Archive for the When Actors Try to Sing Category

Minnie Driver “Everything I’ve Got in my Pocket”/ Emmy Rossum “Inside Out”

Posted in Minnie Driver/Emmy Rossum on May 31, 2011 by moviemoses

I’m reviewing these two albums through a very tenuous connection they both starred in Phantom of the Opera together.  That and because I don’t have a ton to write on each individual album so I’m being a little lazy and combining them. If you had me place a bet on which of the two would have a better album I would have put it all on Emmy Rossum. If there was one thing that everyone was saying about the Phantom movie it was that Emmy had amazing singing talent. Her range was incredible and she was trained in opera singing. Minnie Driver on the other hand had someone else sing for her in the movie. Now I can’t really blame Minnie for not having the same range as needed for the movie, but that being said, there was nothing about her voice that really stood out. Little did I know that “Everything I’ve Got in my Pocket” would actually turn out to be a good album, while “Inside Out” is the worst album in my “When Actors Try to Sing” category and will remain the worst (I foresee) for a long long time.

Why is “Inside Out” complete and utter ass? Well you expect the CD to showcase what made Emmy so special in Phantom of the Opera. I expected big numbers which has her bringing the house down with her high notes. What we get is what you would get from an Enya CD if Enya drank a gallon of NyQuil prior to recording. It’s all this atmospheric musak with Emmy mumbling incoherent crap in this low tone. Her voice is the equivalent of John Tesh falling asleep on his keyboard. The reason I can’t really talk about the tracks and whatnot is because I honestly can’t remember a single song. There is not a single track or beat or anything that I can remember in this cure for insomnia. It is almost criminal how wasted the talent for this CD was. Emmy should be more ashamed of this album, than even her starring in Dragonball Evolution.

“Everything I’ve Got in my Pocket” by contrast, was a breath of fresh air. These are mostly light pop or ballads by Driver. The music is composed well with some good hooks and utilizes Minnie to the best of her abilities. Again, in contrast to Rossum’s album, this has several memorable tracks from the title track, to Invisible Girl, Deeper Water, to Down which I’ve even heard on radio a few times. My major problem is I still don’t see anything all that memorable about Minnie’s voice. It seems like any good singer could pick this up and do well by it. But kudos to Driver to getting material suited for her talents and not trying to do too much and get exposed as a weak singer.

So do I recommend any of these albums? Well “Inside Out” should be buried in the desert next to ET Atari cartridges. “Everything I’ve Got in my Pocket” is a more reserved recommendation. This CD is very “easy listening” which probably isn’t everyone’s cup o’ tea. I probably would not buy it either except for the case I was forced into listening it. But if it is your kind of music and if some sample tracks interest you then I guarantee you the rest of the album is just as good. Mild recommendation.

Everything I’ve got in my Pocket

Emmy Rossum- Stay

Don Johnson “Heartbeat”

Posted in Don Johnson on May 5, 2011 by moviemoses

Whenever there is some retrospective on the 80’s, this is always played off as a joke. You get Hollywood D-listers mocking how bad the music is and how bad Don Johnson is at singing. They don’t know what they are talking about, because in the world of actors turned singers this is nowhere near the worst of the list.

I like to think of listening to Don Johnson the same as listening to say Kenny Loggins. We can all mock him for Playin’ with the Boys and laugh at the cheesy music but at the end of the day we love him for his music on Top Gun Footloose, and Caddyshack. As I was listening to the first half of the album, I kept thinking I was expecting this music to accompany some montage from some cheesy 80’s movie. You can’t help but chuckle at the repetitive nature of Don’s songs. After all, we are “looking for a heartbeat”, but we also learn “the last sound love makes is a heartbreak” and also “when looking for love, it is a heartache away”. It is like filling out a MadLibs but replacing all nouns with either “love”, “heartache” or “heartbreak”.

Again, for all the complaining people have about Johnson’s singing, he’s not that bad. True at times he tries for high notes that don’t work but most of the time he does alright. He has a folksy kind of voice which works for the right songs. Like I mentioned with Scarlett, it is not so much the voice but how you use it.

