5 Actors Who Are Pretty Good Musicians
It's all too easy to find actors who try their hand at making music and fall flat on their perfectly sculpted/surgeryed faces - hence why I wrote a list of five of the worst just the other day - but how about sifting through all those vanity projects and attempts at earnestness and those fibs about how "music means just as much to me as acting" to find some actual good music? Well, that's a little harder. Which is why I put it off.
Harder; but not impossible, as Bruce Willis found in the second act of the Die Hard cycle (but not on his album The Return of Bruno). So, here I have managed to dig up five actors who, maybe, might just consider leaving the back lots for the backstage, the camera for the recording studio. For your consideration...
1. Scarlett Johnasson
The formerly blond bombshell has a reasonable cache of indie cred built up, with roles in Lost in Translation, Ghost World and Home Alone 3 (people never mention that last one) which she used as foundation to build an equally hip recording career. Her first album, Anywhere I Lay My Head, is, improbably, a collection of Tom Waits covers. Produced by TV On The Radio's Dave Sitek, Johansson employs a surprising, Nico-like baritone over arrangements which have an eerie, off-colour Alice in Wonderland vibe, with glockenspiel, organ, slow, decisive drumbeats and plucked strings used to great effect. Break Up, an album recorded in 2006 with Pete Yorn but released later, is slighter, but still better than Dogstar.
2. Jason Schwartzman
Star of Rushmore and the overlooked, cancelled-before-its-time HBO series Bored to Death - plus a relative of both Francis Ford Coppola and Nicolas Cage - the lovable Schwartzman has been putting out music under the name Coconut Records since 2006. He plays every instruments on his albums of baroque pop which have their head in the clouds and their heart in the West Coast of the sixties. He also used to play drums for Phantom Planet, of 'California' infamy, but let's not hold that against him.
3. Ryan Gosling
The face that spawned a thousand memes, the abs that spawned a thousand swoons, the acting chops that received plaudits for roles in Drive, Blue Valentine and Half Nelson; is their anything the modern-day Paul Newman can't do? Apparently not: Dead Man's Bones, Gosling's musical side-project with friend and fellow actor Zach Shields, make spooky, moody indie rock. Like, actually spooky: the twelve tracks of the duo's self-titled debut album are "love stories about ghosts and monsters." Eep. It's a little Danny Elfman, a little Tom Waits.
4. Zooey Deschanel
Whilst probably (sadly) now best known for her post-post-9/11 sitcom New Girls, Zooey Deschanel was previously notable for her performances in films like Elf and (500) Days of Summer. In both she employed her superior singing skills to great effect, so it's no surprise she's made a record or three. Smartly, she teamed up with a "proper" musician - Conor Oberst-affiliated folkster M. Ward - for She & Him, who have so far produced three LPs (including a Christmas album!) of superior, warm-hearted indie-country-pop.
5. Steven Seagal
Wait, stay with me! Yes, he has a pony tail. Yes, a large quantity of his IMDb credits are direct-to-video features with "Kill" in the title. Yes, he wears some sort of nightie on stage. Yes, there was that news story recently about him driving into someone's house whilst driving a tank during his other sideline as a part-time cop and border patrolman...But despite all that. The star of Under Siege is actually a damn good blues guitarist, and his husky voice far more suits singing about heartbreak than muttering barely-discernible one-liners.
The posse cut: a rap song form sprung from the street corner/lunch table cyphers, which is becoming increasingly consigned to hip hop's golden past. Recent examples are few and far between (the best probably coming from the Odd Future camp in the form of OF Tape Vol. 2 closer 'Oldie'), but the showmanship and verse interplay of the style was once a de rigueur addition to any self-respecting rap album. [read more]
That Satan eh? He's inspired more rock songs than he's had hot dinners. Although, every meal he has is probably hot. Hmm. Anyway, old pointy head has been the subject of music since Robert Johnson hung around a crossroads with a crappy six string, and with such a large catalogue of Lucifer-inspired music on offer, you could probably do with a Dante to help you travail these flame-licked compositions. Right? [read more]
It makes a weird kind of sense that actors would give music a try. Surely, being successful in one sector of show business means diversifying should be a doddle! Enough of them certainly try, and I emphasise the word "try"; seems that it's a fair bit harder than it looks. Maybe more of them should try, I don't know, being trapeze artists. Then we wouldn't end up with Juliette and the Licks. [read more]