Awards Season’s Greetings! 2021 Music Awards Round-Up

2021 Musical Awards Season | CuttingRoomMusic

With the Grammys freshly wrapped and the Academy Award nominations now out, awards season is near its apex – and its end. Even though the Grammys typically offer a comically anachronistic view of film awards season─Jojo Rabbit and Joker won Grammys on Sunday!─they still ring loudly in the statue world. Plus, we have an award for a film that is yet to be released, as Billie Eilish won for her No Time to Die theme nearly a full year before we’re set to see James Bond’s latest outing.

The 2021 awards season, in full swing

It’s been quite the awards season up to this point, as the entire music industry came to grips with a lengthened season and a compressed sample size of films to winnow and grant statues, medals, and plaques to. But the work was there. A series of films, either backed by initial critical buzz, studio confidence, or sheer luck of being attached to the best equipped distribution model (you may have heard that streaming services had a pretty solid 2020), still came out and caught our attention, with some warranting awards for their effort and mastery.

We often discuss the power filmmakers wield by triggering moods and feelings with their creations, more often than not underpinned by a great musical drop or accent. But it’s fun to think that one of the most powerful compositions out there is the dreaded “wrap it up” music that awards shows play when an acceptance speech goes on for too long. As a result, we’re focusing on the ongoing postponed awards season for a quick round-up of who’s winning big, who’s expected to win, and who else contended.

Long story short: Soul is winning everything

Soul has won 26 different awards so far, ranging from the Golden Globes to the Greater Western New York Film Critics Association Awards, and is the top contender for the Academy Awards, set to air on April 25. With music composed by Jon Batiste, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, the film is an awards powerhouse, banking on the appeal of animation in general, and the Pixar Studios model, as well. With another powerful message in the vein of Inside Out and Coco, Soul has been a magnet for accolades during the ongoing season. It’s likely to continue to win big through the end of its awards season run, as it has scored three nominations at the Academy Awards─Best Achievement in Sound, Best Original Score, and Best Animated Feature. 

With the Oscars looming, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross enter a prestigious group of those nominated twice in the same category, as they’ve received an Academy Award nomination for another awards season favorite this year. Mank has been nominated across major awards as well, and has been a critical darling throughout. Fincher’s long-awaited return to feature filmmaking asked how interested we really are in Hollywood mythmaking, and the call was answered with nominations across the board. The black-and-white picture leads all films this year, with 10 nominations. 

Too bad the duo is cleaning up the best score categories with the other film they scored this year; maybe then Mank would have a shot at an award or two of its own.

James Newton Howard, Terence Blanchard, and Will Ferrell’s Eurovision song make the list

The Best Original Score category also features the work of veteran James Newton Howard─who has 8 prior nominations─for Netflix’s pensive Western, News of the World. Terence Blanchard has also scored (get it) his second ever Academy Award nod for his work on another Spike Lee joint. He was nominated for the Vietnam veteran story, Da 5 Bloods. The list of five is rounded out by first-time nominee Emile Mosseri for his work on Lee Isaac Chung’s surprising take on Americana in Minari

In the Best Song category at this year’s Oscars, we run through an eclectic mix of picks, mostly made eclectic by the presence of last summer’s “Husavik” song, courtesy of Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. The other entries come from a few of the other critically acclaimed movies of this year’s season, with songs from One Night in Miami…, Judas and the Black Messiah, The Trial of the Chicago 7 and The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se) scoring nods for this year’s awards. 

Given the Academy Awards’ typically elaborate selection process, it’s a big kudos to all the composers, songwriters and engineers that booked their virtual tickets for this year’s ceremony. We’ll be watching as this awards season culminates and wait with baited breath to see who gets the ultimate bragging rights, but one thing’s for sure: a nomination works just fine if you’re going to brag. 

