There were three bands that defined my love of 80's music. Thompson Twins, Pet Shop Boys, and Depeche Mode. Of the three, Pet Shop Boys has been my most enduring favorite (Thompson Twins quit long ago, though Tom Bailey has recently come back). As for Depeche Mode? Well... things happen from time to time that remind me why they were my favorite band for nearly 20 years, but it's been tough for me from Exciter onward.
Here's a ranking of their albums from love to loathe...
101 — Depeche Mode is at their best when performing live. Truth to tell, there are few bands which can compare to their live performances. And if one needs proof, you need look no further than 101 from their "Tour for the Masses." Not only did it include several songs off that incredible album, it included the best tracks from those that preceded it. Magic in a bottle. And still my favorite DM album.
Some Great Reward — A remarkable album from just about any angle, it was the inclusion of People are People, Blasphemous Rumors, and Master and Servant that had me completely absorbed. It was right here that Depeche Mode became my favorite band on earth for decades.
Black Celebration — I listened to this one nearly-continuously for a year after it was released. Decidedly dark in tone, it spoke to every corner of my soul as I headed into adulthood.
Music for the Masses — Up until this album I was a big fan of the band... but I was a big fan of a lot of bands. And yet once I saw the "Tour for the Masses" and finally got to experience Depeche Mode live for the first time (see 101 above)... I was a big obsessive fan of the band. It was the album which brought true fame to the band here in the States (at last) but bigger things were yet to come. Would probably rank higher if 101 (essentially the live version) didn't exist.
Songs of Faith and Devotion — The last truly great Depeche Mode album. I don't think it's a coincidence that it's also the last album to feature Alan Wilder. Mercy in You remains my favorite track by the band, but there was so much more to love on this album. There was a track-for-track re-release as a live album, and I think I actually like it better than the studio version.
Violator It took a while for DM to break the USA wide open. Thanks to standout tracks like Personal Jesus and Enjoy the Silence, this was the album to do it. I loved it, of course, but older albums were still the ones I was listening to most.
Construction Time Again — Some really great songs here as the band found its footing. Mostly thanks to the track Everything Counts, which went on to be a staple of their live shows.
Ultra — After Alan Wilder left, I really didn't think that the band would be the same. And they weren't. Still, they did manage to rally with Ultra which was different, but not necessarily in a bad way. Half the album was as good as ever. The other half was meandering and kind of fell flat for me.
Playing the Angel — When the first single, Precious, was released, I was flying high over the idea that just maybe the band had rebounded from the previous album (Exciter). And rebound they did. Sure the album version of Precious wasn't as good and there were a few tracks that never quite landed... I was still very happy with the album... and the tour.
Sounds of the Universe — The last album by the band that I truly enjoyed. Not all of it... but enough of it. And the tour was fantastic.
A Broken Frame — In their second album, things started coming together for the band. This was quite a feat given that their songwriter (Vince Clarke) had left.
Speak & Spell — The first Depeche Mode album (and the only album with original member Vince Clarke) was pretty raw. But there were some gems to be had.
Exciter — The first album by the band that truly disappointed me. A couple decent tracks, but nothing to write home about. They rebounded a bit, but never reached the heights we got from Songs of Faith and Devotion.
Delta Machine — I do not, for the life of me, understand how the band got to this point. Before release, I was actually excited about Delta Machine — because there was talk they had returned to their roots. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was yet another album filled with angels and redemption, but was a joyless mess. I went to the supporting tour, but was only interested in the tracks that weren't from Delta Machine.
Spirit — Hated every single song on it. Never bought it. Never saw the tour. Shocked that things could get worse than Delta Machine, but here we are.
When I first got into comic books, I was more a DC guy than a Marvel guy. The biggest reason for this was The Legion of Super-Heroes which gathered dozens of differently-powered individuals from different worlds in the far future. For a very long time, it was that one book I could count on no matter who the creative team behind it was. It was pretty good even when it was bad.
And when it was great? Holy cow was it great!
