John Barry proved that he could never be replaced when it came to Bond – James Bond that is. Bond and Barry went together like Fish and Chips or better still Suave and Sophisticated. The latest Bond adventure has been a while in the works and it was a surprise when it was announced that American composer Thomas Newman would score the film. Newman of course is a seasoned film music Maestro and a member of the Newman dynasty that has reigned supreme in Hollywood for many years now. But how would he score a movie that has a quintessential British hero and a character so well established as James Bond and who also has an established soundtrack base? On the first listen to Newman’s score I was, in a word, “unimpressed” but after a few listens the music began to grow on me. I think one has to completely put out of one’s head the Barry scores and even the more recent soundtracks by composers such as Bill Conti, George Martin, Marvin Hamlish and David Arnold. After all, a Bond film is an adventure, a drama, and a movie filled with more twists turns and bumps than any fairground ride, so one has to take this into account. Newman’s score is certainly dynamic and filled to the rafters with exciting and pulsating musical passages and cues. He utilizes the James Bond Theme within his score but does not overwork the composition – I suppose if he had not integrated the famous theme into the soundtrack that would have been sacrilege in the eyes of many.
I read a few comments about the score from critics; one said THIS IS NOT BOND MUSIC? So what is Bond music? Surely music for Bond can be anything as long as if fits the action or the scenario on screen and also contains something of a bombastic atmosphere. Many collectors did not like GOLDENEYE, but on listening to Eric Serra’s score now and also re-visiting the movie I think the music for that particular 007 outing worked rather well in the context of the film. It was different from what had gone before but retained a certain air of what Barry had produced in previous movies and this is what Newman has achieved here with SKYFALL. He has retained some of the stock Bond sounds and imprinted his own personal style on the music, creating a score that is effervescent, mildly menacing and brimming with suitably over the top moments which are a lot of fun.
Newman’s soundtrack is orchestral with some assistance from the synthetic section but both the symphonic and electronic fuse effortlessly. Elements from the respective sources combine to create a fast paced and at times original sounding work.
Newman keeps up a relentless and high octane tempo for the majority of the work and these are laced with references to what many deem to be the sound of BOND. The composer also introduces some less frenzied and urgent moments which evoke past moments from previous scores, oozing sophistication, which are sexy and steamy in their make-up with underlying sultry strings which are luxurious and full of promise and act as a background to a scattering of piano that purveys an atmosphere of seduction. Newman has done a competent and worthy job of scoring SKYFALL. His music is certainly no clone of any of the Barry scores nor does it try to mirror any other composer’s work in the series. It’s a modern take on BOND music which I think will be popular. Unusually, the title song by Adele is absent from the recording but Newman did not have a hand in this.