The Meaning Behind Billie Eilish’s Oscar-Winning “No Time to Die” and How She and Finneas Used to Write James Bond Theme Songs for Fun

In 2020, Billie Eilish, then a teenager, was asked to write a theme song for a James Bond movie.

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Meanwhile, she’d already changed pop music a year earlier with her minimalist, dark electro hit “Bad Guy.”  With “No Time to Die,” Eilish expanded her customary restrained sound with cinematic orchestrations by legendary film scorer Hans Zimmer.

It wouldn’t be the last time Eilish would write an Oscar-winning song.

Espionage and Betrayal

Eilish and her brother Finneas wrote “No Time to Die” for the 2021 James Bond film of the same name. The song is about betrayal, and Eilish sings vaguely about themes of love and loss.

We were a pair
But I saw you there
Too much to bear
You were my life
But life is far away from fair

“No Time to Die” echoes the dark drama of most Bond themes. But Eilish delivers depressive isolation in the way she made famous on her debut When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

I let it burn
You’re no longer my concern
Faces from my past return
Another lesson yet to learn

Her voice quivers as she bends words with the kind of remote enunciation that made “Ocean Eyes” a viral hit in 2015. While her eyes swelled then with tears, here, she declares, “Now you’ll never see me cry.”


The song begins with Finneas’ lonesome piano before Eilish enters with a jazzy murmur, singing bleakly while Hans Zimmer’s orchestration gushes over her despair. Zimmer’s arrangement is dense, and Eilish goes against her usual instincts and reaches a soaring volume beyond her conversant whisper. Former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr ends the song with the iconic Bond guitar twang.

That I’d fallen for a lie
You were never on my side
Fool me once, fool me twice
Are you death or paradise?
Now you’ll never see me cry
There’s just no time to die

Eilish told Apple Music’s Zane Lowe she and Finneas used to write Bond theme songs for fun, never imagining the opportunity would come.

She said, “You know what’s funny about it? Like, two years ago, we were like, ‘Wouldn’t it be crazy to make a song for the Bond movies, and, like, wouldn’t that be dope?’”

Once the offer arrived, they wrote the song quickly. “We got a piece of the script, like the first scene, and then wrote the song immediately. And we wrote it in three days, and we wrote it in Texas, and we recorded it in a bunk on the bus, in the basement in the dark,” Eilish said.

Eilish, then 18, became the youngest person to write and record a James Bond theme song.  

A Fish Out of Water Among Movie Stars

She explained to Lowe how she felt “a bit like a fish out of water” at the Academy Awards ceremony. She said, “At least the Grammys wasn’t as scary because it was, like, artists. And it felt like my people.”

“No Time to Die” won an Oscar for Best Original Song. However, Eilish thought her performance “bombed.” She told Lowe, “That was trash.”

Still, “No Time to Die” surpassed Adele’s “Skyfall” for the most opening-week sales for a Bond theme. The single also reached No. 1 in the UK.

In 2024, Eilish and Finneas won a second Oscar for “What Was I Made For?” from the Barbie soundtrack.

The Noir Video and a Debut Performance at the Brit Awards

Daniel Kleinman directed the music video for “No Time to Die.” The treatment features Eilish, filmed in black and white, performing like a lounge singer, punctuated by action scenes from the film.  

Kleinman has designed every James Bond title sequence since GoldenEye (1995), except Quantum of Solace. He’s also directed music videos for Madonna, Fleetwood Mac, and Sheryl Crow.

Eilish and Finneas performed the song in London at the 2020 Brit Awards, accompanied by Hans Zimmer, Johnny Marr, and a full orchestra.

A Cinematic Diary

When Eilish sings about betrayal in “No Time to Die,” it isn’t clear if she’s channeling her own experiences of misery or the film’s plot. What makes her writing so affecting is how profoundly personal yet universal it is.

Zimmer transforms Eilish’s bedroom confessions into cinematic catharsis not only due to his talents but also because her songwriting lends itself so easily to film. There’s no friction between the two because what she and Finneas do instinctually is already thick with plot, emotion, and drama.  

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Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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