Hollywood Music Crossovers


Written by Tshepo Mokoena
Photos and illustrations by Stefen Jorgensen
02 Sunday 02nd October 2011

While on one of my standard voyages through the wondrous pits of the internet this last week (for work, I promise), I stumbled across a little piece of video magic. It sparked off thoughts on some of the best, worst and most interesting attempts at crossing over from a pretty stable and strong acting career to a shakier one in music. What are some of the reasons people you'd only recognise from the big screen would want to dabble in public performances of their self-penned songs? And what are the chances some of them would turn out to be of a high enough quality to get any respect from music critics? Well, you'll just have to read on to find out. And here's a warning: this article contains footage of a twelve year-old Ryan Gosling doing straight up body-rolls to an r'n'b ballad. Just figured you should all have a heads-up. Here are our top five picks for the most intriguing actor-musician crossovers.

Main image: indie actress Juliette Lewis in Juliette & the Kicks

To start things off with a bang, let's travel back in time to the nineties. So far American actors seem to be those pushing for this crossover fame the most, with just a handful of exceptions (Minnie Driver's albums, anyone?). It seems that once Hollywood's got a hold on an ego, little can be done to persuade the owner of said ego that maybe being good at one thing doesn't always translate into being awesome at everything. And here to prove that point first is Eddie Murphy. Granted, while most would argue he redeemed himself fairly well in Dream Girls, this 1993 performance of 'Whatzupwitu?' with Michael Jackson is both painful and hilarious to watch. If you'd ever fantisised about watching a bromance between the two men blossom while school boys and animated doves danced around them, you'll be saving this video to your favourites. Ironically, this single wasn't a part of his previous comedy record release, and stands out as one pretty confusing error in judgment.

Gosling, on the far right, with the rest of Dead Man's Bones (plus a choir of creepy kids)

Next up on the list we've got a lesser-known music project from a currently very well-known actor. Ryan Gosling's all over the BFI Film Festival later this month, appearing in three major releases this autumn (Drive, The Ides Of March and Crazy, Stupid, Love). What you may not have known, though, is that he fronts a bluesy-folk band and has been training as a singer since he was a wee adolescent. Gosling collaborates with fellow actor Zach Shields in Dead Man's Bones, which has been running as a side project for a few years. The two met in 2005, decided to make a spooky sort of musical theatre/Gene Kelly-eqsue show and ended up getting a bunch of kids involved too.

The scrappy musicianship on the record is apparently fully intended, with Gosling and Shields both taking up most instruments for the first time in the lead-up to laying down the tracks. And while the band may have a pretty good grasp on the rootsy, 'old age' sound they're looking to create with this lo-fi recording style, we can't help but remember Gosling's more polished days as a singer. He started off in the Mickey Mouse Club in the late eighties with Justin Timberlake and co, dropping gems like this one for screaming tween audiences. We can't help but think his training on that stage laid the groundwork for his musical urges now.

Russell Crowe and Alan Doyle - Too Far Gone by INgroovesmarketing

Number three on our list is one that we would only be so lucky not to have ever heard of. Russell Crowe trying his hand at mediocre dad rock makes me simultaneously want to cry and kill myself, and not because the music is so emotionally moving. Crowe has fronted various bands since the early nineties apparently, but this latest beast just won't die. 30 Odd Foot Of Grunts was dissolved in 2005, but later turned into The Ordinary Fear Of God (mostly so they could keep the same TOFOG acronym. What?). The sub-par pub rock sound remained generally unchanged, and Crowe is now releasing a collaborative record with Alan Doyle (Great Big Sea) later this year. We're as worried about it as you are, believe me.

The unsurprisingly OTT video for 'This Is War' by 30 Seconds To Mars

Just one away from the top spot is Jared Leto and 30 Seconds to Mars. We're not going to pretend this is a lesser-known project, but it is still offensively boring so deserves a mention. Disappointing fans of My So-Called Life since the first record came out in 2002, Jared and his brother Shannon actually founded the band in 1998. Although Jared apparently only plays gigs where none of the promotions mention him by name, the videos still tend to centre on overly grandiose ideas and chances for him to show off his acting chops. Almost every time. By virtue of the pretentious space-age and pseudo-spiritual themes to the band's music, they join our list at number two.

Naomi Campbell disturbingly making a cameo in Pesci's 'Wise Guy'

Finally, the actor who probably should've just stuck to the scripts is Joe Pesci. It's always gonna be a challenge branching out into a genre people wouldn't normally expect from you (just ask Jada Pinkett Smith, re her foray into the nu-metal world with her band) but Pesci and rap shouldn't be allowed to mix. His dead-pan delivery of "it's the bitches that'll getcha's" is certainly commendable but generally his, er, flow just isn't happening. Most of us will have loved him playing the maniacal Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas, or bumbling Harry in Home Alone but I'm afraid this is just unforgivable. You can listen to his entire rap record on Spotify here to see why he tops the list. Brace yourself.

Don't Panic attempt to credit photographers and content owners wherever possible, however due to the sheer size and nature of the internet this is sometimes impractical or impossible. If you see any images on our site which you believe belong to yourself or another and we have incorrectly used it please let us know at panic@dontpaniconline.com and we will respond asap.