Eventually sales were such that they let Keith Giffen try something entirely new by taking them from hopeful super-powered teens in a bright future to hopeless super-powered adults in a dystopian nightmare. I absolutely loved it. The comic book I had loved forever had somehow changed completely yet was somehow even better. But then DC wanted to go back to the teen Legion and things started to slide. It was fine for a while... but then kept getting worse and worse until I just wasn't interested anymore. By then I had mostly moved on to Marvel anyway, but it was still a sad day.
For this ranking, I'm taking the Gold/Silver/Bronze age Legionnaires and figured out which I liked best... and which I liked least...
Mon-El/Valor — Easily my favorite Legionnaire. He started as a throw-away Superboy story element from the past that became far more interesting when he was transplanted into the future.
Brainiac 5 — His incredible intellect brought a lot to The Legion (the flight rings are all him) and writers seemed to have the easiest time making him interesting (his force-field belt was a terrific add-on). Heck, when they turned him insane, he became one of the best LOSH villains ever.
Ultra Boy — What I like best about Ultra Boy is how they took Superboy then made him interesting by limiting him to using one of his powers at a time. In the hands of a good writer, the character had to be clever to work... being both the most powerful and the weakest character from moment to moment.
Princess Projectra/Sensor Girl — I never really got a bead on the character or her powers until they gave her a medieval spin which made my head do a 180. From then on she was a favorite. But that wasn't all! She also got a turn as Sensor Girl, one of the more fascinating characters in the history of the team.
Dawnstar — A character who could navigate the depths of space unaided was a natural and brilliant fit for The Legion. The fact that she always seemed to be the smartest character in the room didn't hurt.
Timber Wolf — Basically a more interesting Wolverine character that isn't tied to a long, convoluted back-story that is never as interesting as writers seem to think it is.
Wildfire — An effort to do something truly different with the membership, and a successful one at that. His relationship with Dawnstar was one of his best qualities.
Saturn Girl — Her telepathy made her a naturally-interesting character, but it's what they did with her as a person — that made her crack my top-ten.
Chameleon Boy — He started out as an interesting alien diversion, but gained a crazy-level of depth when they tied him to the origin of the entire team in a very cool way.
Cosmic Boy — The boy scout of the Legion who had the worst possible costume for years. Even though he was pure vanilla for much of his super-powered career, he had enough interesting moments.
Supergirl — Superboy was marginally more interesting on his own than this the Legion. Supergirl was the complete opposite. I found her much more entertaining here than in her rather dull solo adventures. If only they had utilized her more often.
Superboy — A great character that was essentially show-horned into a crazy number of Legion stories... and not always for the better. Even so, he was the link that kept on giving, and always worked in the context of The Legion's future-tales.
Karate Kid — Buying into the Bruce Lee karate fad of the day wasn't enough, so they made him a master of martial arts from dozens of worlds and gave him the ability to find the inherent weakness in things. His wacky over-the-top costume was a weird diversion when he was in a group scenario.
Laurel Gand — I liked her well enough when she debuted... she was a distant relation of Mon-El that was used to interesting effect (hence her high placement on this list). Had I been able to consider her fascinating turn as Supergirl-replacement Andromeda from her Post-Crisis days, she would have ranked even higher.
Lightning Lad — Other than being a founding member of the team, the most interesting thing about him was that he was dead for a time. Not a ringing endorsement to be sure.
Invisible Kid II — His origin in the Legion annual he debuted was extremely well handled even if he was a bit boring afterward. Still, there's something to be said for him being a competent addition to the team rather than yet another bizarrely-powered oddity.
Dream Girl — Her powers were easy to underestimate, but she proved herself to be an invaluable part of the team many times.
Element Lad — Easily the most powerful Legionnaire going (well, depending on who was writing him) speculation about his sexuality by readers seemed to be more interesting than the actual character.
Phantom Girl — She was definitely given more interesting stories than many of her teammates... but her relationship with Ultra Boy was more defining than anything else, which was criminal given how interesting her powers were. Or rather, how interesting they could be.
Tyroc — A fascinating idea for a character that was woefully underutilized. Kinda a trippy Black Canary type. Maybe writers didn't know quite what to do with him?