Black Widow May Highlight a Spy-Centric Turn in MCU Music

Black Widow soundtrack | CuttingRoomMusic

Natalia Alianovna “Natasha” Romanoff is one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most fascinating, complex, and human characters, which we know doesn’t say a lot because a bunch of them are essentially not human, but Black Widow is a very strong figure, regardless. The Russian-born spy has a cinematic legacy that goes back as far as the third entry in the MCU, Iron Man 2, and a comic book history that ranges back to the mid-60s─Natalia Alianovna Romanova first featured in Tales of Suspense #52 in 1964. 

The reformed KGB agent with a checkered past was recruited to the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division (fine, we’ll call it S.H.I.E.L.D.!) by fellow superspy turned Avenger, Clint Barton. Their bond remains strong throughout the events of the films, until Black Widow’s ultimate sacrifice to retrieve the Soul Stone in Avengers: Endgame, a small European film dealing with personal and professional loss within a group of work friends, five years after a traumatic event changed their lives. 

Black Widow is Coming to a Marvel Universe Near You

Now, 11 years after the character’s introduction to the MCU, Black Widow is slated to have her very own showcase, a film that aims to explain Natasha’s murky personal history, ongoing internal conflict and her hesitation to establish personal relationships. The fact that her only romantic onscreen relationship is with Bruce Banner is very telling. If you’re attracted to the mother of all inner conflicts involving a Gamma ray demon who’s also a walking Jekyll/Hyde metaphor, it’s clear that your personal history is something of a thrill ride.

The challenge to portray Black Widow in a standalone film is significant, due to her already very established presence within the MCU and is seen as a culmination of Scarlett Johansson’s profile as the character for more than a decade. Director Cate Shortland has built a career on smaller-scale psychological thrillers before taking on a $150-$200 million tentpole, hinting at the production’s significant focus on building Natasha’s complicated profile and eventful past. The screenplay is penned by Eric Pearson, a MCU mainstay responsible for three different One-Shot shorts, as well as Thor:Ragnarok and several episodes of Agent Carter. It is no surprise that Pearson’s involvement with one of the MCU’s main female-led projects led to his addition to the team responsible for the Avengers’ most iconic on-screen member. In the music department, first-time MCU composer Lorne Balfe has been appointed to score the first entry in Phase Four. 

What Will Accompany the Superspy’s Solo Debut?

The music of the MCU has ranged almost wildly from classic hero themes like Alan Silvestri’s Avengers Assemble theme, to charged musical drops like Iron Man’s AC/DC and Black Sabbath samples, to the why-haven’t-we-thought-of-this-before notes of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song in Thor: Ragnarock

However, we can start deducing some elements of the music that’s to come in Black Widow. The character’s background and ethos beg for an action-heavy spy thriller soundscape. Natasha always felt more at home in the Three Days of The Condor/Marathon Man vibe of Captain America: The Winter Soldier than in the space epic that was Avengers: Infinity War. A more tethered and realistic approach is exactly what composer Lorne Balfe was brought in to achieve.

Action Film Pedigree for the MCU

Given the MCU’s penchant for turning out superheroes in increasingly genre-inspired films, the choice of Lorne Balfe as the film’s composer is poignant. If Cate Shortland excels at delving into the character’s psyche, Balfe is well equipped to set the stage for intense action. The Scottish music producer came up working with Hans Zimmer and has already taken on a significant slate of big-budget action films like Mission Impossible: Fallout, 6 Underground and Bad Boys for Life. But Balfe’s involvement with action isn’t just tied to films. He’s responsible for video game scores within the Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed franchises. 

Bearing the grandiose crescendos of Zimmer’s now omnipresent blockbuster work, Balfe has infused spy thriller elements into his more action-heavy work, often working with quick percussion motifs to underscore tension in films. Although speculative, it’s safe to say we may well get similar offerings in Black Widow. Balfe’s background in working on music for Netflix’s The Crown will come in handy as the film also dives into Natasha’s ties with her own spy royal family, fellow Red Room trainee and little sister-like Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), father-like Red Guardian (David Harbour) and mom-like Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz). 