Now I said before, I was loving the first half of the album. It is fast paced cheesy 80’s goodness but we get around to the second half and things start to wear down. There are a few ballads which are just not interesting at all and are easily skippable. The last few tracks he tries to pep things back up again but they don’t have the same spark as the earlier tracks.

Overall I did like this album. This certainly isn’t for everyone. I enjoyed it in a nostalgic cornball 80’s flashback kind of sense so whether that applies to you I don’t know. Would I listen to more Don Johnson based on this? Ehhhhh the jury is still out on that. I actually think he would have a pleasant country voice but he clearly has no songwriting ability. But Heartbeat is a fun album for me overall.


Scarlett Johansson “Anywhere I Lay My Head”

Posted in Scarlett Johansson on January 13, 2011 by moviemoses

This album caught my attention more than other entries and for one reason. Tom Waits. I am a huge fan of Tom Waits and to hear an actress try to do good covers of his songs was intriguing. After all, while Tom Waits is (I consider) a hall of fame musician, he isn’t exactly a household name. If someone was out for a quick money grab, I could think of other musicians with more recognition to model my album after. Also, to anyone that has heard Waits knows he has a, shall we say, distinctive voice. To those that don’t it was once described “like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months, and then taken outside and run over with a car.” So maybe this album will be something special I should pay attention to.

The first thing you notice is this doesn’t sound like a Tom Waits album at all. These aren’t the grunty rambling ballads you are used to and this seems to be a main point of criticisms among customers on Amazon. I don’t necessarily have a problem with that. Scarlet could very well take the lyrics of Waits and translate them to another genre of music. That doesn’t make it bad; just different. So how do I describe the music here? To me it sounds like the music you would expect to hear in the background of the movie Lost in Translation. It is kind of indie pop music. I heard some compare it to Nico, but I prefer to compare Johansson to late Debbie Harry from Blondie. She has that same low sultry voice and all during it I expected her to sing “The Tide is High”.

Sadly, Johansson shows none of the same charisma in Harry as she sings. She always sings in a low register and never strains herself vocally. Scarlett is not that emotive and sounds like she drank NyQuil prior to stepping up to the mike. Now, that may be a bit harsh but I think of this as a missed opportunity for Scarlett to show her talents. She isn’t bad, and I give her credit I guess for knowing her limitations as a singer. But at the same time, no matter how good the rest of the album is, I won’t be stepping away thinking she is a great singer and that I need to rush to get her next album.

The album actually started out pretty good. The songs ‘Falling Down’ and ‘Anywhere I Lay My Head’ are early in the album and are the most memorable. This is where everything comes together with great composition and moody melodies. But then, the flaws start coming out in full force. The best way to describe this album is “drowsy”. Everything on this is so slooooooooooow and sleeeeeeeepy and low key. I swear I had this in my car radio while driving (and I started fully awake) but felt I was going to pass out behind the wheel. By the time you hit Track 8 all the songs start to drone together as one never ending mumble fest. It’s like wandering into open mike night at a bar and you can’t drag this one bitch off stage who wants to sing The Rose for the eighteenth-billionth time. Tracks 5-8 are one big blur and I had to slam my head against the steering wheel to stay awake. Track 9 is when she decides “Hey, maybe I should do something upbeat for a change.” Too bad it’s not any good. This is where the lack of charisma thing kind of kicks in. You see, the music may be upbeat and all that but Scarlett remains in her drug induced coma lower register and it is devoid of all life and joy. I would like to tell you about the final two tracks, but I can’t remember. And this isn’t like I am writing from memory two months later and just forgot. No, I just heard this album prior to writing this review.

In short, I would say this is an interesting failure. I give Scarlett high marks for effort. I mean, she tries to make her own mark covering a lesser known musical legend. She also knows her singing talents are more suited to a supporting role. She is an instrument in a band instead of a one woman show. But that being said, “Anywhere I Lay My Head” just doesn’t work. It is so caught up in being moody and low key it falls asleep in mid album. I plan on taking a few tracks from this album, plugging them into my iPod, and tossing the rest into my CD rack to collect dust. It is not enough to recommend that any of you buy this album though.

Fallin’ Down