Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank/AP
Minnie Driver performs on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, March, 2008.

Playlist: 5 Actors with Albums

September 16, 2008
by Shannon Firth
Some actors (e.g., David Hasselhoff, William Shatner) should restrict their singing to the shower. Other actor/singers and singer/actors like Mandy Patinkin, Harry Connick Jr. and Jennifer Hudson have successfully balanced careers in both fields. The following five actors have bravely entered the recording studio to try their luck.

Scarlett Johansson

You might have forgotten about Scarlett Johansson’s rendition of “Brass in Pocket,” sung at a Japanese karaoke bar during the film “Lost in Translation.” Her more recent musical stylings have grabbed attention and mixed reviews.

Johansson’s album, “Anywhere I Lay My Head,” was released in May. Consisting mainly of covers of songs by Tom Waits, it includes one original, “Song for Jo.” David Bowie, who helped with its production and even provided vocals in two songs, called her performance “mystical and twice cool.” Pitchfork’s somewhat less generous assessment concluded, “The only thing we've learned about her is that she really, really likes Tom Waits. That's more than enough to avoid catastrophe, but not quite enough to make Anywhere I Lay My Head much more than a curio.”

Judge for yourself: listen to “Anywhere I Lay My Head” on Rhapsody.

Zooey Deschanel

Zooey Deschanel has appeared in numerous indie and popular films, including “Almost Famous,” “Failure to Launch,” and “Elf,” in which she sings a duet with Will Ferrell. In 2001, she formed a cabaret act with Samantha Shelton called If All the Stars were Pretty Babies, and she shared the 2008 album “She & Him: Volume One” with singer M. Ward. Deschanel wrote most of the lyrics. The Onion’s A.V. Club offers a track from the album and suggests that even if Deschanel isn’t the strongest singer, at least she knows how to pick a partner, praising the “cozy vibe Ward and Deschanel build together without becoming cloying.”

Minnie Driver

British actress Minnie Driver has most recently appeared with an American accent in the FX series “The Riches.” The Sydney Morning Herald’s review of her second album, “Seastories,” was reasonably complimentary, at least in its comparison of Driver with Scarlett Johannson: “The fragrant Johansson has captured the headlines and covers though she can neither sing nor write. Driver, who can do both, will likely settle in the middle ground of recognition.” However, The Herald added, “What [Driver] lacks is variety and a couple of genuine beauties in her songbook.

Listen to “Seastories” on

Jared Leto

Fans of the MTV teen drama “My So-Called Life” will remember Jared Leto as the angsty pretty boy who dealt Claire Danes’s Angela a harsh blow when he revealed his song “Red” wasn’t about her, but about his car. Fans eventually forgave him and swooned through his gravelly rendition of “I Wanna Be Sedated.”

In 2002, Leto’s band “30 Seconds to Mars” released a self-titled album; three years later, their album “A Beautiful Lie” had a slow start, but has sold approximately 600,000 copies to date. The band is currently experiencing some legal trouble, but does plan to release more albums.

Watch videos from the album “A Beautiful Lie” on VH1.

Thomas Ian Nicholas

Probably still best known for his role in the “American Pie” movies, Thomas Ian Nicholas “couldn’t be more earnest on his debut album, ‘Without Warning,’” says the New York Observer. Self-released in 2007, it doesn’t seem to have attracted too much critical attention. Make your own judgment and sample some tracks on Nicholas’s MySpace page.

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