Following consecutive release date delays, Black Widow is slated for release on May 7, and will be the first film to usher in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  

Falling Kanji: The Music of the Matrix is Its Own Simulation

The Matrix 4 | CuttingRoomMusic

One thing’s for sure: you already know the films we’re about to discuss. Whether through child-like wonder, calloused pessimism, or just through Elon Musk’s tweets, you’ve heard of the theory that our reality is just a run-of-the-mill computer simulation. But the idea is now in the mainstream mostly due to the success of a tiny 1999 flick directed by two Australian siblings, starring a Beirut-born Canadian actor and a diverse supporting cast, all heavily featuring vinyl clothing. OK, there aren’t many ways to poorly describe The Matrix, but that’s mostly due to its ubiquitous nature! And said omnipresence in pop culture is in no small measure due to the sounds and songs accompanying it. 

Upon its appearance, and then through its back-to-back sequels, The Matrix has popularized, generalized and overworked the idea of destiny and choice of one’s fate, using the setting of machine-generated simulation as its crutch and selling point alike. The result is one of the most well-known trilogies of all time. Pieces of its dialogue, imagery, and aesthetic have been meme-ed ad nauseam: the Red Pill, I know Kung Fu, Whoa! and bullet dodging, just to name a few. But the impact of its music, a snapshot of its time, if there ever was one, is often overlooked. 

Putting Sounds to Themes

The Wachowskis have created an oeuvre defined by saviors awakened to their true potentials. They then topple oppressive, controlling systems that bind them—the Matrix trilogy, Jupiter Ascending, V for Vendetta. However, their through-line of a non-conforming, third type of characters in a binary world often comes wrapped in elements of emerging, underground culture. The costuming inspired by the club scene, the diversity of the people of Zion, the exaltation of those who have been freed from the inputs of the machines – they all hint at a deeper reality, where people can outwardly be who they are within.  

The music of their films, especially their iconic trilogy, is no different. The song choices and arrangements in the Matrix come from anything but the mainstream. The movies themselves reveal, then analyze, hidden or obstructed worlds to be discovered and changed by their protagonists. That through-line is anticipated and highlighted by the music, mid-to-late nineties anti-system anthems in the breakbeat, rap metal (remember when that was an exciting new thing?), and trip hop genres. The song choices are underpinned throughout by Don Davis’ score, filled with arrangements that include industrial sounds, metallic tunes and sharp incisions that highlight the grandiose scale of the film, as well as its high-brow ideas. 

The world of The Matrix – Elements from our Reality

The first film’s original soundtrack was released in album form. The Matrix: Music from the Motion Picture ended up being something of a hit, even peaking at 7th on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart. The score was released on a separate album. The Matrix: Revolutions received a similar release treatment, while the middle entry in the series, The Matrix: Reloaded, bucked the industry standard by releasing a single 2-disc album featuring both the original soundtrack and score. This serves to further highlight the interconnected nature of the song choices and original score.  

The success of the first film generated significant interest in the release of new material from the world of the Matrix, with animated fare like the obviously titled The Animatrix and Enter the Matrix, a companion videogame for the second and third entries in the franchise. Music and sounds throughout Matrix properties have remained consistent, with the scores of the existing three films being helmed by Don Davis. 

A Trilogy ends, A Quadrilogy is born?

Davis’ musical direction continued to push the Savior myth and religious themes throughout the music of the franchise, further anchoring Neo’s story in a Messianic pattern. However, none of the musical arrangements found on the cinematic trilogy’s scores is more poignant and literal of that idea than Neodammerung. The song, translating loosely to “twilight of Neo,” accompanies the final duel in the Matrix between an overpowered, albeit pessimistic demigod of the medium, and the liberated and domination-bound Agent Smith, both of them creations of their previous interactions. The chanting accompanying the bout between the two foes is taken directly from the Upanishads, furthering the hero myth to textual levels. Here, the Matrix combines with one of its main source texts, questioning our role in the reality we inhabit. 

