Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Birthday Take: Adele in "Skyfall" (2012)

Daniel Craig in Skyfall
Welcome to The Birthday Take, a column dedicated to celebrating Oscar nominees and winners' birthdays by paying tribute to the work that got them noticed. This isn't meant to be an exhaustive retrospective, but more of a highlight of one nominated work that makes them noteworthy. The column will run whenever there is a birthday and will hopefully give a dense exploration of the finest performances and techniques applied to film. So please join me as we blow out the candles and dig into the delicious substance.

The Facts

Recipient: Adele
Born: May 5, 1988 (27 years old)
Nomination: Best Original Song - Skyfall (won) with "Skyfall"

The Take

There was a lot riding on Skyfall. For starters, it was the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise and the Academy Awards was set on doing a tribute to them. Also, it was a film that was mired with consistent production conflicts that kept delaying the film's inevitable release. However, it finally came out and everyone was in love with it. From Daniel Craig's portrayal to Sam Mendes' direction and the always reliably charismatic Javier Bardem made one of the better espionage thrillers in the canon. This resulted in a lot of acclaim and attention at the Oscars, most notably in a controversial choice to have Thomas Newman's music qualify as Best Original Score despite featuring many snippets from preexisting music.

Then there was the behemoth that even people who hadn't seen the film would be able to recognize in a line-up. It was at the height of Adele's powers that she decided to provide the required theme song to Skyfall with a song that had operatic heights and played up the drama. Having come off of a year in which "Rolling in the Deep" was inescapable, she was becoming an icon in the pop music world for her deep and sultry voice that could personify any level of lyrical guilt. It was also one of the cases where if you didn't hear it in the opening credits of the film, you heard it on the radio. It wasn't a pop song necessarily in traditional methods, but it was an earworm that would become hard to escape for some time.

As mentioned, Bond films have a long legacy of having their theme songs get nominated for Oscars. In some cases, even their scores - specifically by Marvin Hamlisch - have won awards. However, there is one consistent vibe in them that can be noticed. Even if the actors and tones change with the times, every song has a thematic plot resonance that is sung almost in a melancholy manner. There's a sense of threat in the rhythm and soon the song itself makes you antsy for what's to come. When Adele stepped up to the plate, she did something more dramatic and while the opening lines were the apocalyptic "This is the end," she turned a tale of woe into the opening for one of the more accessible Bond movies of the past few decades. She forcefully controlled the song, elevating its quality and asking the question on if a film can actually live up to this much heightened passion.

In an odd note, her acceptance speech was the last public appearance that she has made according to IMDb. While there's rumors of a new album coming out, she has remained quiet since Skyfall. This is likely to prep for the next big album of personal songs and allowing the anticipation to build for another earworm on par with "Rolling in the Deep." However, if she had a hypothetical short legacy, she definitely did it correctly. With Grammys and an Oscar to her name, she has made her dent in pop culture and has remained widely discussed in the time since. The only question now is if or when she will be returning to the Oscars. Presumably, she seems geared towards this action, especially since her acclaim has remained so strong in the past two years. 

However, the same can be said for the Bond series, which returns this fall with the franchise's 24th film Spectre. Will it live up to the hype? Will we be seeing more attention paid to the series at the upcoming Academy Awards? More than all of this, there's a question as to whether the theme song will be worthwhile, potentially ending up on consistent rotation on the radio. Of course, this is the gamut that the franchise has been making for 50 years now with such a decent hit and miss ratio. Either way, it is hard to imagine how it will top Adele and "Skyfall," which not only became a catchy song, but one of the best Bond songs in its canon. It set a high bar that is likely to be impossible to top, even if this next one is really, really good.

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