Rather like a 007 plot itself, the question of who would perform the theme tune to the next James Bond film generated a succession of false leads, fractured relationships and smouldering divas before yesterday, it finally entered a dramatic ending featuring a statuesque brunette and an eccentric genius obsessed with the number three.
In keeping with the new edgier, darker side to the British actor Daniel Craig's Bond, it was announced that the opening song to the 22nd film in the series, Quantum of Solace, will be performed by the Grammy-winning soul singer Alicia Keys and Jack White, sometime upholsterer and the idiosyncratic front man of the alternative rock band, The White Stripes.
The collaboration between the two Americans – entitled "Another Way to Die" – will be thefirst duet in the chequered history of Bond soundtracks, which has spawned its fair share of film score classics and musical turkeys from Dame Shirley Bassey's "Goldfinger" to Madonna's "Die Another Day".
The announcement by the Bond film producers Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli of the duet – described as a "unique sound" – ended months of speculation about the identity of the performers for the Quantum of Solace theme tune. Among the names linked to the job were Amy Winehouse, Beyoncé, Grace Jones and two emerging British talents, Duffy and Leona Lewis.
Winehouse was an early favourite to write and perform the theme tune and began work on a song earlier this year with the producer Mark Ronson. But amid reports that the pair fell out over the singer's erratic behaviour, the track never made it to the recording studio. Ronson said: "We did work on it but we never finished it. I don't think it will happen unless by some miracle it gets recorded and someone sings on it. I'm not sure Amy is ready to work on music yet."
Despite representing the very different genres of R'n'B and garage rock, the collaboration between Keys, 27, and White, 33, was more fruitful. The song, written and produced by White, was recorded this month with Keys on vocals and White on drums.
In a statement, Mr Wilson and Ms Broccoli, daughter of the Bond film producer Albert Broccoli, said: "We are delighted and pleased to have two such exciting artists as Jack and Alicia, who were inspired by our film to join together their extraordinary talents in creating a unique sound for Quantum of Solace."
Named by Rolling Stone magazine as 17th on a list of the 100 best guitarists in pop history, White has emerged from an early career as an upholsterer and a part-time musician on his native Detroit's underground music scene to become revered for the mixture of punk, rock and folk influences in the music of The White Stripes, which he formed with his first wife, Meg. He is famously obsessed with the number three and dresses only in red, white and black when performing with The White Stripes.
Keys, the New York-born daughter of a legal secretary and a flight attendant, has made her mark as one of the most marketable stars of American pop, selling more than 30 million albums worldwide and collecting 11 Grammy awards. She told Rolling Stone: "They're [The White Stripes] very raw, very cut and dry. Drums and guitar. I think that combining that style with mine, which already has a raw feel to it, and my voice, I just think we could do something really interesting that mixes rock and soul together, the blues and emotion, and it could be really touching."
The Quantum of Solace soundtrack will be released on 28 October, before the film's premiere in London on Halloween.