From movie star to musician: the best and worst Hollywood crooners

Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp says actors who turn their attentions to the music industry are sickening. But has he struck a false note? Here’s a list to help you decide

Hollywood actors, with their luminous beauty, luxurious lifestyles, lucrative brand partnerships and lactose-free diets – what more could they possibly want from life beyond respect for their privacy and the formula for anti-ageing? Well, according to Johnny Depp, there’s a multitude of movie stars nonchalantly expecting adoration in the music industry, too.

“That whole idea for me is a sickening thing, it’s always just made me sick,” the best friend of Marilyn Manson and sometime guitarist told reporters in Berlin in advance of the world premiere of his latest film, Mortdecai. “The kind of luxury now is, anybody with a certain amount of success, if you have a kind of musical being, you can go out and start a band and capitalise on your work in other areas. But I hate the idea, ‘Come see me play the guitar because you’ve seen me in 12 movies’. It shouldn’t be [that way]. You want the people who are listening to the music to only be interested in the music.”

While Depp didn’t specifically identify who he had in mind, there’s a longlist of pop posturers to whom he could have been alluding, from the part-time acoustic ramblings of tween mega stars to the major league album shifters who’ve cashed in on their notoriety. And possibly Jimmy Nail. But are these relatively spiteful words from the actor justified? After all, they’ve not all been wildly presumptuous ventures, have they? Here’s some of the best (ish) and worst examples of movie luminaries turned musicians.

The Good
Juliette Lewis

Whether or not the Licks’ relatively derivative anarchy is your cup of spit, Juliette Lewis has more rock’n’roll spirit in one of her toenails than the combined forces of Royal Blood could ever muster.

Scarlett Johansson

Produced by Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio, including lyrics by Tom Waits and collaborations with David Bowie and members of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Anywhere I Lay My Head was the critically lauded debut album from Johansson, whose voice so impressed the Guardian’s Dorian Lynskey that he drew comparisons with Nico, Kim Deal and Martina Topley-Bird.

Zooey Deschanel

That’s right – she may be the ker-azy kookster in part responsible for the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope but, alongside M Ward, Zooey Deschanel also pens a wistful little country ditty under She & Him.

Michael Cera

When he’s not on screen staring nervously in a striped polo shirt, he’s on stage staring nervously in a striped polo shirt. Master of mumblecore Michael Cera first showed his affection for music with a Moldy Peaches cover in Juno, before a surprise album of DIY folk and alt-pop arrived last year.

Jared Leto

If we’re measuring good on the basis of commercial success, then Jared Leto’s Thirty Seconds to Mars are certainly passable in this category. They have sold more than 15m albums worldwide, despite their overwrought brand of emo earning the accolade: “If Derek Zoolander made a record …” from one reviewer.

The Bad

Ryan Gosling

He might have Hollywood’s most celebrated face, body and approach to fatherhood, but can he pull off earnest acoustic singer-songwriter simultaneously? Technically: yes. Critically: absolutely no way.

Robert Pattinson

Also on the earnest tip is Twilight megastar Robert Pattinson, whose raspy, wizened acoustic rock seems to go down a storm with the tweens in the YouTube comment sections. Again, nothing particularly flawed about the performance musically, but next to the rock veterans he’s emulating the songs are just a little bit sanctimonious and self-aware.

Minnie Driver

Best known for her smash hit single Everything I’ve Got in My Pocket, but here’s her cover of The Cure’s Close to Me. Precisely what Robert Smith envisioned.

Kate Winslet

Has Ned RocknRoll seen this?

Macaulay Culkin

Pizza Underground – the Velvet Underground and pizza-inspired tribute group – are probably a bit of an anti-folk in-joke. But with tracks named All the Pizza Parties (All Tomorrow’s Parties), Pizza Gal (Femme Fatale) and Take a Bite of the Wild Slice (Walk on the Wild Side), the fundamental flaw is that they’re not actually funny.

• There are many other examples to choose from. Let us know who springs to mind in the comments below.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Harriet Gibsone, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 21st January 2015 16.10 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010