Writing's On The Wall

Album: Single release only (2015)
Charted: 1 71
  • Sam Smith disclosed some spectre-tacular news on September 8, 2015 when he revealed he had recorded the theme song for the 24th James Bond movie Spectre. Smith was the first British male solo artist to lay down a Bond theme tune since Tom Jones recorded "Thunderball" for the 1965 film of the same name.
  • Smith co-wrote the song with regular collaborator Jimmy Napes. The pair worked together on the UK #1s "La La La," "Stay With Me" and "Lay Me Down" as well as the Discosure hit tune "Latch."
  • Smith told BBC Radio 1's Nick Grimshaw that he recorded the track in January 2015. "I got called into the office with Barbara Broccoli and Sam Mendes and they gave me the script, I read the script... they said 'have a go at the song'" Smith disclosed. "It's the quickest I've ever written a song - it took 20 minutes... and they loved it!"
  • "Writing's on the wall" is an expression that references an event foreshadowing a disaster. The idea comes from the Old Testament Book of Daniel Chapter 5, where King Belshazzar is informed of the forthcoming destruction of the Babylonian Empire, through the appearance of a man's writing on the palace wall.
  • Spectre director Sam Mendes stepped in because an early demo of the track made Bond appear too soft. Sam Smith explained to The Sun: "I feel like my music can be very vulnerable and I wanted to have a touch of that with Bond and have him sounding more vulnerable than normal."

    "All my music, I try to make it honest and personal, like it's a diary entry, and I've wanted to do that, but in the shoes of someone else."

    "With Bond songs you get to be as dramatic as you want. I got to get away with unbelievable string and brass sections - I got to be a drama queen."

    "But at the same time. This song was a huge collaboration between me and Sam Mendes, who obviously has the Bond in his head. He wants to get across and the story he wants to tell."

    "Sam had a say in some of the lyrics are was writing and made sure Bond didn't sound weak, that he still sounded powerful."
  • Disclosure's Guy and Howard Lawrence are listed as co-producers on the song's track-listing. Speaking about their involvement to Redbull, they explained that Sam Smith and Jimmy Napes had asked them to give it a bit more of a contemporary feel.

    The brothers added: "The song was already fully written and was incredible but it was just Sam with a piano and an orchestra and it sounded very classic – an amazing classic Bond song, like 'Diamonds Are Forever' or 'Goldfinger.' They asked us to put our twist on things and we just added a few little bits and made it a bit more electronic sounding, really quite subtle."
  • This debuted at #1 on the UK singles chart, the first ever James Bond theme song to reach the summit. Before Smith's chart-topper, the two highest-ranking Bond themes were Adele's "Skyfall" and Duran Duran's "A View To A Kill," which both peaked at #2.

    In case you're wondering, one Bond theme has topped the US Hot 100: "A View to A Kill."
  • The cinematic and slow winding video was directed by Luke Monaghan and filmed in Rome, in the same locations that Spectre was shot. Monaghan also directed Smith's visual for "I'm Not The Only One."

    The heavily Bond-centric clip features footage of Smith crooning the soaring ballad, cut with scenes from the movie.
  • Sam Smith performed the song live for the first time on the October 23, 2015 episode of the Graham Norton Show. Speaking to the show's host, Smith talked about how difficult it is to perform live: "I've only actually sang the song once really," he said. "I did the demo in the studio, and they used it. It's horrible to sing. Horrible. I almost regret - no, I don't regret... It's just so high. I have to grab my balls, it's awful."
  • This won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song from a Motion Picture. Smith and Jimmy Napes accepted the award.
  • This won the Oscar for Best Song at the 2016 ceremony. Accepting the award, Sam Smith said: "I read an article a few months ago by Sir Ian McKellen, and he said that no openly gay man had ever won an Oscar. If this is the case, even if it isn't the case, I want to dedicate this to the LGBT community all around the world. I stand here tonight as a proud gay man, and I hope we can all stand together as equals one day."

    Smith was way off: McKellen's remarks dealt with the Best Actor category; there were many openly gay winners in other categories, especially in Best Song, notably Elton John in 1994 (for "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" from The Lion King) and Melissa Etheridge in 2007 (for "I Need To Wake Up" from An Inconvenient Truth).

    Another problem: Smith's performance of the song at the ceremony was way off-pitch. He told the BBC, "It was the worst moment of my life."


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