Sun Boy — Definitely a middle-of-the-road character that had his moments to shine... but he just wasn't as interesting as similar energy-based characters.
Light Lass (Lightning Lass) — Starting out, she was a Lightning Lad clone (which makes sense, given that she's his sister. In an effort to make her less redundant, they changed her powers to make things super-light. This made her more interesting than Star Boy, but only just barely.
Duo Damsel (Triplicate Girl) — A somewhat dull character made worse when she lost a third of what made her interesting. Her relationship with Bouncing Boy was the thing that really had her stock dropping.
Shadow Lass — Another female character who was made interesting solely because of her love-life (with Mon-El). Kinda lame that her powers, which could actually be interesting, so often were not.
Star Boy — Used to be a Superboy clone. Eventually gained the ability to make things super-heavy. Another one-note Legionnaire who was rarely notable.
Colossal Boy — He could grow big. But most of the time he just ended up doing a lot of damage when he fell down and went boom.
Invisible Kid — He never really got a shot back in the day. Finally they performed a mercy-killing and had him join the ranks of dead Legionnaires.
Kid Quantum — A character that was never as good as his concept. The potential wasn't really fulfilled until his little sister took over the role.
Polar Boy — As a member of the loser-squad (Legion of Substitute Heroes) he didn't gain that much when
Shrinking Violet — Post-Crisis, they did a lot with the character. Pre-Crisis, however, she was incredibly, unforgivably boring.
White Witch — It's not that she's not an interesting character... it's just that she was never very interesting to me. Unless there was a magic-based adversary like Mordru around. Otherwise I rememeber her being more irritating than anything else.
Chemical King — Most notable for being mysteriously dead, then getting a bit of a moment before becoming dead-dead.
Blok — A direct copy of The Thing from Marvel's Fantastic Four — who never really went anywhere.
Magnetic Kid — Cosmic Boy's younger (more boring) brother. Nothing new here. Move along.
Matter-Eater Lad — He can eat anything. Woo-hoo. The only reason he's not dead-last on my list is that it was pretty awesome how Braniac 5 got him to consume The Miracle Machine, which caused him to go insane.
Ferro Lad — The most interesting thing about him was that he was the first dead Legionnaire. Happily, this was rectified in reboots, but it was fairly depressing in those early days.
Bouncing Boy — Good Lord. "Super bouncing" as a power was sublimely stupid in just about every possible way.
Tellus — Pointlessly bizarre character who, along with Quislet, was apparently an effort to get a larger non-human element in The Legion.
Quislet — Another pointless non-human who added practically nothing to the series. I rank him worst because he was so poorly defined and utilized.
I maintain that The Legion could make an excellent television series. We got a taste in the last season of Supergirl but there is still so many places they could go. Maybe one day.
As any long-time reader of this blog already knows, I am hopelessly addicted to the LEGO video games. They are mostly (fairly) simple puzzle games which involve looking for various objects and trying to figure out how to combine them to complete a task needed to advance in the game. Most all of the titles are really funny, even with the source material can be rather gory (I'm looking at you Jurassic World!). And that's the appeal. LEGO games are a mindless distraction from all the horrors of the world that I like to escape into from time to time...
And so... here's my ranking of all the console LEGO games I've played (I haven't played the latest LEGO online game, LEGO Worlds yet because I am hesitant to buy into an online game that could be set down like LEGO Universe was).
LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham — Where do I even start? Dozens of awesome DC characters on amazing adventures that are far, far more entertaining than and DC movies hitting the screen. This is the Justice League people deserve to see, and it's a fun, hilarious, entertaining ride from start to finish.
LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga — What's so fantastic about LEGO games like this is that they follow the general narrative of the movies... but add so much more. The "Complete Saga" has games covering everything from the original trilogy (mind-bogglingly good) to the crappy prequels (which are so much more fun in LEGO than the actual movies). Like most LEGO games, the vehicles are a mess to control and I don't have much fun on the spaceship missions, but everything outside of that is gold.
