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October 9, 2012

Adele has been compared to everyone from Aretha Franklin to Etta James, but her real spiritual forbear may be Shirley Bassey, the brassy, leather-lunged, slightly schlocky Welsh songstress best known for belting out three James Bond theme songs, including the indelible "Goldfinger." So "Skyfall," the title song from the forthcoming 23rd Bond film, feels natural, inevitable: Adele is a born Bond Theme Girl, with the voice, and the flair for melodrama, that the job demands. Written by Adele and her "Rolling in the Deep" collaborator Paul Epworth, "Skyfall" sounds like the product of a computer algorithm, designed to produce the Platonically-ideal Bond theme. It has a slow-boiling tempo; a grandly arcing melody line; strings and brass that shiver, gust, and swoop; and a bombastic, romantic lyric ("Let the sky fall/When it crumbles/We will stand tall/Face it all together"). Adele sings magnificently, but the thing feels a bit too worshipful, not quite goofy enough. This is Bond – James Bond – we're talking about, the campiest screen hero in history. Adele and Epworth might have leavened their heart-on-sleeve with a bit more tongue-in-cheek.

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