Soundtrack Saturday: GoldenEye

Hello and welcome to a new feature of Spy Hat Zed: Soundtrack Saturday! What is that, you may ask? Good question! Basically, every other Saturday (or every Saturday, if I have the time), I’ll review one of the myriad movie/musical soundtracks and scores I have in my iTunes, track by track. There will be trivia and humor and a splendid time is guaranteed for all. (It should be noted that I have never taken a music theory class in my life, so this is in no way a scientific analysis.)

So, which soundtrack gets the honor of being the first reviewed? Well, if you read the title of this entry, which I’m sure you did because that is just how blog posts work, you would know, it’s GoldenEye! (Incidentally, this was the very first soundtrack I ever bought. I remember finding it in a Borders circa 2000 – having already declared that it was my favorite movie of all time, I immediately squeaked and snatched it up. Please remember that I was nine at the time and I couldn’t find that CD anywhere but the internet, which I was not allowed to buy from since I was, er, nine.)

Pause while everyone feels old. Okay, let’s continue.

The teaser poster of the film.

Sean Connery...I mean, Pierce Brosnan Is About To Shoot You.

GoldenEye is the seventeenth movie in the James Bond franchise, produced by EON Productions (which means we are excluding both the Casino Royale with David Niven in, and also Never Say Never Again). It was the first outing of Pierce Brosnan in the tux, coming out of a six-year dry spell after the last one, Licence to Kill with Timothy Dalton (who really gets short shrift in the annals of Awesome James Bonds).  As such, GoldenEye is terrific fun to watch 15 years after its production for such gems as Natalya requesting 500 MB hard drives and 14.4k modems in the IBM store (which was a big deal!) to the explosiontastic misconception that EMP not only disables everything with an electronic circuit, but makes its molecular structure change to explodium. This was the first 007 film of the Nineties – which meant it was the first 007 film since the Cold War ended. This film was the make-or-break point for the franchise, because everyone was asking the question: Could James Bond survive in a post-Soviet world?

The box-office gross answered in the affirmative. The film was a huge success, garnering over $350M in 1995 dollars from a $58M budget, and received two BAFTAs – one for Best Achievement in Special Effects, another for Best Sound. (Then of course there was the famous video game, the soundtrack of which I may review at a later date.)

Soundtrack cover.Yet, funnily enough, few people enjoyed the music of the film. It was certainly non-standard: John Barry, the composer for eleven of the prior Bond films, declined the job. So they grabbed Éric Serra, the French composer who had scored Nikita and The Professional, figuring he’d do well on the film. Spy stuff, people dying…same-ish genre, why not? Serra then went on to score The Fifth Element, so he wasn’t actually tarred and feathered for his lack of a brassy Bond film score…but it’s still reviled in many circles. Being that I am maybe one of six people in the world to like this soundtrack, I decided to go through it one track at a time and give my impressions other than “an explosion of synthesizer and timpani”.

So…onwards!

1. “GoldenEye” – Tina Turner

I don’t know what this video is about, and neither do you. Nobody does. It’s actually chaos. There’s a leopard – why is there a leopard? And chicks with AK-47s in miniskirts, and…anyway, the official video is crazy. Do not attempt to analyze it. That way lies madness.

That’s more like it – the opening title sequence. It’s actually quite cleverly designed, with the fall of the Soviet Union and everything, and the two-faced woman, and the statues of the Soviet leaders which pop up about halfway through the film.

Main title sequence.

Legit.

But hang on, what the hell is happening with these lyrics?

See reflections on the water
more than darkness in the depths
see him surface in every shadow
on the wind I feel his breath

Goldeneye I found his weakness
Goldeneye he’ll do what I please
Goldeneye no time for sweetness
but a bitter kiss will bring him to his knees

You’ll never know how I watched you
from the shadows as a child
you’ll never know how it feels to be the one
who’s left behind
You’ll never know the days, the nights,
the tears, the tears I’ve cried
but now my time has come
and time, time is not on your side

See him move through smoke and mirrors
feel his presence in the crowd
other girls they gather around him
if I had him I wouldn’t let him out

Goldeneye not lace or leather
Golden chains take him to the spot
goldeneye I’ll show him forever
it’ll take forever to see
what I’ve got

You’ll never know how I watched you
from the shadows as a child
you’ll never know how it feels to be so close
and be denied
It’s a gold and honeyed trap
I’ve got for you tonight
Revenge is a kiss, this time I won’t miss
now I’ve got you in my sight
With a Goldeneye, golden, goldeneye
with a goldeneye
Goldeneye

Now that’s a stalker song if I ever heard one. In fact, it’s most stalkerrific song since the Police did “Every Breath You Take”. I’m also positive that this damn song is responsible for 98% of all 007 slashfics. (Yes, they exist. Be afraid.) I really want to know what Bono and The Edge were thinking when they wrote this. On second thought, no. No I don’t.

