In the van between early White Stripes gigs, Jack White liked to play composer John Barry's James Bond soundtracks — the theme from On Her Majesty's Secret Service, with its dramatic horns and strings, was a particular favorite. So White, a lifelong Bond fan, didn't hesitate when producers of the latest 007 film, Quantum of Solace (out November 14th), approached him to write and produce a theme song for Alicia Keys to sing. "You're definitely taking on a responsibility — there's a tradition of powerful music in all these films," says White, who duets with Keys on his song, "Another Way to Die." "But that's why I'm involved creatively with music — for challenges like this. That's what I live for."
It helped that Keys and White already admired each other's work. "I like that she sneaks odd-sounding things into pop music that shouldn't be there," says White. Adds Keys, "I love Jack and the White Stripes, the rawness of their style. 'Seven Nation Army' obviously is crazy. And 'Icky Thump' — the intro to that is off the chain."
With input from phone discussions with Keys, White wrote the song after reading the film's script, picking up on its themes of mistrust and paranoia: "Someone that you think you can trust is just another way to die," the chorus goes. He came up with a dramatic, lushly arranged tune that's very much in the tradition of past theme songs such as Paul McCartney's "Live and Let Die." "I didn't want to imitate anything or be retro," White says. "It just had to feel like Bond." He recorded the basic track with Raconteurs bassist Jack Lawrence before bringing Keys into a Nashville studio to record vocals. Keys plays some piano on the track, and White shows off his own surprisingly accomplished drum skills. White mixed the track while watching animated title sequences from past Bond films.
White and Keys have shot a video for the song and plan to perform it live several times, likely beginning at a special premiere in England, with the royal family in attendance. And the two hope to work together again in the future. "I would love to rock with him on my next album," says Keys.
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