. They got Duran-Duran to make a song that really sounds like a Duran-Duran song. Now, if you don’t like this sort of antiseptic, synthetic 80s music, you’ll probably hate “A View to a Kill.” But I love it. Sampled horns! Drum machines! Little bouncy guitar riffs! Lyrics that make no sense! “Dance into the fire. To fatal sounds of broken dreams. That fatal kiss is all we need. Dance into the fire, when all we see is the view to a kill.” Plenty of dangerous imagery without the baggage of actual meaning. Greatness!
“The Living Daylights” – That poppy British band did a pretty good job on the last one. How about we hire a poppy Norwegian band this time. Same punchy, sawtooth guitars. Even punchier orchestra hits. Even more androgynous male singer. Once again, they made a song using the title of the film that doesn’t really mean anything, but hints at menace: “Living’s in the way we die.” Even the introduction of a new Bond (Timothy Dalton) doesn’t really impact the musical choices.
“License to Kill” – Gladys Knight does what she can with this song, but it doesn’t amount to much. For the first time, the music starts to sound less like a lazy throwback, and more like an homage. The opening brass stabs evoke the Bond mythology, but of course, don’t go anywhere. The bulk of the song is a mushy R&B effort that frames the woman as the one with the “license to kill” to protect her love. That’s a nifty kind of reversal, but it doesn’t gel into anything memorable.
So much for the 80s. What a hit-or-miss decade!