LEGO City Undercover — When this game was first released, it was a Wii U exclusive. I didn't have a Wii U, so I just held tight and thought I would wait until it got released on other systems. Then I got to actually play the game at a friend's house. I was so absorbed into the massive city and all the clever missions that I had to have it. So I bought a Wii U just to play it. Expensive way to play a game, but worth it. The integration of the Wii U controller into the game was great, the levels are hilarious, and some of the challenges were more difficult than in other LEGO games. A winner all the way around.
LEGO Dimensions — Blending so many licensed properties in a single game was a fantastic concept that worked exceedingly well. You start out with LEGO Batman, Gandalf (from The Lord of the Rings, and Wildstyle (from The LEGO Movie)... but you can add any other character you want from any other franchise to any Free Play mission you want. Want to team up The Wicked Witch of the West with Bart Simpson and Beetlejuice? Have at it. I loved LEGO Dimensions and bought every single set that LEGO released for it. Needless to say, I was gutted when they discontinued LEGO Dimensions. But I guess it's okay because I still have a ton of stuff left to explore on all the expansion packs I bought. Hopefully they won't shut down the servers before I have a chance to complete everything.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes — This is a fantastic game which feels inspired by the Marvel Studios movies, but encompasses all the Marvel characters. It's also massive. It feels like the entire city of New York has been recreated in LEGO form and there's just so much to see and do. With each new release the LEGO games just keep getting bigger and better. I can't imagine what LEGO: The Incredibles and LEGO DC Super-Villains are going to be like!
LEGO Batman 2: DC Super-Heroes — Well, here we go. I had no idea how they were going to put powerful characters like Superman and Wonder Woman into a game and have it work (they are invulnerable and can literally fly anywhere, go anywhere), but they obviously put a lot of thought into that dilemma, because everything works flawlessly. I got this game on a Friday, then ended up playing all weekend and taking a vacation day at work on Monday because I was so absorbed in unlocking all the secrets hidden around Gotham City. Fantastic follow-up to the original game.
LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens — I wasn't going to buy this one... I was going to wait until all of the new trilogy games were collected in a single game... but I couldn't resist. Hearing that all the characters were voiced by the original actors was compelling enough to make me buy in. I did not regret it. This is a hilarious parody with improved game-play from the earlier Star Wars games. As if that wasn't enough, it has levels that link Return of the Jedi to The Force Awakens which makes this a must-have game not just for LEGO fans, but for any Star Wars fan as well.
LEGO Marvel's Avengers — A direct lift of Marvel Studios films of the day (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Winter Soldier, etc.), this game doesn't feel as "open" as later games, but is still a heck of a lot of fun. All the characters are Marvel Cinematic Universe versions, which makes for a slightly different mindset than other games which are more tied to the comic books. That just made me love it even more, and I had a blast playing it.
LEGO Ninjago Movie — I'm only half-way through this one, but I'm really enjoying it. I'm only barely familiar with the Ninjago franchise (I've never seen the movie but I have all the characters from the LEGO Dimensions game... but, fortunately, familiarity isn't required to play. Experiencing the game makes me really want to see the movie, so I guess that's as big an endorsement as you can get.
LEGO Harry Potter (Years 1-4 and 5-7) — I am not a fan of the Harry Potter movies or books. I honestly don't get their popularity, because they seem like derivative works that rely on deus ex machine to tie up the endings of each story. That being said, the LEGO games are awesome. They seem a bit more "puzzley" than other games, and that worked to keep me interested through the entire series. I do think the game would have been enhanced if I had seen the films, but I was okay without it.
LEGO Batman: The Videogame — I am a huge Batman fan and a huge LEGO fan, so I bought this game not knowing anything except it combined two of my favorite things. Before this, I had been playing the LEGO Star Wars games and liked them, but here is where I became obsessed. They got a lot right with the Batman franchise from the very start and everything that followed was gravy.
LEGO Indiana Jones (Volume I and II) — The Indy Trilogy films were born to become LEGO games, and the result did not disappoint. I had a lot of fun roaming from adventure to adventure... so much so that I bought this game twice! Once on my Xbox 360 and once on my Nintendo DS handheld (which was surprisingly different than the console version). Released in two parts, I thought the second half was lacking compared to the first, but still enjoyed the whole game.
