The Girl With the Midas Touch
New York magazine|March 16-29, 2020
How Billie Eilish, Finneas, and Hans Zimmer rethought the James Bond theme for a new generation.
By Amos Barshad. Photograph by Andres Kudacki

NO TIME TO DIE opens November 25.

BILLIE EILISH BUILT a blockbuster in a bedroom, so it makes sense she’d record a Bond song on a tour bus. “We recorded the vocals in a bunk in the dark on the bus in a basement in Texas,” she recalls of the creation of “No Time to Die,” her song for the James Bond film of the same name, set to be released later this year. “It was pitch black. No movement. I was just, literally, holding a mic.”

This is nothing new for Eilish, 18, and her older brother, Finneas, 22, who recorded her 2019 debut, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, in their parents’ Southern California home. The album netted billions of streams and almost as many Grammys and cemented Eilish as a generation-defining pop act. So when the duo tackled the particular cultural institution of the James Bond theme, they again sought intimate settings. The result is “No Time to Die,” a big, big ballad. For all her outward signifiers of Gen-Z genre clash, Eilish proves herself to be a throwback powerhouse vocalist on the track.

She’ll need that power, too. Not long after the song came out, concerns about the coronavirus prompted the producers of No Time to Die to delay the film’s release until November. (It was originally set to open worldwide in April.) That means that Eilish’s track will be out there, by itself, for months, a theme song to a movie nobody can see just yet.

As she explains the process behind the song, Eilish is sitting on a couch in a cloistered London hotel penthouse. (Before gaining access to the correct exclusive elevator, I was checked by three separate, stiffly smiling members of the staff.) She is flanked by the endearingly polite Finneas and the endearingly excitable Hans Zimmer, 62, the iconic soundtrack composer (Thelma & Louise, Inception, the Dark Knight trilogy) who wrote the film’s score and added string orchestration to “No Time to Die.” She is in Burberry to the headband.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM NEW YORK MAGAZINEView All

The National Interest: Jonathan Chait

100 Days That Reshaped America Learning from Joe Biden’s quiet, seismic young presidency.

10 mins read
New York magazine
April 26 - May 9, 2021

The End of Kimye's Wild Ride

She thought he was an artistic genius. He wanted to “dip her ass in gold.” And now it’s over.

10+ mins read
New York magazine
April 26 - May 9, 2021

The Yesteryear Issue – While You Were Truly Out

What I want out of office gossip is what Herman Melville delivers in “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” Ur-text of Manhattan office life. Imagine hearing it over happyhour beers some Thursday night.

3 mins read
New York magazine
April 26 - May 9, 2021

Dancing on Your Own (Together)

A temporary club for an in-between moment.

1 min read
New York magazine
April 26 - May 9, 2021

Mads Mikkelsen – ‘Oh, That's Right. I'm This Guy.'

Mads Mikkelsen is known for playing villains in America and more nuanced roles in Denmark. He takes everything and nothing seriously.

10+ mins read
New York magazine
April 26 - May 9, 2021

India Off the Beaten Path

For their latest venture, Dhamaka, the owners of Queens hit Adda delve deeply into the country’s most local pleasures.

4 mins read
New York magazine
April 26 - May 9, 2021

Their First Apartment Together Launched a Small Business

Just out of NYU, David Zhang and Sarah Kim turned their Bushwick rental into a home-furnishings lab.

2 mins read
New York magazine
April 26 - May 9, 2021

30 minutes with … Eric Adams

Eight weeks before the mayoral primary and second in the polls, Brooklyn’s borough president sharpens his case for more cops.

6 mins read
New York magazine
April 26 - May 9, 2021

The System: Zak Cheney-Rice

We’ll Be Here Again Chauvin’s verdict is self-preservation disguised as redemption.

6 mins read
New York magazine
April 26 - May 9, 2021

The Diplomat

Daniel Dae Kim built a career by picking his battles, walking away from a job only when the inequities got too big to ignore. He still believes Hollywood can be reformed.

10+ mins read
New York magazine
April 12-25, 2021