Hear Radiohead’s (Demonstrably Better) Version of the ‘Spectre’ Theme
In the grand pantheon of immortal James Bond theme singers, a golden hall where Shirley Bassey sits atop a gilded throne with Nancy Sinatra at her right hand and the recently-inducted Adele at her left, chances are you won’t find Sam Smith. The velvet-voiced Brit singer lent his pipes to the opening theme of the most recent 007 picture Spectre and his recording, “Writing’s on the Wall” was agreed to be decidedly un-great among fans. Following up Adele is an unenviable task indeed, and it’s hardly Smith’s fault that the song is kind of lame — he’s got a gorgeous voice, the arrangement is just a little overblown — but regardless, audiences were left cold after hearing Smith’s cut. (Though perhaps that was also due to the bizarre inky-octopus visuals that accompanied the tune in the finished film.)
But the jolly, magnanimous blokes of highly lauded rock/prog/experimental/feelings band Radiohead had a surprise Christmas present for anyone who felt like the Spectre theme left room for improvement. Frontman Thom Yorke took to Twitter on Christmas morning to post a link to the group’s unused bid for the 007 honors, simply titled Spectre.
We’re still kind of exhausted from the holidays, so let’s cut the pussyfooting and get real frank: it is better than Sam Smith’s song. But the real question to consider here is whether or not Radiohead’s cut would be right for the franchise; the band has an illustrious history of challenging, dense musicality on their studio records, freely hopping between alternative rock, astral jazz, and chilly electronica. Just listen to the song — can you see a wide audience getting into the formless, hectic orgy of swooning string parts that closes out the track? It’s eminently possible that the executives putting together Spectre feared that Radiohead’s cut would leave viewers wondering what, exactly, was being said, or why they suddenly felt the desire to revert to nothingness and return to the womb. So in a way, it’s kind of understandable why they would have done what they did. Even so, someone still needs to recut the credit sequence so Radiohead’s song accompanies the weird octopus, a pairing that turns out to fit together with a surreal logic.