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

Wang Off Duty

The designer Alexander Wang was famous for his partying. Now, he could become infamous.

10+ mins read
New York magazine
March 1-14, 2021

The Hierarchy of Tragedy

In this British series about the AIDS crisis, doom confers importance.

6 mins read
New York magazine
March 1-14, 2021

The Power Grid: David Freedlander

Cuomo, Wounded Amid the governor’s scandals, his enemies are ready to unleash a decade of resentment.

6 mins read
New York magazine
March 1-14, 2021

The newest fashion trend in New York is— unironically, hyper-speciically—New York itself.

A FEW MONTHS ago, I met up with a friend who works in fashion for a socially distanced walk through Prospect Park. I noticed she was wearing a Yankees cap. Three years ago, she would have been dripping in Dries. “These days, it’s all I want to wear,” she said. I’m pretty sure she can’t name anybody on the team.

10+ mins read
New York magazine
March 1-14, 2021

The Fresh-Faced Veteran

Youn Yuh-jung’s heart-shattering performance in Minari is likely to get an Oscar nod. She’s been doing this too long to care.

10+ mins read
New York magazine
March 1-14, 2021

The Knickerbocker Bar & Grill

The neighborhood fixture has been dark for a year, but there’s hope yet for fans of T-bone steaks and supercolossal booths.

9 mins read
New York magazine
March 1-14, 2021

The Group Portrait: Working Wave After Wave at Elmhurst

Approaching 365 days in a hard-pressed hospital.

3 mins read
New York magazine
March 1-14, 2021

Speak, Memory

A disorienting close-up on a mind that’s beginning to fray.

4 mins read
New York magazine
March 1-14, 2021

Artist Emily Mason's 4,700-Square-Foot Studio Is Just As She Left It

She painted there for 40 years.

2 mins read
New York magazine
March 1-14, 2021

Fresh Pasta, Frozen Feet

Braving the elements for a taste of Rome off the Bowery.

2 mins read
New York magazine
March 1-14, 2021