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I bought the soundtrack to “The World Is Not Enough”, the new James Bond movie, because I had the title track stuck in my head. I listened to the first few songs in my car, and I was sorry that I blew twenty dollars on the CD. I knew nothing about any of the other songs on the soundtrack, and I was surprised to find that they were all instrumentals. I had just bought a CD that has one real song and eighteen songs without words (actually, it has seventeen instrumentals and one other song with a vocal part). Even worse, most of these songs sound the same. They are all composed by film composer David Arnold, and many are variations on the Bond theme, which was composed many years ago by Monty Norman. Needless to say, my first impression of this CD was quite negative.
So, I sat down to write a review trashing it. I dug out all the other soundtracks I own, and compared them. Most of them contain several radio hits, and none of them contain seventeen songs that all sound the same. It seemed to me like MGM, the studio that makes all the Bond movies, used the popularity of the Bond name and of Garbage’s song “The World Is Not Enough” to sell a lousy CD. So, as I said, my first impression of this soundtrack was bad. Then, when I compared it to other soundtracks, it looked even worse.
Then I realized that I was wrong. I was wrong to compare this soundtrack to the others I own, and I was wrong to dislike it because it does not contain any hit songs. I looked closely at the cover of “The World Is Not Enough” and saw these words: “Music from the MGM Motion Picture”. These words caught my eye because most soundtracks say “Music From and Inspired by the Motion Picture”. This is an important distinction, because the “inspired by” qualification on most soundtracks allows them to include just about anything, regardless of its relation to the movie. Most soundtracks are compilations of songs by already successful artists, and have little or nothing to do with the movie. In some cases, parts of songs from a soundtrack are included in the movie; more often the songs from the soundtrack are played during the credits or not at all. The songs are sometimes hits from an artist’s own album, and are sometimes b-sides that never made an album. Rarely if ever does an artist actually write a song with the movie in mind.
So, when seen in this light, “The World Is Not Enough” is not such a bad album. The title track is an outstanding song by one of the most talented groups in music today. “The World Is Not Enough” was written by Don Black, who has written many of the past Bond themes. The song was recorded by Garbage and an eighty-three-piece orchestra in London. It is a typical Bond ballad, but Garbage succeeds in making it a little bit more interesting than any past Bond theme. Most of the song’s success is due to Shirley Manson’s emotional and almost haunting vocals. On “The World Is Not Enough”, Manson proves to be more than an angry female rocker. She is a talented vocalist, and she and her bandmates are talented not just as musicians but also as producers. Garbage produced this track themselves, as they do with all their songs, and succeeded in blending their own sound with the orchestra in a harmonious and complimentary manner.
The rest of the soundtrack must be evaluated as what it is: music from a movie. The instrumentals are not exactly my favorite thing to listen to, but they are at least upbeat and in some places almost exciting. I imagine that they compliment the movie well. Although I do not really enjoy David Arnold’s songs, I have great respect for the skill it must require to compose songs to fit a movie. Even the Garbage song, which is a radio and MTV single, is the title theme of the movie, not just a random hit song used in a movie.
It might be the difficulty in composing music for a movie that causes moviemakers to apply existing songs to new movies. By using songs that are already popular, moviemakers can please audiences by playing a song whose popularity can hide the fact that it is unrelated to the movie. And, by including popular songs on a soundtrack even though they are not even part of the movie, movie studios can sell more soundtracks without going to the trouble and expense of composing original music. That increases the movie’s profit, which is what big studios care about more than anything.