Saturday, November 6, 2010

Surprising musicians

My recent post about former You-Tube CEO's interesting side project got me thinking about those people who are known for work in one area, but choose music as a side project...and who are actually good. So, this won't be about female "celebrities" who choose to extend their "brand" by releasing albums, i.e. Paris Hilton, Heidi Montag and, soon, Kim Kardashian. Nor is it about actors who lead run-of-the-mill bands in their spare time, like Kevin Bacon, Bruce Willis or Russell Crowe. No offense to any of them, but some people really should stick to their day jobs.

There are a few, though, that forayed from other areas of entertainment into music and created something really amazing. Three stick out in my mind:

Karen Elson
Karen Elson may not be a name many of you know, but in the fashion world, she's a big deal. She is known for a bright red hair and pale skin and has modeled for Burberry, Versace and Chanel, among many others, as well as appeared on the covers of Nylon, Marie Claire and W, also among many others. About five years ago, she married Jack White of the White Stripes. According to her, she started writing songs, but was too ashamed to play them for her husband. One day, however, he heard her practicing in a closet and encouraged her to continue writing and working on her music. And good thing he did, she's created some really amazing stuff. Her debut album, The Ghost Who Walks, was produced by White and features hauntingly sweet folk rock.

"The Ghost Who Walks"

Scarlett Johansson
I shouldn't have to explain who Scarlett Johansson is. The actress debuted on the music scene two years ago with her album, Anywhere I Lay My Head, a collection of Tom Waits covers. She followed that up the next year with Break Up, a collaboration with Pete Yorn. While it may seem strange to most for her to have become a musician, it's not a random thing. She was considered for the role of Maria in a 2005 revival of The Sound of Music, recorded a song for Unexpected Dreams – Songs From the Stars in 2006 and performed at Coachella with The Jesus and Mary Chain in 2007. What I love about her and her music is that she hasn't attempted to make something for the masses. It's not generic pop music, her voice hasn't been heavily processed or altered. While she does have a very interesting singing voice that not everyone would love, her choice of inspiration and style creates a very unique listening experience.
Watch the video for "Falling Down" here.

Zooey Deschanel
Zooey Deschanel, the cute actress from 500 Days of Summer, also entered the music scene in 2008, with her band She & Him. The band is a duo with Deschanel and established musician M. Ward, who has primarily been a solo artist. While Deschanel pursused a career in acting, she had been writing songs and singing almost her entire life. She & Him has an indie-pop-slash-alt-country sound to them. Deschanel has a sweet voice. Their first album, Volume One, was one of my favorites when it came out two years ago. Earlier this year, they released their second album, aptly title Volume Two. It's still good, but the first was a really great record.

"You've Really Got a Hold on Me"

So those are my favorite actresses/models turned musicians. If you have any beloved actors, models, etc. that released good music, please let me know!

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