It has been the worst-kept secret in pop. But the sheer obviousness of Adele being the right candidate for the Bond theme – that big voice for international audiences to swoon to – sits at odds with the themes we’ve had in recent years. They have been jagged, awkward things: Jack White and Alicia Keys’ Another Way To Die; Chris Cornell’s You Know My Name. It’s as if they’ve tried to match Daniel Craig’s craggy toughness with earthier sounds. Sadly, those tunes were too forgettable to get any pistols firing.
So back to basics it is, and the easier promise of a ballad-blasting female. But a 90-second clip of Skyfall released online on Tuesday suggests a slightly softer Adele: not the Rolling In The Deep singer who could rival Shirley Bassey for lung power. “Hear my heart burst again,” she begins with vulnerability, reminding us of the romantic, betrayed spy introduced to us, three films ago, by Daniel Craig. This delivery also reveals the best of Adele: the sound of an ordinary girl capable of extraordinary feeling.
Then comes a section with a woozy quality, a mood last heard in Garbage’s 1999 theme for The World Is Not Enough. Adele has “drowned and dreamed this moment”. She’s also been “swept away and stolen”. Here are lyrics that are supremely on-message: full of drama and mystery.
But the chorus, and the sounds around it, don’t trade in adventure. John Barry-referencing strings soar right on cue. The classic 007 bass line rises, rather obviously, in the piano. The rhymes for Skyfall (“stand tall”, “face it all”) are also quite cat-sat-on-the-mat.
Then again, it’s hard to judge a whole song’s daring on a 90-second edit. Maybe there’s a banging donk as it kicks in, or a dubstep drop before the fade-out. It’s unlikely. But there’s an atmosphere here that lingers, without doubt; a languor that wraps itself around the listener deliciously and dangerously. Just like Bond would, in fact.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010