Pirates of the Caribbean — This title felt way too much like "more of same" that we had been getting, but lacked the variety of games which preceded it. Despite all that, it was a lot of fun to play and looked beautiful. I lost interest in the movies after the first two, but this game kept me interested all the way through.
LEGO Jurassic World — Putting Jurassic Park in a LEGO game is kinda a no brainer (the LEGO Dimensions pack was fantastic). What made this game shine was having the original actors voice all the characters. The game would have ranked higher on my list if there were more dinosaurs used as playable characters... otherwise it's just regular human after regular human. Sure they have unique skills, but still. If I have a serious complaint, it's the annoying as hell Compsognathus dino attacks which beseige you far too often to stay entertaining. By the end of the game I was thinking "Holy crap, did anybody beta test this?"
LEGO Lord of the Rings — As a big fan of Tolkien's books and somebody who really enjoyed the Peter Jackson movie adaptations, I could not wait for this game to be released. And it was definitely worth the wait. Except... it kinda fell short when compared to the other LEGO games being released at the time (namely, LEGO Batman 2 and LEGO Marvel Super-Heroes). Even so, it was highly entertaining and had me absorbed from start to finish.
LEGO The Hobbit — I thought that Perter Jacksons' absurdly drawn-out movie adaptation of the beautiful and simple story that's The Hobbit was way overboard. This should have been one movie... not three! That being said, if you're going to do a video game movie adaptation, you'd better finish what you started. In this case, they did not. The final Hobbit film (The Battle of the Five Armies) was supposed to be released as a downloadable content pack, but wasn't. How lame is that? The game didn't have a lot of variety in characters, but made up for it in other ways, which was nice... but lack of a finale kept the game from ranking high on my list. As it is, there's only two games left which disappointed me more.
The LEGO Movie Videogame — I have no idea what went wrong, but this is one of the few LEGO games I was unable to complete. It was glitchy as hell, which was hugely disappointing given that this was a LEGO game about a LEGO movie and had so much promise. It's kind the height of irony that this is the game that failed so badly. In the LEGO games there are always little glitches that pop up... but none that kept me from enjoying the game like this one did.
LEGO Universe — What a mess. I signed up to be an early beta tester because they were developing a MacOS X version of this MMPORG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game). Apparently it was running under emulation, so it was slow and glitchy in spots. Especially when a lot of characters were on-screen. Even so, I loved playing the cool missions and seeing what new insanity they would add to the game next. Until they stopped adding. And then shut down the servers so you couldn't play anymore. I mean, I know that each game has a shelf-life, but LEGO Dimensions felt as though it was shut down way before its time, and I'm still pretty raw about it.
That's a lot of LEGO games. And it doesn't even include the versions I've bought for my iPhone, iPad, Gameboy, and Nintendo DS! And next up? LEGO: The Incredibles! How awesome is that?
I've decided this will be a week of ranking random things! And to start? I'm ranking all the James Bond themes.
As a big fan of the franchise, seeing who they get to crank out the movie's theme song is always part of the fun because it's a real hit-or-miss with me. And here we go...
The original James Bond Theme (John Barry, Dr. No) — The fact that this is one of the most well-known pieces of movie score ever written (and has endured as such even to this day) is a testament to just how amazing it is.
Live and Let Die (Paul McCartney & Wings, Live and Let Die) — Quintessential James Bond movie theme song with all the complexity you'd expect from Paul McCartney. He started soft, building to a frantic assault on your brain... then dropped into a near-whimsical interlude before slamming forward again... then dropped into another interlude of strings and romance... before bringing it home with a bold crescendo of a finish. No theme song that followed captured the entirety of a James Bond story the way that this one did. In lesser hands, it would have undoubtedly been a mess, but that's McCartney for you.
For Your Eyes Only (Sheena Easton, For Your Eyes Only) — In many ways, this is my favorite James Bond theme song. Elegant, powerful, and sublimely beautiful in the way that it set the stage for the film. Lyrically, vocally, and musically is all came together to just work. This was the first James Bond movie I saw in a theater, which probably taints my feelings a bit, but I'm making no apologies for that.
