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Sam Smith’s new James Bond theme is a lush, sweeping disappointment

Sam Smith, feeling things.
Sam Smith, feeling things.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Sam Smith's James Bond theme song "Writing on the Wall" is here, and it feels fine.

Just...fine.

If there's anything that can challenge the anticipation of finding out who the next James Bond is, it's finding out who will perform the next James Bond theme song. As with any longstanding franchise, there is always speculation and controversy. And unless you're Adele singing the spectacular theme for Skyfall, you're just never going to get unanimous approval.

Smith must have known this when he threw his name into the ring to do Spectre's theme, but he has wanted to do the Bond theme for years, especially because his uncle is a massive fan. The exciting prospect of lending a legendary franchise his enormous voice, as heard on his last year's massively popular "Stay With Me," likely outweighed any possibility of a backlash.

"Writing on the Wall" follows in the grand tradition of sweeping Bond themes, with a lush orchestral arrangement that follows the roller coaster curves of Smith's voice. It does feel, however, like Smith actively tried to create something enormous rather than naturally achieving it.

He told NPR's Morning Edition that he tried to put himself in Bond's shoes: "My music is a diary and it's a recap of my life, and I wanted to bring that kind of honesty." Ergo, lyrics like, "How do I live, how do I breathe?/When you're not here I'm suffocating."

Making a Bond theme one's own is tricky business, since it needs to fit in the thematic mold of the movie and the current Bond. Smith clearly tried to draw from Daniel Craig's more vulnerable portrayal of a traditionally unflappable character, but his saccharine lyrics overshoot the mark.

Spectre hits theaters on November 6, 2015.