As an added bonus, there’s an alternate theme. Ace of Base were originally slated to perform the theme song, but pulled out for some reason. There exists a demo of the song, actually:

Ace of Base would later re-use the melody and most of the lyrics for their song “The Juvenile”. Actually, the end-of-chorus lyric “Tomorrow’s foe is now a friend” in that song is more suited to the scrapped GoldenEye theme. (Whoopsy spoilery!)

Yeah…what could have been, eh?

2. “The GoldenEye Overture: [Pt. 1 – Half of Everything is Luck] [Pt. 2 – The Other Half is Fate]” – Éric Serra

Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the–holy shit, is that the James Bond theme done on timpani? I need to go lie down, because that is awesome.

This track pretty much lets us know what we can expect from the score from here on out. It’s pretty interesting, lots of percussion, and sounding a little like proto-techno. Industrial, even. Towards the latter half of the track, we get to hear the first of the Ominous Electronic Chanting, which sounds like someone set their Casio keyboard preset to Satanic Men’s Choir. Get used to that, it’ll show up during suspenseful moments.

This was used during the pre-title sequence, when agents 006 and 007 are invading the chemical weapons facility at Arkhangelsk. Things explode, 006 is murdered, and we meet Colonel Ourumov. Also 007 breaks physics by catching a falling plane, but whatever, he’s James Bond, he can alter the local laws of gravity as he so chooses. Don’t question it.

3. “Ladies First” – Éric Serra

Ah yes, the driving scene. This is where we first meet Xenia Onatopp, who turns smutty Bond girl standards up to eleven. This track is more ,uh, blatantly ’90s than the others, since it comes complete with hip-hop record scratching, beginning at about 0:14 and intermittently throughout the rest of the track. At about 0:34, the electronic…accordion or whatever (another keyboard preset) kicks in, reminding me of those very silly videos we used to have to watch in high school French class which made France seem as if it were perpetually stuck in 1993. At about 0:58, we are rewarded with a traditional instrument in the background, a string instrument of some kind. It ends up getting overlaid with the record-scratching again, but I suppose I’ll take what I can get. For me, it’s enjoyable on nostalgia grounds – that, and it works in the scene during which it is used. It’s kind of a…humorous car chase – and for us here in the Naughties and beyond, the keyboard sounds are damn funny.

4. “We Share the Same Passions: [Pt. 1: The Trip to Cuba] [Pt. 2: The Same Passions]” – Éric Serra

I don’t know why the first part of this song is subtitled “The Trip to Cuba”, because a) that puts it horribly out of place within the film’s structure and b) it’s so similar to the arrangement used during the baccarat scene. It is then immediately followed up with the music from the baccarat scene. Why didn’t they just cut it into two tracks? It is a mystery.

Kudos to whoever edited this, it's awesome.

I don't understand baccarat...but I do know Pokémon.

Anyway, we get more strings in this section, because it’s James Bond living the high life. Around 4:03, we get a change in scene, and some creepy strings at about 4:17, when Bond is spying on Xenia. Good times.

5. “A Little Surprise for You: [Pt. 1: Xenya][Pt. 2: D.M. Mychkine]” – Éric Serra

You might notice that the spellings of Xenia and Mishkin are, er, different. I did not know what to make of this earlier and the only explanation I can come up with is that Éric Serra is French and that is just how the character names are spelled in French. Kind of like how Tintin becomes Kuifje in the Netherlands. (Oh, the Dutch.)

This track is played when Xenia and the Mysterious Other Person (fandom is divided on whether it’s Ourumov or not because we never see his face, though the novelization implies that it is in fact Ourumov) steal the Tiger helicopter from right under the French military’s noses. Why? Because it is resistant to EMP, is why! It is Chekhov’s Helicopter. It’s got that lovely something-dropped-at-a-construction-site sound that always pops up during this soundtrack (I’m not being sarcastic, I love that sound).  At about the 1:20 mark, we have the return of the Ba’al United Men’s Choir, and the jingle bells (which always show up in the Russian tracks, I’ve noticed).

6. “The Severnaya Suite: [Pt. 1: Among the Dead][Pt. 2: Out of Hell][Pt. 3:  The Husky Tribe]” – Éric Serra

This is the first encounter of what I like to call the Sad Natalya Flute, but what everyone else calls a leitmotif. This is basically Natalya’s theme. And then it’s played in a minor key with some brass instruments at around 0:38, because Bad Things are happening. The emotion in the tune is really striking, especially when part 3 kicks in with Chekhov’s Huskies. Notable for being one of the only tracks on this CD without heavy ’90s electronica. The Sad Natalya Flute will show up in some of the following tracks, so keep an ear out.

