It’s been just three years since Adele‘s song “Skyfall,” from the Bond film of the same name, was awarded the best original song Oscar. Now, another 007 tune — “Writing’s on the Wall,” performed in Spectre by 23-year-old British pop star Sam Smith, the biggest winner at this year’s Grammys — may soon be headed to the Dolby.
The Hollywood Reporter is exclusively debuting a clip of its performance in the film’s title sequence below, courtesy of Sony and Capitol Records.
“I really, truly tried to make a song that was for a film,” Smith tells THR by phone from his home in England. “I didn’t want it to be a stand-alone song.” He adds, “I think it really works with the film and with the storyline, and I think you see that in the opening credits. The song suddenly makes sense when you see it in that way.”
“Writing’s on the Wall,” which Smith wrote with his longtime collaborator Jimmy Napes, already has been nominated for the best original song Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice awards, strong indicators that it could become the fifth song from a Bond film to land a nom via the Academy’s music branch. (Of the 23 Bond films prior to Spectre, Adele’s song was the first winner; the other songs, which came up short, were “Live and Let Die” from 1973’s Live and Let Die, “Nobody Does It Better” from 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me and “For Your Eyes Only” from 1981’s For Your Eyes Only.)
“I’ve been a huge fan of the Bond films and Bond songs all my life,” Smith says, “so I let my team know that it was something I would love to attack — but I didn’t think that I would have the opportunity to do it so soon in my career! The next thing I knew, I got a call from [Bond producer] Barbara Broccoli, so I went to Pinewood Studios and they gave me the script.”
As much as Smith hoped to do a song for a Bond movie, he felt he needed to carefully read the script before committing. “I wanted to know what the main themes of the story were,” he explains, “and also to know if it was going to suit my style of writing. And it did, you know? The moment I heard about the love story and the ending of the film and things like that, I knew it fit for me. There are other Bond films where I think, ‘If I got that script, I wouldn’t have been able to write a song because I wouldn’t have known where to come from.’ I felt a connection to this script.”
In terms of working with Napes — “I just have an amazing connection with him,” Smith says — does one write the music and the other the lyrics? “Every song is completely different,” he emphasizes, “but for ‘Writing’s on the Wall’? I don’t play an instrument, so Jimmy was on the piano. I was actually singing melodies and Jimmy was playing my melodies on the piano.” He continues, “I just started singing ‘Writing’s on the Wall’ — I didn’t know what it meant while I was singing it, but that was the lyric that I was singing when we wrote the melody — and we went from there.”
Smith found making a Bond song in the footsteps of countrywoman Adele to be both intimidating and exciting. “Adele is an unbelievable unicorn of an artist,” he gushes. “When she did Bond, and that album 21 and even now with 25 — she’s really moving mountains and doing incredible things, and it leaves an amazing space for artists like me. I know there have been comparisons — I don’t see it myself. But I actually am very thankful to Adele for making room for artists like myself to do Bond themes and stuff like that.”
In his Bond song, Smith says he wanted to share some of himself with the character: “My aim with this song was to bring a vulnerability to Bond — I write my music like it’s a diary and I thought it would be really good to do the same thing for Bond — and I realize some people disagree with that because Bond is supposed to be such a strong character. But I thought it was interesting to bring a vulnerability — almost a weakness — to Bond.” That vulnerability — in the form of singing that sometimes sounds almost like crying — is unmistakable in “Writing’s on the Wall.”
For Smith, seeing his song paired with the images of Spectre at the film’s premiere was an unforgettable experience. “It was amazing sitting with all of the actors and with my family and with my best friend,” he recalls. “It came to life.” What’s followed also has meant a lot to him — but he has made sure to keep things in perspective: “Getting that Golden Globe nomination was incredible, and who knows what’s going to happen [with the Oscar]? But I don’t make music to get awards. I make music for the love of doing it. The experience of doing James Bond was amazing and definitely a tick off my bucket-list. I was so honored and proud to do it, and anything else is just a cherry on the cake.”
This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.