Vocal Actors


As he approaches 60, Bruce Willis’ days of starring in films where he shoots people in the face could be coming to an end. He’s kicked ass and he’s chewed bubble-gum, but now it’s time for him to focus on what nobody believes he does best: caterwauling with his white guy blues band in front of an audience of credulous Die Hard fans.

For some, including Bruce, it’s a relatively carefree path from the movies to the music business. Although acclaim may rarely be bestowed upon an actor turned recording artist, there will always be a boisterous hoard of unquestioning fans to snap up concert tickets and albums.

However, as Keanu Reeves no doubt pondered many times during his stint as the bassist of his former band Dogstar: would anybody be interested in the music if it wasn’t being made by celebrity?

In the case of Eddie Murphy this seems unlikely. Fancying himself a singer, in 1993 the comedian released a hilariously flamboyant music video for his single Whatzupwitu, featuring a recently white Michael Jackson.

Several years previous to this, during an oddly homophobic segment of his seminal comedy special Delirious, Murphy had said: “Faggots aren’t allowed to look at my ass when I’m on stage.â€? Yet with the release of Whatzupwitu, it appeared that the Nutty Professor star had completely changed his stance on homosexuals.

Unmistakeably, both the song and the video were gayer than a book of Allen Ginsberg poems, with Murphy assuming the role of the sort of man who lurks around public toilets asking visitors, “Whatzupwitu?â€?

Russell “The Voiceâ€? Crowe, on the other hand, had bigger plans for his music career. He didn’t want to just make the people dance: he wanted them to think—having apparently lost interest in punching them.

It was with Crowe’s rock anthem “One Good Yearâ€? that he claimed to be looking for grace, despite “grace not being easily foundâ€?. But aside from being a plea for simple elegance (something that I’m sure Crowe knows a lot about) “One Good Yearâ€? was also the actor’s impassioned attempt at writing one good song, despite sounding much like a dehydrated
Springsteen dying in a ditch.

Corey Feldman’s attempts at entering the music business were perhaps less polished than Crowe’s, although they were certainly no less sincere. Like Murphy, Feldman just had one question he wanted answered: “What’s Up With The Youth?â€?

Judging from Feldman’s performance in this Howard Stern-hosted nightmare, I’m guessing that cocaine was certainly a major ingredient of what was up with the youth on that night. It may also provide an explanation for Crispin Glover’s “Clowny Clown Clown”, which is enough to emotionally scar a person for life.

Nevertheless, given the choice between Glover and Feldman’s insane musical endeavours and Zoe (or Zooey rather) Deschanel’s insufferably twee She & Him, it’s hard not to choose the former.

Exuding all the enthusiasm of a Virgin Media call centre employee, She & Him’s music sounds as if it’s been designed by the H&M marketing department in order to shift units of leggings. But unfortunately, it is true that in terms of record sales—and in some cases critical acclaim — She & Him are something of a success story.

Even so, in my mind there’s only ever been one truly great actor turned recording artist, and that’s William Shatner. For decades the world has stood by, overwhelmed at the man’s immense artistry. He has consistently released thought-provoking recordings, and has done for spoken word what Stravinsky did for classical music.

If I had to choose, I’d say that his most astonishing achievement to date is still his electrifying rendition of Bob Dylan’s Mr Tambourine Man. But that’s not to say that Shatner is by any means past it, as he proved recently when he performed this brilliantly animated version of Cee Lo Green’s “Fuck Youâ€? on Lopez Tonight.

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