Perhaps icons inevitably try to upstage each other. Madonna, given the chance at a 007 theme song, is provoked into her most radical 00s single. Also – to be fair – one of her most divisive: it got abuse both from Bond purists who detested its lurching, patchwork aggression, and from neutrals who thought it was a bit silly. I thought it was excellent in 2002, and it’s aged better than most of her risk-averse work since. Her stuff with Timbaland last year sounded dated the moment it came out of the box: “Die Another Day”, for all its awkwardness, still sounds fresh. At the time the main reference point seemed to be Akufen. Akufen! Which gives you an idea of how odd, even in the surprise-rich charts of the time, this record sounded.
Madonna refuses to act the roles Bond movies – and songs – tend to give their women: not for her the Greek chorus of “You Only Live Twice” or the enraptured lover of “Nobody Does It Better”, and she outgrew femme fatale long ago. She’s more like a villain here, subjecting Bond (via the much-loved tradition of his theme song) to all kinds of tortures. But at the same time she is herself a superagent: the song’s a catalogue of things she’s going to do, mostly metaphysical, delivered in a clipped, unnatural cadence that makes the lyrics sound like cut-ups. “I’m gonna kiss some part of”; “I’m gonna break the cycle”; “I’m gonna delay my pleasure” – and ending every verse, the amazing refrain, “I’m gonna close my body now”. In the Bondiverse, no greater threat or power exists: Sigmund Freud, analyse that.