Moonraker (Shirley Bassey, Moonraker) — This is the song that mires any list I make in controversy, because Shirley Bassey's other tracks (for Goldfinger and Diamonds are Forever) are widely regarded as James Bond mainstays and far superior to Moonraker. I disagree. If anything, I feel that this is the song which best uses her immense talent to best service the James Bond aesthetic. Rather than plowing over the top of the music with her power, Bassey's restraint here allows the majesty of a soaring musical score to shine while still showcasing what makes her the Queen of Bond Theme Songs. If there's a misstep, it's the annoying "ting ting" of a triangle that should have been more subtle by at least half, but it's a small blot on an otherwise flawless track.
A View to a Kill (Duran Duran, A View to a Kill) — An exciting theme song opening with a pop flare that only a band like Duran Duran could give it, this is exactly what you want when you ask "the band of the moment" to write the opening track for your Bond movie. Despite being a song so obviously rooted in the 80's I honestly don't think it's badly dated by today's standards, which is quite an accomplishment.
Skyfall (Adelle, Skyfall) — It's weird. I love Adelle, the person, but don't care for her music much. Then Skyfall comes along... and she absolutely nailed it. So painfully Bond it hurts, this is how you you do it. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.
The World is Not Enough (Garbage, The World is Not Enough) — On the surface, this seems like an odd match-up... I mean, Garbage? Really? But then you hear Shirley Manson's flawless vocals carrying you through a dream-like trance of a soaring orchestral score and you totally get it. What's so cool is that it breaks free of being boring with occasional punch and a fantastic finish that leads you right into the movie... which really should have been better than what we got.
License to Kill (Gladys Night, License to Kill) — Gladys Knight totally killing it as you knew she would. This is a beautiful, powerful song with some great vocal and musical moments which make it next-level stuff. The lyrics were perfect as well, feeling very Bond from start to finish.
Nobody Does it Better (Carly Simon, The Spy Who Loved Me) — The most secretly overtly sexual theme song in the entire Bond franchise, this is one of those songs that is both so very James Bond and the least Bond-sounding. It's probably that conundrum that makes me appreciate it over more appropriately-themed tracks on this list.
The Living Daylights (a-ha, The Living Daylights) — Seeing as how a-ha is one of my all-time favorite bands, it should comes as no surprise that I love this track. It's a beautiful song, and I think it was an imaginative way to reflect the themes in the movie (as all good theme songs should). But I seriously struggle a bit as to where it belongs on this list because it lacks the gravitas that songs need to work as a good Bond theme. Rounding out my top-ten felt "right" even though there are tracks below which feel more "Bond" to me.
Goldeneye (Tina Turner, Goldeneye) — Perhaps it was having to work the word "Goldeneye" into the lyrics which made this song not quite come together... but it's otherwise got a lot going for it. Like Tina Turner crooning over a sultry score that feels both retro and modern at the same time. Not quite timeless, but memorable enough to make me like it.
Die Another Day (Madonna, Die Another Day) — This song does not hold up as well as a James Bond theme should. It's badly dated by the autotune trickery, and I can't help but feel that Madonna had a much, much better Bond theme in her somewhere. Even so, I've always liked this track and felt the rabid criticism of it was unjustified. At least it tries to be interesting both musically and vocally, which is more than you can say for a lot of songs on this list. Sure, there are distractions dragging it down ("Sigmund Freud?!?"), but it paired very well with the Pierce Brosnan torture scenes it was played to.
Diamonds are Forever (Shirley Bassey, Diamonds are Forever) — Despite having the unimaginably powerful vocals of Shirley Bassey behind it, the lyrics and singing are a bit of a slog for me. Where this track really shines is in the music, which has some really great moments in there.
Goldfinger (Shirley Bassey, Goldfinger) — Yeah, yeah, I'm a heathen for having the most memorable of all the Bond theme songs not make my top ten... but it just doesn't "do it" for me. Bassey can belt it out with the best of them, but this was all power all the time with no subtle moments to make all that power feel as impressive as her other two takes on a Bond theme song. And that ending? Lord. So over the top as to be grating. I just don't get it.
