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My ten cents

Dueling Thespianettes
July 12, 2008 02:18AM
The last few months have seen two reasonably talented & charismatic young actresses dip their toes in the recording pool to varied reactions.

Zooey Deschanel's She and Him project strikes me as an okay album that is being wildly overpraised (I believe an editorial in Paste referred to it as "stunning"). Deschanel has written a handful of reasonably pleasant songs and has a kind of geekily charming voice that is nonetheless more awkward than expressive. I like the album but find the amount of positive critical response it's received to be a bit baffling. It's nice, but not one song on it is anywhere near as charming as her rendition of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" in Elf.

On the other hand, the reaction to Scarlett Johansson's album of Tom Waits covers seems overly harsh. It's not a great album by any stretch, but it's not the train wreck most of its coverage would lead one to expect. It's got a nice moody, dreamlike atmosphere, and while Johansson's vocals are as inexpressive as Deschanel's, it seems like that was Johansson's intent as opposed to an accident - she's clearly aiming for a Nico-like air of detachment. Again, not a great album, but a more worthwhile effort than it's being given credit for, and I suspect if it had been the product of a new artist with a much lower profile the notices would've been kinder.

I have to wonder if there's a bit of David Lee Roth's Elvis Costello principle happening here - if geeky music writers aren't being kinder to Deschanel because they can still imagine some chance of actually dating her, while Johansson crossed to the wrong side of accessibility when she left indie films behind and became a major Hollywood star. Would reaction to her album have been better if it had been released around the same time as Ghost World?

(For the record, I have a much bigger crush on Deschanel than Johansson, so that's not coloring my take on the matter. Scarlett is very beautiful, but Zooey is adorable, and there's a big difference.)

Post Edited (07-11-08 23:32)
Re: Dueling Thespianettes
July 12, 2008 03:08AM
I know,
chicks man. (joel McHale 'talk soup).
Re: Dueling Thespianettes
July 12, 2008 03:57PM
I agree on the quality of both CD's, but I don't think it's as much of a fan-thing on how these two albums have been received. She and Him's a very cute album, really accessible, and Zooey does have a good voice, although it's more of a "great sound" than a great voice. Not much depth and power, but that's fine for what they're doing. Scarlett's album tries for more, but doesn't succeed as much, I think, because she's trying to be an song interpreter and doesn't do much interpreting, just singing. It comes off as an interesting side project from a decent singer/actor, but nothing more. I think there's more personality on the She and Him album, and that's what makes the difference for me.

Zooey's sis can sing pretty well, too.
Re: Dueling Thespianettes
July 12, 2008 11:52PM
I agree with the reviews of the Johansson album - most of 'em (that I've read) say the music's great, the arrangements are a fascinating electronic reworking of the decidedly non-electronic artistry of Waits. But Scarlett's voice lies flat, smothering everything to such a frustrating degree that you wish she wasn't on her own album. Maybe they can give the backing tracks to another singer...

For the record, I actually do really like the luscious Ms Johansson, and am a huge Tom Waits fan. This makes me like her even more (Scarlett Johansson is a Tom Waits fan?! *sigh*) even though I do not like her album.
My ten cents
July 13, 2008 05:48AM
She might have nice curves, but Scarlett Johansson is far down my list of attractive movie stars. And her acting is pretty lukewarm too.

Nico-like detachment is not something you aim can for. Well, you can, but it's not very sincere (and certainly not very theatrical) , and doesn't compliment the work she chose to pay tribute to.

If you can hear Wait's vocals as acting lessons, who do you turn to for singing lessons?
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