7. “Our Lady of Smolensk” – Éric Serra

This might be the shortest track on the entire CD, clocking in at one minute, two seconds (according to iTunes – the linked video has a second or so of dead air at the beginning and end). Nonetheless, it’s got a wealth of interesting stuff in it. The track itself is in my opinion gorgeous and I wish it lasted longer – but the sequence is short in the film anyway. It’s kind of otherworldly, a little strange, and there is a snippet of voice beginning at about 0:25 that I don’t even know what language it’s in. That chanting will show up again in track 10, “A Pleasant Drive in St. Petersburg”. This is one of my favorite tracks on the CD just because of how atmospheric it is.

8. “Whispering Statues: [Pt. 1:  Whispers][Pt. 2: Two-Faced]” – Éric Serra

Ah, yes, the Big Reveal. “Hello, James.” Possibly my favorite part in the movie. The first part, “Whispers”, is pretty creepy, especially with the random violins tossed in there, swiftly followed up by more Ominous Chanting which, unlike the other stuff, is actually done by human beings and not a possessed Casio keyboard. At about 1:15 it becomes “Two Faced”…and Janus himself is revealed. In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I won’t say who it is, but the Law of Conservation of Detail is hard at work. The part with the piano, where Janus is telling his story, is actually one of the more emotional parts of the score. Then again, I am also a sucker for quiet piano pieces and Muse’s Exogenesis: Symphony makes me cry every time I listen to it.

…and bam, at 3:06, tranqed.  Sucks to be you, James.

9. “Run, Shoot, and Jump” – Éric Serra

The second-shortest track on the album, Run, Shoot, and Jump is probably the most intense. It’s 1:07 of running through Soviet archives from corrupt Russian guards. Really, that’s about it. But it’s pretty sweet.

10. “A Pleasant Drive in St. Petersburg” – Éric Serra

Finally, we get a James Bond theme. A James Bond theme made by throwing a synthesizer and a keyboard together and hoping desperately that they managed to produce viable offspring.

Also there’s that creepy chanting from Our Lady of Smolensk again. The guitar (or possibly electric banjo) beginning at 2:56 might be my favorite part.

This song was so hated by the producers that they decided to scrap it in favor of a more traditional 007 theme for the actual tank chase itself, by John Altman:

You can, however, still hear Serra’s version on the main menu of the special edition DVD.

The More You Know!

11. “Fatal Weakness” – Éric Serra

Fatal Weakness is another one of my favorites. It’s creepy-like and provides the ambiance we’re going to get from the film from here on out. Which is full of bass and creepystrings and whalesong and the occasional series of industrial sounds that I will always, always, always associate with the adjustment of a big-ass satellite dish (starting at 1:23).

Also, there is more chanting at about 2:45, and this time it’s more easily identified as Russian (at least, to me). No bloody idea what it means but it’s creepy…which is exactly the point. Oh, those Russians.

12. “That’s What Keeps You Alone” – Éric Serra

Whuh-oh, it’s the Return of the Sad Natalya Flute with String Backup. They’re in Cuba now (so the first part of We Share The Same Passions should have come between this track and the previous one, but whatever). This is where Natalya confronts Bond on the beach. And then he finally seduces her. (Did you expect anything less? This is James Bond we’re talking about, he always seals the deal. Quantum of Solace excepted. And I guess also the Dalton Bonds, because of AIDS being such a big concern in the ’80s.)

At about 2:13, it cuts to them lying in bed (after the implied sexings), Bond cracks a bad joke, and Natalya tries to smother him with her pillow. Then they make out again. It’s kind of hilarious.

13. “Dish Out of Water: [Pt. 1: A Good Squeeze][Pt. 2: The Antenna]” – Éric Serra

Here comes Xenia! With some scary Donkey Kong music. (No, I’m kidding, but the beat really reminds me of DK for some reason.) Basically, Bond destroys her, everyone is saved. At 1:46, the antenna begins to make an appearance to control the satellites – which is why I mentioned satellite adjustment earlier, this is pretty much the GoldenEye satellite’s “I’m gonna murder your electronics” theme. With of course some heavy brass, because who doesn’t love brass? I’ll tell you who, communists.

Also, listen really hard at about 2:13. Doesn’t that sound like Windows quietly making a ‘ping!’ sound in the background, like an error message just popped up? Do you think that was intentional?