You Only Live Twice (Nancy Sinatra, You Only Live Twice) — This is such a beautiful musical arrangement that it pains me to drop it so low on my list. But the vocals just kill it. Nancy Sinatra didn't have the power to pull it off and the lyrics were forgettable.
Tomorrow Never Dies (Sheryl Crow, Tomorrow Never Dies) — Despite liking Sheryl Crow and finding the musical arrangement to be nice enough, this song doesn't work for me. It seems more disjointed than Live or Let Die, which is really saying something. As if that weren't enough, it's so sleepy and boring that you're nodding off before the movie even gets going.
Thunderball (Tom Jones, Thunderball) — Gag-inducing song with lyrics so awful that Tom Jones attempts to compensate by blasting them out in the most annoying way possible. ANY WOMAN HE WANTS, HE GETS! HE'LL BREAK ANY HEART WITHOUT REGRET! =insert eyeroll emoji= This was the only song on this list that I could not bring myself to listen to all the way through.
You Know My Name (Chris Cornell, Casino Royale) — Just awful. I still can't fathom how the first movie of the brilliant reboot of James Bond with Daniel Craig managed to be saddled with such a horrendous clash of lame rock stylings and dated vocals. The only thing that places it this high on my list is that I think they lyrics have something to say.
All Time High (Rita Coolidge, Octopussy) — This song starts out so subtle and beautiful, which leads you to believe that it's building to something. Except it never does. It dives into sleepy and boring tedium and never escapes. Maybe with someone like Shirley Bassey behind it this track could have broken free of what we got... but, alas, snoozefest.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (John Barry, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) — Despite being a musical number, the beautiful build-up feels very James Bond to me, and I can't help but wonder if some vocals would have elevated it past where it ended up, which is notable but not great. What was great? We Have All the Time in the World by Louis Armstrong, which was also in the film.
From Russia with Love (John Barry, From Russia with Love) — A very pretty musical arrangement, but kind of dour and boring too. A James Bond theme needs to slap you in the face and this one puts you to sleep.
The Man with the Golden Gun (Lulu, The Man with the Golden Gun) — If I had to sum up this song in one word it would be "irritating." Everything from Lulu's grating vocals to the inane lyrics were subpar.
Another Way to Die (Jack White & Alicia Keys, Quantum of Solace) — I don't get it. I like Jack White. I love Alicia keys. But put them together and you get this disaster. This is the film that followed the incredible James Bond reboot heading in an amazing new direction... and was a prelude for the movie being a major step down. Blargh.
Writing’s on the Wall (Sam Smith, Spectre) — What a whiny pile of overindulgent shit. Not just the worst James Bond theme song ever, maybe the worst song ever. I cannot understand why people enjoy Sam Smith, as I don't think they can craft a tune to save their life. But plenty of people do, so I'm guessing it's just me? The only song on this list that I didn't bother to listen to because I already know I loathe it on every possible level. I still remember sitting in the theater in utter disbelief that this horrendous crap was blasting through the speakers. The stuff of nightmares. This is what's playing non-stop on the radio in hell. Cannot possibly come up with the words to even remotely describe how much I hate this track, which not only makes me lose my will to live, but also to never watch another James Bond movie again. Just dredging up my suppressed memories of hearing Writing's on the Wall is enough to make me wish I was never born. Or, if I were capable of clearer thinking while writing about such a travesty, that Sam Smith was never born. A song like this ends civilizations. Heaven only knows its very existence killed ours. Lord save us from the universe-leveling apocalypse which must surely be imminent. Or don't. We totally deserve to be wiped from all creation for allowing such a monstrosity to be unleashed on an unsuspecting universe. I hate this song. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it times infinity. Nay, even the infinite does not put my loathing into proper perspective. I hate it far more than that. This is multi-dimensional, timeless, all encompassing hatred which spans everything, everywhere, in realms both real and imagined. And those yet to be imagined. And those unimagined. Oh I hate this song so much.
In retrospect, I probably should have ranked the actual movies. Oh well. Maybe one day.