Unlikely duets - when two become one

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

It's not just Alicia Keys and Jack White. Everywhere you look there are unlikely duets. By John Elmes

Since news broke that Jack White and Alicia Keys are to collaborate on the new Bond film theme, "Another Way To Die", bloggers and critics have been in a frenzy. Surely White, who penned the track, would be the proverbial chalk to the cheese of Keys's sultry, soulful R&B?

The film's producer, Barbara Broccoli, described the sound they'd created for Quantum of Solace as "unique". Well, maybe, but there is reason to fear, given recent Bond turkeys (Madonna's "Die Another Day", say), that this will be an unhappy marriage. It is the first Bond film duet. Keys gushed: "This was such an incredible process for me! Rockin' with Jack White is something that has been an unforgettable experience. Mixing rock and soul for the new Bond movie theme gives it a mysterious, unexpected, strong and sexy vibe that I love. I'm glad to be a part of such a legacy."

Is this why singers like to hook up with musicians from other genres? Often, duets are a gimmick for certain times of year, such as Crosby and Bowie's "Little Drummer Boy", but maybe there is a deeper point where sounds can meld into something truly original. This does seem to be a factor in how music is looking for ways to innovate and keep the record-buying public interested.

Generally, the music business churns out fairly obvious partnerships: Arctic Monkey Alex Turner joins Miles Kane of The Rascals to form The Last Shadow Puppets; R&B stars flirt with R&B stars; and a hip-hop album wouldn't be complete without half a dozen duets and featured guest artists.

However, it can be interesting when the industry throws us a curveball. Take the widely praised collaboration of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, whose covers album Raising Sand is up for the Mercury Prize. On paper, the mixture of master of heavy rock and gentle bluegrass singer raises eyebrows, but their voices blend to create an almost soporific harmony. Folk is starting to cause a bit of a stir in the music world, and to have such a luminary of the genre joining forces with a rock legend and creating something as special as Raising Sand can only raise its profile even further.

Of course, the sheer bloody-mindedness of some music commentators would be enough to deter the most respected of musicians from dabbling in duets. It looks like career suicide for an airy songstress from a classical and indie-pop background to craft an album with a grunge and hard-rock doom-mongerer – but Isobel Campbell disagreed, and the backing vocalist of Belle and Sebastian produced and wrote most of Ballad of the Broken Seas, teaming up with Mark Lanegan of the Screaming Trees and Queens of the Stone Age.

The profound differences in their voices – honey-dipped tranquillity and angst-laden despair – don't jar, but seem to transcend musical confines and become conversational, two people caught in dialogue about love, betrayal, loss, melancholy and attraction. This collaboration, which earned a Mercury nomination in 2006, suggests that this is a lucrative outlet for musical creativity. It augurs well for Keys and White, stars in their own right with 11 Grammys between them.

Musical joint ventures needn't solely be about making hits. On the Park Stage at Glastonbury 2007, Damon Albarn, after his trip to Mali in 2006, oversaw an expansive cross-cultural spectacle, merging well-known Western artists with the some of the best musicians Africa has to offer. These were not duets in the traditional sense, but the intention was to draw together African and Western contemporary music of many genres in order to provide a showcase for the unity music can generate.

These types of musical events, heralded by the Live8 concerts in 2005, have shown that duets can allow music fans to enjoy different acts at one time, at the same time as broadening individual tastes. The artists, too, have the chance to participate in something exciting and creative.

Having performed with Keith Urban at Live8, Keys is certainly not new to all this, so the Bond theme she and White come up with may usher in a new wave of musical collaborations.

DOUBLE ACT: SOME DUOS YOU MIGHT HAVE THOUGHT OF – AND SOME YOU DEFINITELY HAVEN'T...

Lily Allen and Kaiser Chiefs

After providing vocals for Mark Ronson's arrangement of the Kaiser Chiefs' "Oh My God", loud-mouthed Londoner Allen is teaming up with the Leeds band for "Always Happens Like That" on their third album, Off With Their Heads. The album includes a swath of guest artists such as New Young Pony Club, grime star MC Sway and the film composer David Arnold.

Val Kilmer and 50 Cent

Rumours are afoot that the corpulent former Batman and G-Unit gangsta rapper will be joining forces on one of Kilmer's own songs. They became firm friends on the set of Streets of Blood, in which both starred, and Kilmer has intimated in interviews that Fiddy liked one of his songs and offered to help him finish it. Could this be the start of a beautiful friendship?

Norah Jones and Q-Tip

It's been nine years since the rapper from A Tribe Called Quest released an album, but Q-Tip's latest venture is a collaboration with jazz warbler Norah Jones. "Life is Better", which is released in October, is old-school hip-hop meets middle-class Sunday afternoon easy-listening. It's not the most obvious of hook-ups, but it works.

The Streets and Muse

In April, Muse frontman Matt Bellamy said he wanted to collaborate with The Streets' Mike Skinner to create England's answer to Rage Against the Machine. Now "Who Knows Who" has been leaked on the internet. The rap vocals are unquestionably those of Skinner, and the piercing opening guitar very Bellamy. They seem to have achieved their goal: it's very reminiscent of Rage's Tom Morello.

Shlomo and Martha Wainwright

Festivals are the perfect opportunity for surprise collaborations, and at recent events Martha Wainwright has played duets with both Guillemots frontman Fyfe Dangerfield and beatboxer Shlomo. Her collaboration with Shlomo in "This Life" had already been a hit at her show at the Royal Festival Hall in May.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral