Sounding fresh from the X Factor and with all the lyrical wit of a GCSE creative writing exercise, this Bond song is sadly less than the sum of its parts.
Despite much anticipation, ‘Writing’s On The Wall’ – the theme to the upcoming Bond film Spectre – is a disappointment. Though not all fans were overjoyed at the choice of Sam Smith to sing the beloved franchise’s next theme, even his detractors would find difficulty in dismissing his natural ability; Smith is a hugely talented vocalist. It is bizarre, then, that such a prominent release would be one which masks this very talent. From the song’s orchestral composition and Smith’s own statements about focussing on the music over chart success, it is clear that the goal was for a theatrical power ballad. This was achieved; but Smith himself was absolutely smothered.
In his successes, Smith’s vocals have been stronger than accompanying instrumental; this works, giving weight to raw but otherwise gentle lyrics. Here, though, the words are difficult to concentrate on, so drowned are they by the music. Smith’s contributions, for all their quality, come across as wimpy or halfhearted.
Smith seems to have got his wires crossed; his creation, rooted in the legacy of the franchise without regard for modern formulas of success, seems to be a halfhearted repeat of Adele’s ‘Skyfall’, with a bit of Michael Jackson thrown in. The song’s lyrics are also up for contention, though these are primarily attributed to Grammy winner Jimmy Napes, with Smith offering only some say after director Sam Mendes told him he needed to tone down his trademark vulnerability. Still, in crept lyrics such as, “How do I live? How do I breathe? When you’re not here I’m suffocating.” Perhaps not the most likely sentiment from the world’s most famous womaniser.
‘Writing’s On The Wall’ is ill formed. While doubtlessly a song that will grow on you, and that will fit well enough in the film it is destined for, it will likely leave listeners pondering missed opportunities.
‘Writing’s On The Wall’ is available now. Spectre is released in the UK and Ireland on October 26th, and worldwide on November 6th, 2015.