What’s next for our reality (aka this increasingly unlikely series of events)? Well, the Wachowskis are cooking up a fourth iteration of their magnum opus, with Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Jada Pinkett-Smith, while new faces have been recruited to continue the saga: Yahya Abdul Mateen II, Priyanka Chopra and Neil Patrick Harris, to name a few. Lana Wachowski has worked on the new entry with returning creative partner David Mitchell, writer of Cloud Atlas and screenwriter of the Wachowskis’ Sense8 Netflix series, where interconnectivity is an essential theme. 

The musical aspects of the sequel are unclear, but it will be fascinating to see how, two decades onward, changes in music genres and pop patterns will inform choices. What will be the sounds and influences to convey the continuation of our journey in, around, but especially out of the Matrix? 

The Matrix 4 is set to be released in theaters and the HBO Max streaming platform on December 21, 2021. 

5 Techniques Horror Movie Composers Use to Elicit Fear in Audiences

5 Techniques for Scoring Horror Movies | CuttingRoomMusic

Modern horror film soundtracks are a blend of old-school, operatic string themes and creative sound effects, and composers are now able to masterfully evoke subtle reactions from their audiences through diverse techniques. It’s not just about jump scares and terror nowadays; it’s also about tension, suspense, eeriness, discomfort, anxiety, and even paranoia. 

We’ve actually gone through the brief history of scoring horror films and how this genre evolved over the decades. The earliest horror ‘talkies’ used orchestral soundtracks and epic operatic themes to instil fear. Nowadays, composers have a wider pool of tricks and treats at their disposal, and they use them masterfully to keep us on the edge of our seats. 

To elicit emotional responses from their audiences, composers use certain techniques that push horror movies to the next, scarier level. Here are some common techniques you can expect to find in horror movies:

1. Increased tempos and crescendos

One of the most common techniques found in horror movies is the use of crescendos to heighten suspense and anticipation. The best example of this is Jaws, where the simple two-note theme gradually increases its tempo as the killer shark gets closer. It’s both a signal to the audience that danger is nearby, and a means of growing tension in wait for the jump scare. It’s a highly effective strategy that triggers our primal fear and our flight-or-fight response, keeping us on the edge of our seat waiting for the release. 

2. Low-frequency sound effects

Modern horror scores tend to focus a lot more on sound design and unusual sound effects that create tension and an unsettling feeling. Low-frequency sound effects have a dark vibe about them that tells our brains that something is wrong, something is off, which is exactly what horror film directors want us to feel. We’re not just making this up; science says that low-frequency noises can have a negative effect on humans, triggering headaches, irritation, feelings of tiredness, and pressure on eardrums. 

3. The use of voices in the score

In the old days of horror films, soundtracks were purely instrumental, operatic, relying on orchestras to get the job done. But it wasn’t before long that, through experimentation, composers realized that inserting voices into the music made things even more unsettling. One of the earliest examples of this is Friday the 13th, which features some very unsettling vocal work by composer Harry Manfredini. The “ki ki ki, ma ma ma” sounds featured in the movie come from “Kill her, mommy,” which makes the tune even more disturbing to listen to.

4. Sound effects that mimic real-life sounds

Horror film directors and composers really want their audience to be as immersed in the action as possible, and they’ll stop at nothing to achieve this. With the help of technology, they’re able to insert real-life sounds into the soundtracks, giving them a more authentic and instantly recognizable sound. The best example of this technique is not a horror movie per se, but still a pretty scary one, namely Terminator 2. The main theme of the 1991 movie sounds uncomfortably metallic, industrial even, reminiscent of the killer robot’s origins. That peculiar sound, composer Brad Fiedel explained, was the result of hitting a cast-iron frying pan with a hammer. 

5. Harmonic and musical oddities

The human brain reacts to music in fascinating ways. Our primal instincts can immediately recognize when a sound or a note is in the wrong place, and horror music composers love to play tricks with our minds. Notes and compositions that seem out of place, that don’t go well together, that aren’t harmonious – our brains can pick up on these cues and think ‘something’s off here.’ Sudden increases or decreases in tempo and volume throw us off and signal to us that something is about to happen, which makes us uncomfortable and triggers our fight-or-flight response. 

