Stop The Presses!

Those Who Can Act, Sing!

Stop The Presses!

The latest entrant in the burgeoning field of actresses who double as recording artists has conspicuously arrived--and guess what?

She's good!

The actress in question is, of course, Gwyneth Paltrow, star of Country Strong, which opens in theaters nationally on January 7th. In the film, Paltrow stars as "a fallen, emotionally unstable country star" attempting to reignite her singing career by--in a clever twist--actually singing! And she does exactly that in Country Strong, acquitting herself admirably, by our count.

Paltrow's "side career" shouldn't be news to anyone with access to a television: Her recent vocalizing appearances on both the CMAs and Glee were conspicuous and--considering their timing--not a bad way to promote a film just about to open that also stars Tim McGraw.

[Rewind: Megan Fox stars in Eminem video]

Surprisingly, in these cynical times, most viewers, music lovers and even music critics have given Paltrow's efforts the thumbs up. And maybe part of her good fortune is that her upcoming opera isn't a biopic of Maria Calls or Beverly Sills, but hey--cut her a break, she's just doing her day-gig and it's a good one.

Check out this exclusive full performance of Paltrow in action onstage and see what you think.

Paltrow's predecessor in the singing actresses stakes was none other than another popular blonde named Scarlett Johansson, whose recent, arty debut album Anywhere I Lay My Head was made purely for its own sake--and not to promote a movie--and was fairly nifty as well. Though not everyone felt that way.

Back then, we put together a list of other Hollywood warblers and attempted to rate 'em and rank 'em. What say we see how they hold up and see how Gwyneth Paltrow compares?

 

Scarlett Johansson: If Anywhere I Lay My Head came packaged with an abstract picture on its cover and was credited to "cult Swedish indie band the Lipliners," it would probably get a 9 out of 10 rating from most dorky critics. Throw in a fake picture of a 250-lb. tattooed lead singer named Inga and the extra point would be no problem. The fact is, this is moody, sophisticated material facing that most horrible of artistic handicaps: It's being performed by a beautiful woman who made this album for no other reason than to express herself artistically. Imagine that!

[Rewind: Scarlett Johansson and more singing stars]

CAN SHE SING?: Yes

IS THE MUSIC GOOD?: Yes

GRADE: 9 out of 10

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Zooey Deschanel (She & Him): A partnership that began in 2006 brought actress Deschanel together with Portland-based indie star M. Ward, and the results--most recently on display on their Merge Records album She & Him - Volume 2--are eminently listenable, entirely credible, and enough to make me want to go back and watch her in that weird Tin Man mini-series again. Like Johannson, this pair is aiming to make music that sounds good to them and isn't exactly aiming for the top of the charts. It's actually quite good. Way to go, Zo!

CAN SHE SING?: Yes

IS THE MUSIC GOOD?: Yes

GRADE: 8 out of 10

Minnie Driver: Minnie started releasing albums in 2004 and--stunningly--has been receiving good reviews for each of them. This is not what's supposed to happen. Her most recent, Seastories, features hi-cred appearances by both Ryan Adams and Liz Phair and is a good listen through and through. Check them out and you'll be surprised, no lie.

CAN SHE SING?: Sure

IS THE MUSIC GOOD?: Not my personal cup of tea, but yeah, absolutely

GRADE: 7 out of 10

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Juliette Lewis (Juliette & The Licks): Well, here's the first flat-out rocker of the bunch, and it's not like Juliette had no experience: She sang a PJ Harvey cover in the film Strange Days, appeared in Melissa Etheridge's video "Come To My Window," and put her band together a few years ago in L.A's Viper Room.  Additionally, her 2006 album Four On The Floor features no less than Foo Fighter Dave Grohl providing the drumwork. Hard-rocking in the same manner as, say, early Etheridge and even Janis Joplin at times, Lewis is having fun and is charmingly unpretentious in this rock 'n' roll context. Good for her.

CAN SHE SING?: She can "belt"

IS THE MUSIC GOOD?: It rocks, it rolls

GRADE: 6 out of 10

 

Jennifer Lopez:  Hmm. We are now veering into territories where ego plays a role in record-making. Jenny From The Block--which she was when she made this video back in 2002--has been making records for a decade now, so it would be inaccurate to call her a fledgling singer, an amateur, or, shall we say, a Sunday painter. That said, there would appear to be so much processing involved in the making of her records--and so many other musicians--calling her a full-fledged A-1 singer might be something of a stretch as well. How about we just call her the singing star from Gigli?

CAN SHE SING?: Someone can!

IS THE MUSIC GOOD?: It's exceptionally well-produced

GRADE: 4 out of 10

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Lindsay Lohan: This may be the standard by which some people are measuring Scarlett Johansson's record-making aspirations, and that's not really fair, is it? Of all the artists here, Linday's career as a music maker seems the most lark-like, and even her video performances seem more like an acting rather than singing gig. Further, her records sound like they were fully recorded and she was then invited into the studio as an afterthought to sing on them, if you get my drift. All things considered, though, after seeing her performance in the wonderful I Know Who Killed Me, I think I now like her more than ever.

CAN SHE SING?: Can you?

IS THE MUSIC GOOD?: What earthly relevance does that have?

GRADE: 3 out of 10

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Paris Hilton: Is it really fair to call Ms. Hilton truly famous as an actress first and foremost? Sure! Didn't you see her in that House Of Wax remake? Her infamous album is in many ways a masterpiece, I feel--largely because with all the money likely poured into it, and with today's studio technology that can make virtually anybody sing in tune, Paris boldly decided to go in there and sing the notes as she heard them, and the result is unlike any other album I've heard in my life. I'm hoping she'll make another album as soon as possible!

CAN SHE SING?: Could Maria Callas?

IS THE MUSIC GOOD?: It's hot!

GRADE: 2 out of 10

Brigitte Bardot: Speaking of Paris, here's one actress who made music from her very earliest days. Involved in some very historic records with the legendary Serge Gainsbourg, Bardot has been a class act all her life, and her records--of which there are many--are all worth a listen. Were she to serve as the role model for the nine women listed above, we'd all be the better for it. Especially if we spoke French.

CAN SHE SING?: Oui!

IS THE MUSIC GOOD?: Oui!

GRADE: 10 out of 10

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