14. “The Scale to Hell: [Pt. 1: Boris and the Lethal Pen][Pt. 2: I Am Invincible]” – Éric Serra

I love this one. I also love this scene in the movie. The love may or may not be related. I mean, I swear that’s a bass. With maracas. And the occasional record-scratch sound. And of course, the most baffling sound effect (to me, anyway): The squeak-squeak noise beginning at 0:44 that sounds for all the world like someone’s playing basketball in an indoor gym with a wooden floor, while wearing new sneakers. This is a sound I am extremely familiar with due to five years of district-mandated gym class. This is that sound.

It steadily builds on the main theme with the bass as things get more heated, especially at 1:23 with the synthesizer explosion. There’s banter, something that looks suspiciously like Gatorade turns out to be flammable, and pens explode. 2:12 is I think the actual explosion.

And 2:18 begins the final confrontation between Bond and Janus, complete with some snippets of electronicized 007 theme that sounds a little like a machine growling. And it is awesome. I think this is really my favorite track on the entire CD.

Trivia: For this fight scene, the actors did almost all of it on their own, without stuntmen, and it was supposed to be kind of an homage to the famous fight scene with Red Grant in From Russia With Love. It is also pretty killer in and of itself.

15. “For Ever, James” – Éric Serra

Sad Natalya Flute again because she thinks Bond is dead, but he isn’t, because he’s 007! And they make out in a field. And then Jack Wade comes in to ruin the moment, because he is Jack Wade and he’s just awesome like that.

There’s a bit of a Funny Aneurysm Moment when Wade asks them if they would like to finish debriefing each other at Guantánamo. Yes, that just happened.

Really, you have to give Natalya props for being a proactive Bond girl (a reputation which is sadly ruined by the sheer number of goddamned escort missions you have to do during the video game, wherein Natalya quickly becomes the object of one’s eternal enmity because she can’t keep from walking in front of people with guns). She’s easily one of the best in the franchise; she’s tough, she can take care of herself, and she doesn’t even have the training for it. She doesn’t just laugh in the face of danger, she pistol-whips it and climbs up a burning piece of satellite rigging before danger’s house explodes.

But I wonder why we never see her again after this…?

…oh my God. It’s all so clear now! He left her at Guantánamo! Cold, James. Cold.

16. “The Experience of Love” – Éric Serra

And now we have the end credits song. For an added bonus, Éric Serra sings! Yes, I’m serious. Copious usage is also made of the basketball-sneaker noise. I do kind of like this song, but I feel like it doesn’t have much to do with the movie.

I know you dream a lot
Holding on to lies
And you wait around
For someone to know where you hide
And in your dreams you feel a lot
But you keep it all inside
And you close your eyes
It helps keep you alive

(The experience of love)The experience of loving
Will take all the pain away
Just understanding for the first time
What you feel inside
Love is in your life
And having come this far
Cherishing your dreams
You have realized now
How they help keep you alone

The experience of loving
Will take all the pain away
Just understanding for the first time
What you feel inside
Love is in your life

(Leave the dreams behind)
Breathing in the scent of love
(Leave the dreams behind)
Sensing love in everything
Under the sky

The experience of loving
Will take all the pain away
Just understanding for the first time
What you feel inside
Love is in your life

(The experience of love, under the sky)
Sensing life
(The experience of love, under the sky)
Will take  all the pain away
(The experience of love)
For the first time (under the sky)
Love is in your life
(The experience of love)
Take it below*, feel the flow
Hold it close don’t let it go
(The experience of love, under the sky)
Will take all the pain, all the pain
(The experience of love)
For the first time (under the sky)
When love is in your life
(The experience of love)
For the first time (under the sky)
The scent of love
(The experience of love)
For the first time (under the sky)
Just keep it all inside
(The experience of love)
For the first time…

* Nobody has yet come to a consensus on what the hell that line is, Serra mumbles it so it’s hard to make out.

As you may have noticed…this has nothing to do with the movie! Except for the insertion of “It helps keep you alive/helps keep you alone”, a callback to the scene where Bond and Natalya are on the beach. This song is actually more suited to Inception, as a theme for Cobb. Because that usage would actually make sense, with all the emphasis on dreams.

Hmm. Hold that thought, that’s a music video to be made.

So, was Serra 15 years ahead of his time, or did he just want to plonk that song in during the credits? Seriously. It is.

Yeah, that’s about all I’ve got. I hope you enjoyed Soundtrack Saturday. Next time: I’m thinking a Hans Zimmer score, possibly…Gladiator?

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~ by Alex Villanueva on September 11, 2010.

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