Another similar technique used by composers is layering ‘happy music’ with scary movie scenes. Think of A Clockwork Orange and Kubrick’s use of Gene Kelly’s Singin’ in the Rain during some very uncomfortable torture scenes. You can never listen to that song in the same way again after hearing it in the movie. 

Scoring horror with Cutting Room Music

Here at Cutting Room Music, we’ve dived into the dark, twisted world of horror movies several times. Our co-founder Adonis Tsilimparis has scored more than a few scary movies, and here’s what he has to say about where this genre is heading, and what it means for composers. 

“Nowadays, there is a fine line between the “score” and the “sound design. “Many recent horror films have been dominated by a carefully constructed pattern of sound effects with touches of musical notation here and there. 

I, too, have done the same thing for some of the horror films I scored, including Dementia 13. The director did not want too much of a traditional orchestral score. He was looking more for sounds that no one has ever heard before. Luckily, with the wide universe of synth patches and sound banks out there, I was able to give him what he wanted. In the end, the score was probably 70% sound design and the rest being musical score. 

The trend seems to be continuing with no real change in sight. It begs the question of where it will go from here.”

If you’re an aspiring or established director looking for skilled and talented composers to help you tell your story through music, reach out to Cutting Room Music to see how we can bring your ideas to life. 

Music in Horror Movies – A Brief History of Fear

History of Horror Movie Music | CuttingRoomMusic

Did you know that Alfred Hitchcock originally intended for the shower scene in Psycho to have no music? Try to imagine your favorite scary movies without their eerie-yet-delicious soundtracks and think whether they would still have the same effect on you. 

Each genre of film employs specific techniques when it comes to scoring. Comedies are usually accompanied by upbeat music, adventure or action movies use dramatic effects and loud, powerful scoring to keep viewers engaged, while dramas play on our emotions with scores and harmonies that make us feel uplifted. 

When it comes to horror films, things are very different. More often than not, what horror movies present us with are not pleasant images or situations, eliciting tension, fear, suspense, anxiety, and even revulsion or terror. Composers certainly don’t have it easy, as the right score can make or break such a movie. Imagine films like Halloween, Jaws, or Suspiria with different music – it’s virtually impossible, that’s how iconic these soundtracks are by now. 

We’re big fans of horror movies at Cutting Room Music, and we’ve even scored a few of them. So, in the spirit of ‘sharing is caring,’ we wanted to present you with a brief history of horror film scores, as well as some techniques that composers use to elicit (much enjoyable) fear in their audiences. 

In the beginning, there was (mostly) silence

The horror genre has been around since the very beginning of cinema. Obviously, during the silent film era, there were no soundtracks to begin with, and film directors had only the visual aspect to rely on for horrific effect. That all changed when sound was introduced to movies, and the first horror movie to have a soundtrack was 1922’s Nosferatu, directed by F. W. Murnau. Unfortunately, the original score has been lost, replaced in 1997 with new music by James Bernard. 

In the early days, horror films didn’t really have a proper soundtrack composed by scratch. Instead, directors and composers repurposed existing pieces of classical music to get their desired effect. King Kong (1933) was the first to break out of that mold. Initially, film studio RKO instructed composer Max Steiner to stick to repurposing existing music for budgetary reasons. However, director Merian C. Cooper disagreed, thinking that such an epic movie deserved an original soundtrack. He paid Steiner to compose and record original music for the film, which he did – in just six weeks and with the help of a 46-piece orchestra. Luckily, the folks at RKO loved the end result, and so King Kong became the first feature-length musical score written for an American movie. It was also the first movie score ever to be recorded on three separate tracks: music, sound effects, and dialogue.

1930’s to 1950’s: The golden era of horror movies

You know how people refer to the stretch of time between 1910 and 1960 as Hollywood’s ‘Golden Age?’ These were the most glamorous decades of Hollywood cinema, and the horror genre was no exception. Everything was grand, majestic, loud, and in-your-face. Including horror movies. 

