It’s been six years since audiences experienced the rating-breaking three-part mini-series, The New Edition Story. I still remember my excitement walking into an advance screening of Part 1 on a cold January night. One of my favorite scenes occurs in this part when a young Ricky Bell and Michael Bivins are supporting a pre-teen Bobby Brown in a talent show. The local Boston-based group, The Untouchables, is performing a cover of Philly soul group Blue Magic’s “Spell” before Bobby takes the stage. After hearing another cover version of the song in Michael Bivin’s documentary, The Hustle of 617 Biv, I decided to feature it for Slow Jam Saturday.
Slow Jam Saturday: Gladys Knight, License To Kill
One thing fans of cinematic icon James Bond can count on is the theme song. Usually, the song carries the exact title of the film. I wanted to highlight the title song from the sixteenth Bond film, License To Kill, for this week’s Slow Jam Saturday.
Gladys Knight, the legendary singer, flawlessly performed the song composed by Narada Michael Walden, Jeffrey Cohen, and Walter Afanasieff. The song was skillfully produced by Walden, with additional production by Afanasieff. It is a powerful and passionate song that explores the theme of unconditional love and determination to protect a relationship at all costs. Through its lyrics, the song portrays Knight as a woman willing to do whatever it takes, even resorting to extreme measures, if necessary, to preserve their love.
Walden production begins the song with an ethereal and haunting intro, setting a melancholy tone that resonates throughout the track. Mrs. Knight’s plea for love is evident as she passionately expresses her need to hold on to her partner’s affection, emphasizing the intensity of her emotions.
The song’s opening verse reveals that Mrs. Knight’s romantic partner had attempted to leave, hinting at a tumultuous history or external complications that impacted their relationship. Nonetheless, she takes credit for persuading him to remain, implying that she played a pivotal role in preserving their love. The tone is intense as she cautions against underestimating her determination by emphatically declaring, “Don’t ever think you can elude me once I set my sights on you.”
The song’s chorus represents the narrator’s determination and caution in preserving their love, conveying the song’s main idea. Gladys declares that she will do anything to defend their relationship, even if it involves striking at her partner’s heart. The phrase “got a license to kill” is repeated to emphasize her resolve and preparedness to overcome any obstacles that may arise. The song’s message is one of unyielding loyalty and dedication.
“License To Kill” was a hit in the UK but didn’t do well in Canada or the US. It was Knight’s last solo single to chart in the UK, reaching the top spot in Sweden for eight weeks. It also made the top five in seven other European countries. Stateside, the film’s closing ballad, “If You Asked Me To” by Patti Labelle, was more successful.
Like the same-titled film, “Licence to Kill” is a vastly underappreciated song. I’ve always felt It is one of the best Bond themes and one of Gladys’ best songs from her eighties catalog.
Final Grade: B+
“License To Kill” is available on all streaming platforms.
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