Like everyone else in the world, Billie Eilish may be wishing that 2020 had gone a lot differently. Back in February, she entered the grand pantheon of performers enlisted to sing a theme for a James Bond movie. Her mission: to somehow wrest something mellifluous out of lyrics based on a title that would be un-singable in any other circumstances. In the case of her movie assignment and her accompanying single, that title was No Time to Die, the 25th official entry in the franchise of espionage thrillers about agent 007 that was launched by 1962’s Dr. No.
As fine as it is, Eilish’s moody and grandly orchestrated song would not feel complete until it followed the tradition of its predecessors by accompanying a Bond-movie opening credit sequence (intros which, in keeping with other efforts to make the series more contemporary and less sexist, now feature far fewer shadowy female nudes than they once did). Alas, “No Time to Die” still awaits that honor, since its namesake film—one of many big Hollywood releases delayed by the coronavirus crisis—will not be seen on big screens until November.
A James Bond theme without a James Bond movie might hardly count as poignant to some people. After all, it can be hard to overlook the character’s reputation as a repellently chauvinistic and possibly sociopathic symbol of badly outmoded colonialist and Cold War ideals who murders in service of the state. And don’t get us started on that thing Roger Moore used to do with his eyebrows.
But just like the sight of Daniel Craig in swim trunks, there’s so often something magnificent about the music the Bond movies have produced, caused, or inspired. Whether shaken or stirred, songs like Eilish’s contribution swell with all the high drama, old-school cool, and/or cheesy grandeur that listeners could possibly desire—and perhaps crave more than ever now that the pandemic has torpedoed so many of the summer’s usual pop-cultural distractions. Here’s a playlist of Bond-related songs (both official and not) to make you feel more suave than you ought to.