Now firmly established as the James Bond franchise composer after his excellent scores for Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough, David Arnold returned for this third Bond outing on what would become Pierce Brosnan’s final appearance as 007.
Initially, Arnold turned once again to lyricist Don Black with whom he had collaborated on the excellent Surrender from Tomorrow Never Dies and the title track to The World Is Not Enough. They began to work together on a track called I Will Return, although this was never finished once global superstar Madonna had been chosen to record to theme song.
Die Another Day (2002)
1. The World Is Not Enough
2. James Bond Theme
3. On The Beach
4. Hovercraft Chase
5. Some Kind Of Hero?
6. Welcome To Cuba
7. Jinx Jordan
8. Jinx and James
9. A Touch Of Frost
11. Laser Fight
13. Iced Inc.
15. Going Down Together
The heavily electronic track Die Another Day was co-written by Madonna and Mirwais Ahmadzaï and became the biggest selling Bond single in the UK since Duran Duran’s A View To A Kill seventeen years earlier, selling over 167,000 copies and reaching number three in the singles chart.
Unusually, Madonna’s theme song was presented in a title credit sequence that directly moved the film’s plot along, rather than a set-piece fantasy sequence. As producer Michael G Wilson says: “It really pushes the whole story forward, you understand what’s happening to Bond and it still keeps the integrity of the title sequence.
“And Madonna’s song – she’s integrated this pretty well – we went through several interpolations of it but I think when she saw the rough material that we were going to use she sort of adapted the song and changes the title to Die Another Day which was very important.”
Arnold also continued the subtle changes he had made to his Bond sound on The World Is Not Enough by using a more contemporary, electronic sound for action sequences. The excellent Whiteout and Iced Inc – used during the ice palace sequences – are a great example as are On The Beach and Hovercraft Chase which again make excellent use of Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme.
However, despite Arnold’s electronic sound and Madonna’s dance inspired title track, there was once again a disconnect between the title theme and the soundtrack. As with Bond films from A View To A Kill onwards (with one or two exceptions), the theme song was written in isolation from the rest of the score, meaning there are no recurring themes to make the soundtrack more consistent.
Despite this, Arnold showed his knack for producing some beautiful orchestral Bond themes in the John Barry style. Some Kind Of Hero? brilliantly scores the dramatic prisoner exchange sequence whilst Going Down Together beautifully hints at the theme to You Only Live Twice as it sparkles as brightly as the diamonds that fill Jinx and James’ love scene.
The composer also included two of the new themes he created for The World Is Not Enough. The Bond/Moneypenny virtual reality sequence uses parts of the song Christmas in Turkey whilst Renard’s piano theme is heard on the superb eleven minute Antonov.
In a departure from previous Bond films, a popular pop record was also included within the film. As Bond returns to England on a British Airways flight (served a drink by a stewardess played by Roger Moore’s daughter Deborah), London Calling by The Clash soundtracks his arrival. The song was being used by the airline in an American advertisement feature at the time, although it does sound rather incongruous in the context of a spy thriller.
Whilst there may be no doubt about David Arnold’s excellent soundtrack, opinions regarding Madonna’s title song are mixed. It is one of the series’ most commercially successful singles and was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Original Song. And, in a MORI poll for the Channel 4 programme James Bond’s Greatest Hits it was the overwhelming number one choice amongst under 24 year olds.
However, Die Another Day has often been criticised for departing too far from the traditional Bond sound. Many people consider it too much of a dance/electro track and it was nominated for a Golden Raspberry for the Worst Original Song in 2002.
Perhaps director Lee Tamahori sums up the feeling to Madonna’s track better than anyone: “It really grew on me the song, I must confess…”
Die Another Day effectively ended the forty year timeline of the Bond films whilst affectionately referencing all of the previous nineteen movies and many of Ian Fleming’s Bond books. While the film and Arnold did an excellent job of acknowledging the long history of the 007 series, it was a shame that the theme tune could not also have been more respectful to the Barry inspired heritage.
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October 4th, 2011 at 19:14
The Soundtrack holds up about as well as Arnold’s other efforts, effective and listenable, certainly better than the Goldeneye fiasco.
The title sequence is something I have a real problem with. Yes, it does connect the opening sequence with the rest of the movie. But it simultaneously presents a garish montage of imagery (at odds with all the other, often beautiful main title sequences) and an extremely watered-down telling of the utter torture that Bond endured for over a year. Granted the real thing would have been more than an audience could take but I think the montage trivialized what the character suffered.
And as for the song…
Madonna single-handedly destroyed a 40 year tradition of the instant-classic Bond theme. It in no way stands up to any of the others. It does not say “spy thriller” or “action-adventure” to me or have that otherwise Bond-sound we’ve come to expect.
The song itself might be salvageable if the awful electronic drums etc. were replaced with real instruments but otherwise it is unlistenable.
I’m not a huge Madonna fan but I do like some of her non-dance/techno stuff, so I know she is capable of a better job than this. And I doubt I would like it better if I were under 24!