Mark Monahan yearns for the louche brilliance of John Barry's music.
Can Billie Eilish's new song buck the trend? The news this week that Billie Eilish will write and perform the title song for the 25th official Bond film, No Time to Die, is enough to make 007 fans everywhere punch the air in glee.
Barely out of school she may be, but the 18-year-old Grammy-winning singer-songwriter is an immensely original talent. If she can lend this new venture the quirky, noirish musical and lyrical tang that infuses her debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, it could prove a marvellously moody and atmospheric opener to Daniel Craig's fifth and final outing as the sharp-suited assassin.
And heavens, does the franchise need such a thing. For when, if you are honest, was the last time you heard a new Bond song that genuinely made the hairs prickle?
The most recent, by Sam Smith - for 2015's Spectre - had a decent, piano-led verse but a whiny, sub-Eurovision chorus and no rhythm section at all.
Some made a case for Adele's Skyfall (2012), but sorry fellas: this was a case of a mediocre and derivative song, beautifully sung.
Go one further back, to 2008's Quantum of Solace, and you get the punchy but essentially tuneless Jack White/Alicia Keys offering Another Way to Die (listen to it: the musical backing's fabulous, but much of the so-called "melody" is just one note).
In fact, you have to look all the way back to the much-missed Chris Cornell's You Know My Name (for 2006's Casino Royale) for a properly written and sung Bond song with a bit of lead in its pencil, and yet only a generous soul would suggest that even this is one of the all-time greats.
As for poor Pierce Brosnan, his films got off with a respectably Bondish if unexciting musical start with 1995's GoldenEye (written by U2's Bono and The Edge, and belted out by Tina Turner, with silvery strings by Massive Attack collaborator Craig Armstrong).
But thereafter, each song seemed to be desperate to out-bland the last, reaching a nadir with 2002's dancey Die Another Day, in which poor Madonna sounded as if she was both short on dietary fibre and trapped in a washing machine.
The truth is, however, that it is perhaps not so much a case of everything having gone terribly wrong for the modern Bond song, as things having gone so spectacularly and untenably right for it earlier on.
Bond producers Albert "Cubby" Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were both shrewd and lucky to have signed up, from the outset, an up-and-coming, decidedly groovy arranger and bandleader who happened to metamorphose into one of the greatest film composers and songwriters of all time: John Barry.
The Yorkshireman's lush, louche, always dramatic title and incidental music - as influenced by jazz as it was by Shostakovich and Prokofiev - would come to have a symbiotic relationship with the Bond franchise, so much so that it may well have been crucial to its initial success.
It's easy to forget, however, that the very first Bond film (1962's Dr No) has no specially written title song at all - instead it launches with Barry's swaggering arrangement of Monty Norman's soon-to-be-famous Bond theme - and that the first Bond song, From Russia with Love (1963), was written not by Barry, but by Oliver! composer Lionel Bart (even if the beautiful string counter-melody sounds like pure Barry).
Rather, it was Goldfinger (1964) that was to yield Barry's first, subsequently celebrated title song - and yet, it could so easily have been otherwise.
When I met the great man in his Knightsbridge house in 2006, he told me a brief anecdote. It was September 1964, and Saltzman had just, for the first time, heard his new song, Goldfinger.
"I got a phone call from Harry," he recalled. "He never used to come down to the recording sessions, and he says: 'John, that is the worst f-----g song I ever heard in my life. We open in three weeks' time, otherwise I'd take that f-----g song out of the picture. I'd take it out! Out!"
Of course, the song stayed. The thrilling, glamorous, vodka-martini-drenched 007 "sound" (with which Barry himself would bolster a further nine outings) had arrived, and Shirley Bassey was firmly established as a Bond favourite, even if neither of her two subsequent Barry collaborations (1971's Diamonds Are Forever and 1979's underrated Moonraker) would quite, for all their excellence, measure up.
And so to the inevitable, irresistible, childish question: what is the greatest Bond song of the lot?
Certainly, Barry himself wrote not a single dud. From 1965's collaboration with Tom Jones, Thunderball to A View to a Kill (Duran Duran, 1985) and The Living Daylights (A-ha, 1987), they all fit the Bondish bill perfectly, even if Barry also told me, "[Bands] can really be a pain in the a--e."
His entirely instrumental title track for On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) is a sonic commando mission all by itself, and the love song he wrote for that same film - We Have All the Time in the World, sung by Louis Armstrong - a thing of evergreen, poignant beauty.
Not all the greats have been by him. With Barry unavailable for 1973's Live and Let Die, Broccoli and Saltzman turned to Paul McCartney, who (damn him) took just one afternoon to write the pile-driving, unprecedentedly rock 'n' roll title track for Roger Moore's first Bond adventure.
And for 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me, with Barry now a tax exile, they hired Broadway veteran Marvin Hamlisch, whose impossibly tuneful Nobody Does It Better - lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager, butterscotch-smooth vocals by Carly Simon - remains an all-time highlight.
If, however, there is one Bond song above all others towards which I would point Eilish for inspiration, it is You Only Live Twice (1967). From Barry's astonishing, fractured-arpeggio intro and soaring, bittersweet vocal melody and string counter-melody to Leslie Bricusse's mysterious, romantically carpe diem lyrics (delivered with burnished, brittle perfection by Nancy Sinatra), this remains the musical jewel in the series's crown.
If Eilish can convey Bondishness-in-song even half as eloquently as this, her job will be amply done, the rot finally stopped, and Mr Craig serenaded out in high style.
Songs for a super-spy
The 3 best
You Only Live Twice (1967) The musically and lyrically perfect - and exquisitely Bondish - of the lot.
Nobody Does It Better (1977) One of those rare songs (of any genre) that charms every single person who hears it.
Live and Let Die (1973) Still just too exciting for words - trust Macca to step blithely in and nail it.
The 3 worst
1) Die Another Day (2002) An impeccably appropriate opening to what is still the lousiest Bond film ever made.
2) The World Is Not Enough (1999)... and nor, frankly, is this operatically beige Garbage offering.
3) Skyfall (2012) In fairness, Adele sings this like an angel, and it certainly has its admirers, but cripes the song's dreary.