When it comes to horror films, we could refer to this golden age as the age of ‘obvious’ horror. Think of movies like Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Dracula (1931), or Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). They all had grand, impressive scores to go with the big scenes happening on the screen. These now-classic movies all featured bombastic, operatic orchestral scores, and not much in the area of sound design or effects. But that was about to change, thanks to the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock.

The landscape of horror films took a hard turn in 1960, when the iconic Psycho was released. Not only did Hitchcock’s masterpiece employ never-before-seen directing techniques, he also changed the way horror movies were scored. Bernard Hermann wrote the eponymous score for Psycho, and Hitchcock himself stated that “33% of the effect of Psycho was due to the music.” 

We all know that infamous shower scene and the shrieking violins that accompany each stab of the knife. Hermann had a tight budget to work with, so he had to make the best of the resources available. He didn’t have the means to employ a 40-piece orchestra, so he made due with a small string ensemble and a lot of creativity. The result is probably the most recognizable sound in horror history. And to think that Hitchcock initially intended to have no music for that shower scene…

1970’s & 1980’s: An experiment in fear 

The Golden Age of Hollywood started losing its glamorous appeal in the 1960s, and soon enough, gone were the massive studio productions with huge budgets and majestic scores. There were, of course, some notable exceptions. In 1974, Steven Spielberg released Jaws, which featured an epic score by composer John Williams. The now-classic soundtrack earned Williams an Academy Award, even though it was a rather simple theme focused around just two notes. Two very unsettling notes. 

During the 1970s and especially in the 1980s, film directors and composers, especially those new to the scene, often had very limited budgets at their disposal. There were no 46-piece orchestras to record movie scores with, so they had to improvise and find other ways to elicit the desired reactions in movie audiences. 

The limited resources forced composers to experiment, and the result was another golden era of horror movies focused on synthesizers and electronic music. The best example from this time is John Carpenter’s Halloween, released in 1978. Carpenter only had $300,000 to make the movie, so there was no budget to hire a composer, let alone an orchestra. So, the director took matters into his own hands, creating the entire score himself in just three days on his keyboard. The Halloween theme has since become one of the most iconic film soundtracks of all time, with Carpenter even releasing a revamped version for the 2018 installment. 

The 1970s and 1980s were basically an experiment in fear, with composers constantly churning out new takes on traditional horror film scores. The emergence of electronic music and synthesizers allowed composers to play with sound design and come up with innovative scores that pushed the horror genre into new territories. Notable releases during this era include A Clockwork Orange (1971), The Omen (1976), The Exorcist (1973), The Shining (1980), The Thing (1982), and Videodrome (1983), just to name a few.

Modern horror film scores – the best of both worlds

Horror movies have come a long way since the days of Frankenstein or Dracula. Plots and scores alike have taken a darker turn, and innovations in technology and cinematography have pushed the fear and tension to new highs. Think of modern-day classics like Get Out, It Follows, Insidious, Hereditary, or A Quiet Place; these movies are tackling complex, unusual, and often highly disturbing matters, and their soundtracks match the level of complexity. 

Nowadays, film composers are no longer constrained by limited resources, particularly when it comes to the technologies they use. While horror movies no longer rely on dynamic orchestration and symphonic themes, composers still manage to hark back to the old days by mixing classic and modern techniques. In fact, the earliest example of mixing and matching different composition styles was Videodrome, back in 1983. Howard Shore starts off with classical orchestral music and gradually incorporates electronic music and synthesizers as the main character starts to lose track of what’s real and what isn’t. The two tracks are mixed and played in tandem, in an attempt to convey the character’s confusion. 

Composers and directors now tend to focus more on sound design and sound effects to create the right atmosphere. It’s not all about the jump scares anymore. Found-footage-style movies like The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity don’t even have proper soundtracks, as they focus on ‘reality horror’ to elicit fear and tensions in viewers. Other movies employ LFEs, or low-frequency effects, to create an unsettling atmosphere and prolong the suspense. 

