Hollywood’s Musical Moonlighters: When Screen Stardom Just Isn’t Enough


Published: November 15, 2007

Just because you’re famous doesn’t mean you can pantomime singing well. What compels celebrities to explore their musically creative sides and join bands? Few fail to make a dent in record sales, and fewer still avoid becoming the laughingstock of the entire industry. The Observer takes a journey through time to some of the most memorable celebrity crossovers into the rough road of music stardom.

Biggest Success Story: Jared Leto in 30 Seconds to Mars

Blue-eyed and innocuous, Leto made his small-screen debut in “My So-Called Life” as Jordan Catalano, a lovable slacker. His indie-cred led him to secure a major role in the controversial  “Requiem for a Dream.” Who could have possibly predicted this movie star would become one of the reigning princes of emo?

Surprisingly enough, Leto has enough vocal strength and swagger to legitimize 30 Seconds to Mars, a band that hit great success on the pop and rock charts with the single, “The Kill.” Since then, their second album, “A Beautiful Lie,” has gone platinum, and in a rare turn, has been embraced by emo and mainstream radio fans alike.

Runner-up: Taryn Manning in Boomkat

The actress, who’s appeared in such movies as “Crazy/Beautiful,” “Hustle and Flow” and “8 Mile,” briefly made a splash on the billboard charts in 2003 with her electro-pop album, “Boomkatalog One.” Its lead-off single, “The Wreckoning,” actually made it to number one on the Club/Dance Charts of Billboard.


Most Bizarre Mash-up: Jada Pinkett-Smith in Wicked Wisdom

Cute, little, innocent Jada Pinkett-Smith. Wife of Will Smith. Teeny-weeny red carpet darling. Sometimes-actress. Loving and adoring mother of two. Supporter of Tupac. Who would have ever expected this tiny firecracker to be the lead singer of a nu-metal band that’s performed for the “Rock the Vote” tour as well as Ozzfest 2005?

Wicked Wisdom features a side of Pinkett-Smith that few could have ever predicted. She growls, roars, and screams her lungs out through tracks like “Something Inside of Me”. In the chorus she menacingly chants, “Something inside of me/Is PISSED.” You’ll never be able to look at her the same way again.

The “I Just Wanted to Say I Was in a Band” Award: Keanu Reeves in Dogstar

Want to prove your musical chops without really having to commit to anything large? Then follow these easy steps to be Keanu Reeves in the ill-fated band, Dogstar.

1. Assign yourself the position of bassist, the band-member that traditionally occupies the least amount of limelight.

2. Release your first album, “Our Little Visionary” in Japan only.

3. Leave the band when the time commitment encroaches on your insanely lucrative movie career.

Most Geriatric: Bob Schieffer in Honky Tonk Confidential

Sure, Schieffer, the 70-year-old CBS News anchor, is only a “special guest” on the Honky Tonk Confidential 2007 release, “Road Kill Stew and Other News Stories”, but the retro/country/honky tonk sounds of this particular collective are actually acclaimed in the country world. Their albums have won several Washington Area Muscians Associations (WAMA) awards.

So where does Schieffer fit in here? “TV Anchorman”, the signature track on the aforementioned album, features the “Face the News” star in all of his warbling glory. The pinnacle of this twangy track? Homophobic undertones, referencing “real cowboy[s]” who are “not some ‘Brokeback Mountain’ dude[s].” Does anything else need to be said?

The “It’s So Bad, It’s Good” Solo Artist Special Mention: Eddie Murphy for “Party All the Time”

Sure, Mr. Murphy never was in a band, but the most famous single off his album “How Could it Be” is so hilariously awful that it actually makes for good listening! Even its fuzzy-electro-so-’80s-you-can-taste-the-hairspray sensibilities can’t save it from the bottomless pits of awful music. Rick James, of “Superfreak” fame, who was featured on Murphy’s track, colossally fails from making this anything more than a supreme embarrassment for Murphy.

Admit it, though! It’s your favorite guilty pleasure when you’re home alone, half-dressed and dancing ridiculously in front of a mirror.

Honorable Mentions:

Paris Hilton “Stars are Blind”

Bruce Willis “Respect Yourself”

David Hasselhoff  “Jump in my Car”