Hot 100 Special: No Time to Die by Billie Eilish

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I’ve never been much of a James Bond fan, but I have been a fan of the gimmick that every film has its own theme song. With classics like Man with the Golden Gun and View to a Kill they have made some really solid music (just ignore the Brosnan trash years. Hey, at least they made songs fo reflect how bad those movies are… I assume, I haven’t seen any of them). The Craig era of films have on the whole been pretty solid, and got good talent. Chris Cornell, Alicia Key and Jack White, Adele, those are some major names and they turned out solid songs. Moving to a big up and comer like Billie Eilish was an interesting choice.

I’ve only every listened to Billie Eilish’s big hit Bad Guy. I thought it was solid and well constructed until it’s mess of an outro. She would not have been the first person I’d have gone to, and it kind of shows.

It shows because the song isn’t great. It’s not terrible by any means. I mean Diamonds are Forever sounds like diamond are being shoved into your ears. It feels weak, limp, and trying to be Sky Fall by Adele and failing hard in that department.

It does not give a good first impression. It’s haunting piano is too subdued that even with headphones I had to check to make sure the sound was playing, then Billie comes in and sings near incoherently for the first half of the first verse. Listening to the song with the lyrics I could hear them, but she is too subdued to really bring across what she needs to. I would say she was restrained in Bad Guy, but the rest of the production on that song reinforced her detached persona. This song grows. It starts with that haunted piano, but slowly adds in the rest of the orchestra with strings, brass, and percussion sections to give it heft and weight, but Billie doesn’t go with it. It makes her seem above it. It kind of matches the theme, but feels more like an act over how she genuinely feels. Something I’d absolutely not say about Bad Guy.

The lyrics do not help her. Thematically it is all about being duped into loving someone, and them revealing their true colors to break your heart. Something that perfectly fits the theme of the Craig films, and probably the film this is part of, it’s just written like a song I’d write if I was given the same material. I mean to say that I may have lots of opinions of music (obviously), but I don’t know how to craft clever lyrics, just call them when I see them, and these lyrics are the equivalent of a 2×4 against the face. It’s obvious and blunt.

The first verse is kind of perfect. Not because it’s well written, but instead because it’s emblematic of the rest of the song. It’s on theme, vague, and lame. It begins by saying how the narrator (I usually assume it’s the singer, but could also assume it’s James Bond himself. Hard to say really) saying how they feel tricked but how it should have been obvious, how they thought they were a pair, but they cheated them. They then sulk about how hard their life is (something very accurate for Jimmy the Bondman). The narrator ends by asking some honestly good questions like were they stupid, reckless, or was it obvious to everyone else. To make it worse that is basically a verbatim summary of the verse. They’re that simple.

The chorus is neat because they manage to work the song/movie title in well. I’m getting ahead of myself. The chorus reinforces the theme of betrayal by saying that they’d fallen for a lie and how the person who betrayed them was never on their side. They say fool me once, fool me twice. I guess it’s a good connector to the line “Are you death or paradise?” The best line because it paints the idea of someone giving either total bliss and happiness, or total emptiness and release. They end by saying that they’ll never see them cry because there is no time to die. That line tying into the idea the person who betrayed them being death is clever and works (or could work. I don’t think James Bond would cry. He doesn’t seem like that kind of guy). It does not come together even though the pieces are there is because we don’t get enough of the relationship.

The second verse doesn’t help. For one it is four lines that feel closer to plot points for the film proper. It starts with the worst line, “I let it burn.” That might not sound bad, but the writers clearly never had a teacher ask them to define their pronouns because who is the “it” and is the burning literal or metaphorical. It is too vague to really mean anything. Now, I wouldn’t jump on a single line if the rest of the verse built on it. It doesn’t. The narrator says the person isn’t their concern, faces from their past is coming back, and there is another lesson they won’t learn. So, going back to the first line: is the burning the lack of a lesson they’re getting, the face from their past, or the betrayal. You’d think it should be obvious. It’s not. There are no details to help build this song out.

The rest of the song consists of the chorus again, a refrain where they just say it is no time to die, and end with an outro that repeats the fool me once to there is no time to die lines from the chorus.

For a four minute song there is not a whole lot of meat on its bones lyrically speaking. The instrumental is solid, and though I don’t think Billie’s voice works overall it can deliver pain well.

I compared this song to Skyfall by Adele earlier, and that’s because it feels like it is trying to be classy in the same way that song was. The problem is that Skyfall is a massive song with one of the biggest and classiest sounding voices in the industry. Adele can convey that sense of being in a nice gallery, casino, gala, or event Bond would go to with ease. Billie is a lot of things, but classy would not be my first pick of words (I mean she can’t even dye her hair properly. That was mean. I apologize). She is trying her best, it just doesn’t all get there.

Now, as harsh (and I have been almost too harsh on a song I don’t even care about that much) as I’ve been I have to think back to Writing on the Wall by Sam Smith (the song for Specter or is it Spectre. God I hate the English language). I did not like that song either. I listened to all the Craig era songs in preparation for this review, I still don’t like it. It is too long, plotting, causes me to tune out too often and Sam Smith sounds bad on it. However, when I saw Specter I thought it worked in the context of the film. No Time to Die, the song could do that as well.

Ohh right, video. The video I linked to turned out to be a fan site. It was just Billie singing the song intercut with trailer clips. Doesn’t add anything, and oddly ships James Bond and Rami Malik for some reason. I think it was by accident. Like the line and trailer just cut that way. It’s weird, but skippable.

(Man, I should have done Don’t Start Now. I mean I wish her new song Physical was bigger cause it’s even better, but Dua Lipa continues to be amazing and should be way bigger.)

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