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What Is Spy Music?

H. Bliss
Updated May 23, 2024
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Spy music is generally music in the style of classic spy movies like the James Bond franchise. These are generally orchestral or lounge jazz pieces with an exotic feel designed to excite and stimulate the listener. Spy music pieces used in spy films are often designed to coordinate with the action on the screen, with sound effects and orchestra hits to highlight major plot changes and action scenes. It is characterized by an open smooth beat with a suave bass line complemented by short, staccato hits from wind instruments. Spy music can also include songs that are about spies.

The style of most spy music is often similar to lounge jazz with a touch of surf rock. Instruments used in this type of music can vary, but generally include orchestral percussion with a guitar, some wind instruments like flutes or brass instruments, and some strings. This genre often has female city blues or lounge singers on its tracks. One of the most well-known singers in spy music is Shirley Bassey, who is most famous for her work in the theme songs to the James Bond classic film "Goldfinger." In contrast with the orchestral spy music of years past, newer music is often largely electronic with a fast beat, resembling the music found in most action flicks.

Since spies have long popular subjects of music and movies, some popular music artists have written songs about spies. Some of these songs are written for spy movies, and some were written for the sake of writing about spies. One famous song about spies is “Secret Agent Man,” a song that was written by Steve Barri and P. F. Sloan. This song was most famously performed by Johnny Rivers for the British series “Danger Man." This song has been recorded by many other artists, including crooner Mel Tormé and the 1980s art music act Devo.

The smooth, driving beat of spy music is different from the darker, more dissonant sound found in detective music. Detective music is a related genre that generally appears on movies and television shows about police and private detectives. This type of music usually only involves one or two instruments, rather than the orchestral groups used to make spy music, and the instruments often play a simple but memorable thematic theme. A popular example of detective music is the theme to “Alfred Hitchcock Presents," a mystery show that ran on television in the 1950s and 1960s.

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H. Bliss
By H. Bliss , Former Writer
Heather Bliss, a passionate writer with a background in communication, brings her love for connecting with others to her work. With a relevant degree, she crafts compelling content that informs and inspires, showcasing her unique perspective and her commitment to making a difference.

Discussion Comments

By anon299466 — On Oct 25, 2012

Does anyone know of a good Pandora station that would contain "spy music"?

By wavy58 — On Aug 14, 2011

I did not know that spy music had its own category. Now that I think about it, the feel of songs from this type of movie really does fit a certain description.

I would call spy music dramatic, catchy, and adrenaline-inducing. If I hear a spy song, it is likely that I will have it in my head for the rest of the day. It is also probable that I will have plenty of energy that day, because my mood is greatly affected by music.

Spy music makes me want to sneak around corners and surprise people. It also makes me want to dance. It puts me in a generally good mood.

By miriam98 — On Aug 14, 2011

@MrMoody - That’s cool. I subscribe to an online music store and I see soundtracks from various films. I’ve never bought them myself, but there is a complete compilation that is nothing but spy music from various movies.

You can sample the music in preview mode, which gives you about fifteen seconds where you can listen to the spy music free.

I’m not a huge fan of spy music; I prefer the more mysterious Hitchcock style music that the article talks about, but I can see why people like spy music.

By MrMoody — On Aug 13, 2011

I don’t know if you would consider The Bourne Identity a spy franchise. I think I would put it in that category. It’s got some of the best spy music around in my opinion. Yeah, it’s more the electronic, synthesizer variety but it sure is cool.

Some time ago I bought the Bourne Identity trilogy on DVD, and got a special soundtrack DVD as a bonus as well. It has 19 different scores from the film and all of them are awesome in my opinion.

I think that film composers who can produce this kind of music on demand for a particular movie are as good as gold.

By allenJo — On Aug 13, 2011

I love the rhythmic, drubbing bass sound of the classic James Bond films. When I played guitar in my younger days I often tried to duplicate that signature secret agent music.

It’s actually not that hard, at least on the bass strings of the guitar. I prefer those simpler tunes to the more electronic beats and themes of modern spy movies.

To me, simpler is better, and the melody seems to stick in your mind a lot longer and become indelibly associated with the movie.

H. Bliss

H. Bliss

Former Writer

Heather Bliss, a passionate writer with a background in communication, brings her love for connecting with others to her...
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