The future looks bright (or dark, if we’re going to stick to the theme here) for horror movies and music alike. It remains to be seen what composers come up with next, and we’ll have plenty of opportunities to see new and innovative scoring hit the big screens. This year alone there are some exciting launches in the works, including A Quiet Place 2, a new Conjuring movie, Don’t Breathe 2, Candyman, and last but not least, Halloween Kills

If you’re an aspiring or established director looking for talented composers to breathe musical life into your projects, reach out to Cutting Room Music to see if we can help. Let’s work together!

The Most Successful Theme Songs in Daniel Craig’s Bond Movies: Billie Eilish Tops Adele in Spotify Streams

When we hear the name Bond…James Bond, we immediately think of slick tuxedos, incredible charm and charisma, huge explosions, and of course, beautiful women. Agent 007 is by far the most thrilling spy anyone can think of, and James Bond movies have been a hit ever since the first movie came out back in 1962, starring the late Sean Connery. In fact, ‘Double O7’ was popular even before making it to the big screen, captivating readers since the first Bond novel was published in the 1950s.

Obviously, top-of-the-line acting done by some of the most talented people portraying James Bond made the movies a huge success. But apart from great actors, writers and directors, the movies were also brought to life by incredible soundtracks and music. Even as you are reading this, you can practically hear the classic Bond theme song playing in your head – or is it just us?

With a brand-new James Bond movie coming up in this year, what better time to talk about Agent 007 than now? Here at CuttingRoomMusic, music, and particularly soundtracks, are our bread and butter, and we wanted to find a fun way to pass the time while we wait for the new movie. 

We analyzed the theme songs of all the James Bond movies starring Daniel Craig, to see how they performed in charts, sales, and streams. Theme songs for the Daniel Craig 007 series were recorded by artists such as Adele, Chris Cornell, Billie Eilish, and other A-list contemporary musicians. 

To calculate the revenue for the number of streams on platforms such as Spotify and YouTube, we used Music Gateway’s streaming royalties calculator.

Let’s see which songs made the most noise.

1. Casino Royale – Chris Cornell: You Know My Name 

Casino Royale was the first Daniel Craig Bond movie, and what better recording artist to helm the iconic franchise reboot with a new theme song than late Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell? “You Know My Name” was a bold choice for the movie soundtrack, especially because it had been a long time since a rock artist had attempted to have a go at a James Bond theme song. 

Fortunately, the late Chris Cornell nailed it, and the song was well received. It was bold and unique, and hearing the song, we all knew that James Bond was back. The song peaked at #7 in the UK charts, and 79 in the US Billboard Hot 100, where it spent 2 weeks.

“You Know My Name” sold 323,000 digital copies, according to Variety. On Spotify alone, the song racked up over 48 million streams since its release, which roughly equates to almost $200,000 in revenue. On YouTube, on the channel it got originally released on, the song racked up 21 million views, about $36,750.

2. Quantum of Solace – Jack White & Alicia Keys: Another Way to Die

With this new Bond series, it seemed like the creators wanted to explore new possibilities with music. The Quantum of Solace theme song featured two vocalists, namely Jack White and Alicia Keys. Their chemistry captured the essence of the movie, all the way from the electric guitar parts to the quieter piano moments.

It was a rather unique pairing, and it definitely brought up debates among fans related to whether two vocalists were a great choice or not for a Bond theme song. The song didn’t perform so well in the charts, peaking at #81 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and spending only one week there. It sold around 260,000 units.

Jack White and Alicia Keys’ Another Way to Die racked up around 30 million streams on Spotify, earning about $120,000 to date. On YouTube, the music video has been viewed 21 million times, making around $36,750.

3. Skyfall – Adele: Skyfall

Quite frankly, this song exploded once it got released, and you could hear it everywhere. Adele brought her A-game—as usual—going into the song, and created a masterpiece. The iconic song, with the same name as the movie, even brought an Oscar for Adele for Best Original Song.

