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Monday, August 6, 2012

Movie Music Monday: The Bullitts' Skyfall & another should-be 007 theme

Film Flam Flummox

With the impending release of any James Bond film comes the accompanying hype and speculation about who will get tapped to perform a theme tune to accompany the main title sequence, which are always just as anticipated as the films as a whole. While the longtime production company behind the series, the late Albert Broccoli's Eon Productions, has yet to make an official announcement for the twenty-third big screen adventure for 007, Skyfall, UK music group and multimedia artists The Bullitts have thrown their hat into the ring and make a most compelling case with their just-released prospective title tune. The last few Bond films have found the Broccoli's struggling to find a musical balance between the lushly orchestrated 007 sound template set by the legendary John Barry and modern musical relevance (sometimes rather desperately and embarrassingly; case in point, Madonna's dissonant disaster for Die Another Day)--a conundrum Bullitts frontman Jeymes Samuel confronts and conquers with smoothly effortless bravado. Against a jazzy, retro-loungey wall of sound punctuated by seductive horns, Samuel's breathy, contemporary funk croon soulfully delivers poetic lyrics of equally alluring romance and danger in the classically double-edged 007 tradition. Unlike cases such as with the last Bond film, Quantum of Solace, where the disconnect between the composer of the title song and David Arnold's score proper is too sonically obvious, regardless of what Arnold cooks up for Skyfall, it's hard to imagine The Bullitts' tune not locking in fairly seamlessly.

This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as Samuel and The Bullitts' ventures into the motion picture arena; set to arrive by year's end is They Die by Dawn, a western written and directed by Samuel--with, naturally, an accompanying album titled They Die by Dawn & Other Short Stories. Follow the progress of that project and The Bullitts' many others at their Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, SoundCloud, MySpace, and official site.

Speaking of Quantum of Solace, its Jack White-penned theme tune "Another Way to Die," performed by the odd couple of White and Alicia Keys, was an experiment whose noble attempt at experimentation and modernization ultimately fell short and left most audiences cold--which makes it all more sad that Arnold apparently had an ace in his back pocket that ultimately went unused: a tune belted with characteristically emotive gusto by the grande Dame of Bond music, the incomparable Shirley Bassey. The official line is that the cri de cœur "No Good About Goodbye," which officially debuted on Bassey's 2009 album The Performance, was put together after Quantum's release and was not in fact rejected for the film, but one cannot help but be somewhat skeptical for a number of reasons. First, the song uses a melody that recurs in Arnold's Quantum score proper. Second, Don Black's lyrics not only prominently feature the word "solace" but on the whole vividly sum up the somber theme and overall melancholic vibe of the film, which reflects Bond's mourning over the attitude- and life-changing loss of Casino Royale love Vesper Lynd and how all subsequent lovers can and will only be emotionally empty conquests. Third, when actually placed over Quantum 's title sequence visuals, the eerily pitch-perfect effect is on par with playing Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon over The Wizard of Oz. The visuals punctuate certain words and ideas in the song (e.g., the visual clearing on the word "space"; the scene transitions between verses), and on the whole turns the whole nude silhouette girl Bond title convention on its ear: the figures aren't the usual anonymous parade of sexy women, but rather the spirit and memory of Vesper continually, inescapably haunting Bond in his desolate desert of loneliness. Witness how the first woman appears on the first utterance of the title, and most gracefully, how the "ghost" materializes and multiplies with ever-increasing frequency and intensity starting at the close of the line "Before you make your move think of the consequences."

Skyfall is set to hit screens in the States on November 9.

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