Writing’s On the Wall soared straight to No 1 in in its first week of release with 70,000 combined sales and streams. It makes Smith the first artist to achieve a No 1 song with a Bond theme, beating his predecessor Adele whose song Skyfall reached No 2.
Of the 23 previous Bond themes, many of which have performed dismally in the charts, only Duran Duran’s 1985 track A View to a Kill matched Skyfall’s chart rating. Bond classics such as Shirley Bassey’s Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever did not even break into the top 20.
Smith, 23, beat off competition from Justin Bieber to get his fifth No 1 with the track. It reportedly took him just 20 minutes to write and he called it the “quickest song I’ve ever written”.
In a video accompanying the song’s release, Smith said the lyrics, were “not about me, about my life, it’s the James Bond song and it’s the first time I’ve had to play a little bit of the character”.
The London-born songwriter told Official Charts that Writing’s On the Wall making No 1 was “a special moment I’ll never forget”.
Smith said: “It’s incredible that it’s become the first No 1 Bond theme song. It’s been an unforgettable experience working with [producer] Barbara [Broccoli] and [director] Sam [Mendes] to become part of this British legacy.”
Smith’s emotionally wrought take on the Bond theme tune was greeted with a mixed response from critics and fans. The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis wrote that it sounded “less like a Bond theme song than a latterday pop ballad – the kind of thing that X Factor contestants have a crack at”.
However, the song did gain the approval of former Bond Roger Moore who tweeted: “Sam Smith has delivered a very haunting and wonderfully orchestrated #Spectre theme song. Well done!”
Some have also speculated that the lyrics, which include lines such as “How do I live? How do I breathe?/ When you’re not here I’m suffocating/ I want to feel love, run through my blood” might indicate that Spectre will showcase a more sentimental side to Bond when the film is released at the end of October.
According to Smith, however, Mendes had tweaked the lyrics to make sure Bond did not seem too vulnerable.
Despite Adele not reaching No 1 with her theme song, Smith still has quite a legacy to follow – Skyfall was widely regarded to be the best Bond tune in years.
It won the Bond franchise its first Oscar in 47 years for Best Original Song and Daniel Craig admitted that hearing Adele’s theme had brought tears to his eyes. He said: “I cried. From the opening bars I knew immediately, then the voice kicked in and it was exactly what I’d wanted from the beginning. It just got better and better because it fitted the movie. In fact the more of the movie we made, the more it fitted it.”
A survey released on the same day as Writing’s On the Wall also names Skyfall as the British public’s favourite ever Bond theme song, followed by Bassey’s Goldfinger and Live And Let Die by Paul McCartney.
This article was written by Hannah Ellis-Petersen, for theguardian.com on Friday 2nd October 2015 18.54 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010