The song captures the dark and moody plot of the film, hitting sweet spots of both nostalgia and tragedy. The song breathed life into the movie, and it was also very catchy, of course. Adele’s Skyfall sold 2 million copies in the US alone, went double Platinum, and peaked at number 8 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. It became Adele’s first song to debut in the top 10, with 261,000 copies sold in the US during its first three days. The song spent 30 weeks in the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

As for streaming numbers, on Spotify, the song is currently at almost 180 million plays, which roughly equates to $720,000 in revenue for the artist. On YouTube, the music video racked up over 423 million views, which is roughly $740,250 in revenue.

4. Spectre – Sam Smith: Writings On The Wall

Without a doubt, Sam Smith felt a little bit of pressure when writing the new Bond song: there was a lot to live up to after Adele’s Skyfall. But luckily, the artist came through just fine. Sam Smith also took home an Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Writings On The Wall,” as well as a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.

The lyrics narrate Bond’s character impressively, and the melody blends exquisitely with classic Bond theme songs. Even though the song won an Oscar and several other awards, some fans and music connoisseurs still argue whether the song is overrated or not.

Writings On The Wall peaked at #71 on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent 11 weeks in the top 100. The song went Platinum in the US, selling over 1 million units. As far as streaming numbers go, on Spotify, the song has been played over 186 million times, which equates to about $744,000. On YouTube, the song racked up 231 million views, which is roughly $924,000 in revenue for the artist.

5. No Time to Die – Billie Eilish: No Time To Die

No Time to Die by Billie Eilish is the latest Bond theme song. It also marks an important milestone: the 18-year-old artist is the youngest person to ever record a 007 theme song. The tune is full of mystery, it’s haunting, dark, and moody—in line with both Billie Eilish and James Bond. The song complements both the recording artist and Agent Double O7. 

“No Time To Die” can also be regarded as a swan song for Daniel Craig, as most likely this is the actor’s final outing as James Bond. The lyrics of the song are in perfect harmony with the chords and orchestration and seamlessly fit in the Bond universe. Billie Eilish performed the song alongside legendary composer Hans Zimmer at the 2020 Brit Awards, and we’re yet to find out how many awards this theme song will take home.

Currently, the song sold 500,000 units in the US, and its streaming numbers are rising at a fast pace. On Spotify, it has been streamed 264 million times ($1 million in revenue), already surpassing previous Bond theme songs in just a couple of months. On YouTube, the music video has been viewed 27 million times, earning $47,250.

Movie NameTheme SongUS Billboard Hot 100 Peak PositionTotal Spotify StreamsTotal Spotify RevenueTotal YouTube ViewsTotal YouTube RevenueUS RIAA Certification
Casino Royale (2006)Chris Cornell – You Know My Name7948,000,000$200,00021,000,000$36,750
Quantum of Solace (2008)Jack White & Alicia Keys – Another Way to Die8130,000,000$120,00021,000,000$36,750
Skyfall (2012)Adele – Skyfall8180,000,000$720,000423,000,000$740,2502x Platinum
Spectre (2015)Sam Smith – Writings On The Wall71186,000,000$744,000231,000,000$924,000Platinum
No Time To Die (2021)Billie Eilish – No Time To Die16264,000,000$1,000,00027,000,000$47,250Gold

Conclusion

There are countless elements that make a movie great, and one of them, of course, is the music. James Bond movies have always been known for incorporating incredible music in cinematography, all the way from singers to world-class composers like Hans Zimmer, David Arnold, and John Barry. James Bond theme songs are so iconic that the movies would be totally different without them, and the soundtrack of the films is also a crucial element in setting the mood and tone for the viewing experience.

Here at CuttingRoomMusic, we’re on the same mission: making movies come alive with incredible sound design and original compositions. If you’re looking for a partner to breathe life into your work with music, our dedicated team of talented professionals with a wide range of skills, experience, and connections is ready to jump aboard your project. We love what we do, we do it with passion and we look forward to working with you.