May 21, 2008 / 12:16 AM / 10 years ago

Scarlett Johansson's album debut panned by critics

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actress Scarlett Johansson’s latest film work may be getting the red carpet treatment at Cannes, but her debut album, released on Tuesday, is drawing fire from music critics.

“Anywhere I Lay My Head,” a collection of Tom Waits songs recorded by the star of such films as “Match Point,” “Lost in Translation” and “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” has been described by the actress as “an intimate experience.”

But numerous reviews of the album complained that Johansson’s vocals end up lost in the lush arrangements of producer David Andrew Sitek, the guitarist and keyboardist for the indie rock band TV on the Radio.

For some critics, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“Johansson’s voice is unremarkable and her pitch sometimes unsteady; she’s a faintly goth Marilyn Manson lost in a sonic fog,” wrote Rolling Stone magazine, which gave her a lukewarm 2.5 stars out of five.

Britain’s Mojo magazine called the recordings “fussy and forgettable,” adding that the decision to begin the album with an instrumental was hardly a vote of confidence in Johansson’s vocal abilities.

The disc received a middling “C” grade from Entertainment Weekly magazine, which wrote that her “expressionless voice” was buried “deeply in the druggy ambiance.”

And the Washington Post said it was possible to listen to all 40-plus minutes of Johansson’s album and “still have no earthly idea what she sounds like.”

Actress Scarlett Johansson poses during a photocall at the 58th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin, February 15, 2008. Johansson's latest film work may be getting the red carpet treatment at Cannes, but her debut album, released on Tuesday, is drawing fire from music critics. REUTERS/Johannes Eisele

“The album is ultimately too ethereal for its own good,” the Post said. “Every song is like every other song, even the ones that sound different.”

The Rhino Records album consists of 11 tracks, all covers of Waits songs except for one original piece co-written by Johansson and Sitek. Two cuts feature David Bowie on backing vocals. The video for the first single, “Falling Down,” was directed by Oscar-nominated “Capote” filmmaker Bennett Miller.

Johansson’s latest film, Woody Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” premiered at the Cannes film festival in France on Saturday. The 23-year-old actress, who did not attend the festival, plays a lovelorn American tourist in Spain.

“Anywhere I Lay My Head” is not Johansson’s very first musical effort. She performed the George Gershwin standard “Summertime” on a 2006 charity album, “Unexpected Dreams: Songs from the Stars.”

She later sang live with the band Jesus and Mary Chain at the Coachella Music Festival in California.

Johansson is the latest in a recent string of Hollywood actresses to dabble in song, including Zooey Deschanel, who released an album March 18 recorded with folk artist M. Ward as “She and Him.”

Other notable actresses taking a musical detour in recent years have been Lindsay Lohan, Minnie Driver, Milla Jovovich, Juliette Lewis and Tia Carrere, who earned a Grammy nomination this year for her Hawaiian album.

(Additional reporting by Dean Goodman)


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