Writing's on the Wall (Sam Smith song)

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"Writing's on the Wall"
Writing's on the Wall by Sam Smith.png
Single by Sam Smith
Released25 September 2015
Format
Recorded2015
Studio
GenreOrchestral pop
Length4:38
LabelCapitol
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
Sam Smith singles chronology
"Omen"
(2015)
"Writing's on the Wall"
(2015)
"Momentarily Mine"
(2016)
James Bond theme singles chronology
"Skyfall"
(2012)
"Writing's on the Wall"
(2015)
Music video
"Writing's on the Wall" on YouTube

"Writing's on the Wall" is a song by English singer Sam Smith, written for the release of the 2015 James Bond film Spectre. The song was released as a digital download on 25 September 2015.[1] The song was written by Smith and Jimmy Napes, and produced by the latter alongside Steve Fitzmaurice and Disclosure and released on 25 September 2015.

"Writing's on the Wall" received mixed reviews, especially when compared to previous Bond theme songs.[2][3][4][5] The mixed reception to the song led to Shirley Bassey trending on Twitter on the day it was released.[6][7] The single became the first Bond movie theme to reach number one in the UK Singles Chart. It also reached the top 10 in a few other European countries, but unlike other James Bond themes, it was not as successful outside Europe, only peaking at number 43 in Canada and Australia and number 71 on the Billboard Hot 100. Only the instrumental version of the song appeared on the film's official soundtrack album. The song won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song at the 73rd Golden Globe Awards[8] and the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 88th Academy Awards, making it the second-ever Bond theme to win (after "Skyfall" by Adele in 2012).

Background and composition[edit]

"Writing's on the Wall" was co-written by Smith and Jimmy Napes.[9] Smith said that the song came together in one whirlwind session: they and Napes wrote it in under half an hour and quickly recorded a demo. When they listened back to that recording, they were so pleased with Smith's vocal performance that they ended up using it on the final release—albeit with some added muscle in the arrangement.[10] On 8 September 2015, Sam Smith announced that they were singing the song for the James Bond film Spectre. They described performing the theme as "one of the highlights of my career".[11] The English band Radiohead also composed a song for the film, "Spectre", which went unused.[12]

The song is written in the key of F minor with a tempo of 66 beats per minute (Larghetto). Smith's vocals range from A ♭3 to D♭5.[13] The singer expressed some backlash at their vocal performance, feeling it was "horrible to sing" as the notes are "just so high".[14]

Critical reception[edit]

The song received a mixed response from critics. Alexis Petridis of The Guardian wrote that the song attempted to capture the mood of Adele's Skyfall theme, but "doesn’t feel anywhere near as striking ... the chances of it joining the pantheon of Bond themes that anyone with even a passing interest in pop music can hum seem pretty slender".[15] Lewis Corner of Digital Spy rated it 3 out of 5 stars.[16] Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph called the song a "monster Bond ballad", stating, "(The song) is very, very slow and surprisingly restrained, at times floating by on resonant piano notes, the faintest brush stroke of orchestra, with all the focus on Smith's intense, tremulous vocal, rising with controlled pace and tension to an audacious chorus pay-off".[17] Chris DeVille of Stereogum felt that Radiohead's rejected song was "the more masterful of the two tracks".[18]

Commercial performance[edit]

In the United Kingdom, "Writing's on the Wall" became the first James Bond theme to reach number one, on the issue dated 8 October 2015. The previous highest-charting Bond themes were Adele's "Skyfall" and Duran Duran's "A View to a Kill", which both reached number two. It also became Smith's fifth UK number-one single within two years. The song spent a total of 16 consecutive weeks in the UK Singles Chart. In the United States, "Writing's on the Wall" debuted and peaked at number 71 on the Billboard Hot 100, compared to the previous Bond song, "Skyfall", which debuted at number 8 in October 2012. In Canada, the song debuted at and peaked number 43. In Australia, the song performed moderately, debuting at number 44, and later peaking at number 43, but in Ireland, the song was a much bigger hit, debuting and peaking at number 9. The song has also charted in several other European countries though to a far lesser degree than its predecessor.

Track listing[edit]

Digital download[19]
No.TitleLength
1."Writing's on the Wall"4:38
CD single and vinyl[20][21]
No.TitleLength
1."Writing's on the Wall"4:38
2."Writing's on the Wall" (instrumental)4:38

Credits and personnel[edit]

Recording and management
Personnel

Charts and certifications[edit]

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format Label
Worldwide 25 September 2015 Digital download Capitol
United Kingdom 23 October 2015 CD single
6 November 2015 7" vinyl

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ "Sam Smith Bond song splits opinion". BBC News.
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  4. ^ "Sam Smith's 'Writing On The Wall' 'Spectre' Song Hasn't Impressed 'James Bond' Fans". The Huffington Post UK.
  5. ^ "The Writing's on the Wall: Sam Smith's James Bond Spectre theme panned online". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 25 September 2015.
  6. ^ "Sam Smith's James Bond theme song 'Writing's On The Wall' makes Shirley Bassey trend on Twitter because people hate it". The Independent.
  7. ^ "Sam Smith Releases New Bond Theme But Twitter Reckons He's No Shirley Bassey". MTV UK.
  8. ^ Merry, Stephanie; Yahr, Emily (10 December 2015). "Golden Globes nominations 2016: Complete list". The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 December 2015.
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  10. ^ "Hear Sam Smith Break Down His Bond Theme, 'Writing's On The Wall'". NPR. 25 September 2015. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
  11. ^ "Instagram". Instagram.
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  13. ^ "'Writing's on the Wall' sheet music". Salli Isaak Music Publishing. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
  14. ^ Britton, Luke Morgan (26 October 2015). "Sam Smith 'almost regrets' Bond theme: 'It's so high that I have to grab my balls'". NME. Retrieved 26 December 2015.
  15. ^ Alexis Petridis. "Sam Smith's James Bond theme review – 'It feels like an X Factor ballad'". The Guardian.
  16. ^ "This week's new singles reviewed: Little Mix, Sia, Sam Smith, Rudimental". Digital Spy.
  17. ^ "Writing's on the Wall review: 'Sam Smith's monster Bond ballad'". The Telegraph.
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  62. ^ "Italian single certifications – Sam Smith – Writing's on the Wall" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved 28 September 2017. Select "2016" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "Writing's on the Wall" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli online" under "Sezione".
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  65. ^ "British single certifications – Sam Smith – Writing's on the Wall". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 28 September 2017. Select singles in the Format field. Select Platinum in the Certification field. Type Writing's on the Wall in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  66. ^ "American single certifications – Sam Smith – Writing's on the Wall". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 28 September 2017. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH.