Many musicians have talents and creative energy that require outlets music just can’t provide. Some are writers, penning books of turgid prose to match their affected prosody. Some act, and can be seen on both big or small screens with a bit part here or a cameo role there. Then there are those that feel the need to express themselves through the static visual medium of paint. And what greater canvas is there than that of the living canvas, the human body?
Yes, it seems like every musician is getting inked up these days. Hell, 45 million Americans of all walks of life now have some form of permanent body art on their person. But, as any fateful walk on along the beach these days will tell you, not every tattoo is a winner. It’s hard to say that any work of art is bad, per se since taste is subjective. One man’s Rothko on his pec can be another woman’s velvet Elvis on her wrist.
In this spirit, join us as we chronicle some of the most, um, “eyebrow raising” pieces of body art on some of our favorite musical acts.
From Justin Timberlake (The Social Network) and Tim McGraw (The Blind Side and Country Strong) to Janet Jackson (For Colored Girls) and Christina Aguilera (Burlesque), pop stars no longer act just to fill dead space between albums. And the career exchange is working the other way around, too. Charlie’s Angel Cheryl Ladd had a hit single in the ’70s; Bruce Willis, Patrick Swayze (may he rest in peace), Don Johnson and Eddie Murphy had one Top 10 apiece in the ’80s; and Jennifer Lopez spent the early ’00s as one of the hottest women in pop. But lately, what every actor (and reality TV star) seems to really want to do isn’t direct”it’s sing.
Leading the current musical parade is Gwyneth Paltrow, who scored a Billboard No. 1 Adult Contemporary hit in 2000 with a cover of Smokey Robinson’s “Cruisin’,” a duet she mastered with Huey Lewis. Now she’s targeting Nashville and possibly a second Oscar with her role as an alcoholic singer in Country Strong (opening December 22). She’s already getting country radio airplay with the title song and performed it live, to a standing ovation, at the Country Music Awards on November 10. She also just made her superstar guest appearance on Glee.
Meanwhile, Paltrow’s Country Strong costar Leighton Meester, who’s also a regular on Gossip Girl”which features moonlighting rocker Ed Westwick (Chuck Bass)”is releasing an album on the Universal Republic label, and already hit the Top 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100 last year as a featured artist on Cobra Starship’s “Good Girls Go Bad.”
Paltrow’s Iron Man costar Jeff Bridges won an Oscar in March for playing the male version of her Country Strong character in Crazy Heart (music from the film, by rising country star Ryan Bingham, who also acted in the film, received plenty of accolades as well). Iron Man 2‘s Scarlett Johansson released Anywhere I Lay My Head, an album of Tom Wait covers, in 2008 and Break Up, with Pete Yorn, in 2009. And Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr., has sung on the soundtracks to several of his films and onstage at the 2008 American Idol finale, appeared in an Elton John video and released a CD called The Futurist.
Joaquin Pheonix, Paltrow’s costar in last year’s Two Lovers, performed his own vocals for his Oscar-nominated performance as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line and spent the entire 2010 documentary I’m Still Here trying to make it as a rapper.
Maybe it’s the rebirth of the Hollywood musical”and/or the drive to hang on to fame by all means necessary”that’s convinced so many actors that they can make it in music, too (no, not you, David Hasselhoff). Phoenix’s Walk the Line costar Reese Witherspoon won an Oscar for her singing efforts as June Carter Cash. Catherine Zeta-Jones scored both an Oscar (Chicago) and a Tony (A Little Night Music) for musical performances. Penelope Cruz just got nominated for uncaging her inner songbird in Nine, alongside fellow Oscar winners Daniel Day-Lewis, Dame Judi Dench, Sophia Loren and Nicole Kidman, who”like Kate Winslet and the late Britanny Murphy (may she rest in peace)”has hit the Top 10 in the UK as a singer.
Even Oscar queen Meryl Streep has gotten into the song and dance, massacring the ABBA catalog in the 2008 musical Mamma Mia! And recent Academy honoree Mo’Nique delivered a song-stealing monologue on “Don’t Take Your Hat Off,” a track on Toni Braxton’s last album. Jamie Foxx, who won his Oscar for reincarnating music icon Ray Charles in Ray, has released two platinum albums and has a third set, Body, due on December 14. Kevin Bacon, Dennis Quaid, Johnny Depp, Russell Crowe, Zoey Deschanel, Adrian Grenier, Juliette Lewis, Keanu Reeves, Jason Schwartzman and Robert Pattinson all have moonlighted as musicians; Jared Leto’s band 30 Seconds to Mars seems to have become a bigger priority than acting; veteran actor Chris Mulkey (HBO’s The Boardwalk Empire) is also a well known country singer and Steve Martin’s The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo won a 2010 Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album.
Among the younger set, Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez were all Disney stars before becoming successful recording artists (as were Fergie, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake and Jennifer Love Hewitt) and Aubrey Drake Graham spent eight years playing Jimmy Brooks on Degrassi: The Next Generation before becoming platinum-selling rapper Drake. Will and Jada Smith’s actor kids are also making musical noise. Son Jaden, 12, had a Top 40 hit earlier this year rapping with Justin Bieber on “Never Say Never,” and his 9-year-old sister Willow‘s “Whip My Hair” is a current pop smash that has some calling her a future Beyoncé. Then there’s, Josh Groban, who will release his fifth album, Illuminations, on November 15 and also costars with Steve Carell in the 2011 comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love. He initially set out to be an actor, getting his big break in a 2001 episode of Ally McBeal, before detouring permanently into singing.
Since talent is optional in pop, and sometimes all you need is a good producer and auto-tune, reality stars are entering the mix, too. (No diss intended to Project Runway host Heidi Klum, who sang on “Wedding Day,” a track on her husband Seal’s 2007 album, System.) The Hills’ Heidi Montag and The Simple Life’s Paris Hilton, perhaps inspired by the pop careers of dueling starlets Lindsay Lohan and Hilary Duff in the mid ’00s, both released their own albums. Montag already tanked early this year (Earth to former reality star: If you want to be taken seriously in music, don’t call your debut album Superficial), but at least Hilton earned a Top 10 hit and decent reviews for Paris in 2006 and has a follow-up in the works.
Of course, Kim “I’ll do anything to stay in the spotlight” Kardashian is working with producer The-Dream (Rihanna, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey) on her debut album, and has said, “I would like the music to sound a bit like Lady GaGa, Britney Spears and J.Lo with a bit of an R ‘n’ B twist to it.” Such lofty ambitions!
Down south, The Real Housewives of Atlanta‘s Kandi Burruss, who had several hits with the girl group Xscape in the ’90s and co-wrote Destiny’s Child’s “Bills Bills Bills” and TLC’s “No Scrubs,” among other hits, is about to relaunch her music career with her second solo album, Kandi Koated, on December 14. And it’s probably only a matter of time before Hiltons’ The Simple Life costar, Nicole Richie, follows her dad, Lionel Richie, and her fiancé, Good Charlotte’s Joel Madden, into the family business.
But no Hollywood star has made as much of a recent dent in pop as the cast of Glee, who just surpassed the Beatles’ record for the most hits on Billboard’s Hot 100. Their schtick of taking other people’s songs for one-week spins on the chart is wearing thin”I never got the show and probably never will”but these days in life, Hollywood and pop, only a few things are certain: death, taxes, another actor-turned-singer, and a weekly barrage of Hot 100 entries by the cast of Glee.
Jeremy Helligar is a former staff writer for People, Teen People, Us Weekly and Entertainment Weekly, who now writes about celebrities and pop culture from his couch in Buenos Aires.
Bands can easily fade away like a passing trend, but Good Charlotte remain at the forefront of the scene they helped create a decade ago. The band, which includes now-celebrity twins Joel and Benji Madden, has released four studio albums and toured worldwide, while at the same time adjusting to life in the limelight and an ever-changing music industry.
Today, the band releases their brand new album, Cardiology, a record that was originally finished in January and set to release in March. Feeling unsatisfied with the final product, Good Charlotte returned to the drawing board and created a pop-punk record that they are truly proud of. We got the chance to speak with bassist Paul Thomas about life for GC a decade after the debut, being in a band with celebrities and the changes that occur when a young band grows up.
OS: The music industry has been through a huge transformation since Good Charlotte first started out a decade ago. Has it been difficult to adapt to the changes?
PT: Yeah, it’s a lot different now than before, like you said. It’s been difficult, but we’re trying. You’ve got to do a lot of online work and a lot of touring. It’s brought it back to like… it really matters about touring and building fantasies. Just hitting the road nonstop. It’s cool because it’s like the music has to be better to cut through now, it can’t just be fabricated and thrown in your face.
OS: One big change for the band is having two members become as famous for their personal lives as they are for their talent. Has that impacted the band?
PT: It is what it is, you know? They’re just living their lives and we’re still doing the same thing that we’ve been doing. It’s been a good thing. We’ve been able to keep touring and doing our thing for ten years now. Hopefully we’ll still be able to keep doing it for another ten.
OS: Joel started off writing lyrics about high school and now he’s writing songs about his kids. Are you intentionally aiming your music to an older audience or is your songwriting more a reflection on where you are in your personal lives?
PT: That’s just what it’s always been about, what’s going on in our lives. Talking about where we are. It’s not like we’re aiming it towards anything, it’s just that’s what’s going on now. We’re not in high school, we’re having babies. The twins are really truthful with their lyrics, like when they talk about their lives and families…they just can’t help but write about what’s going on. If babies are being born, there’s gonna be a baby song, you know it! (laughs)
OS: Do you have any plans for commemorating the ten-year anniversary of your self-titled record this year?
PT: We haven’t really talked about that too much…we’re all focused on Cardiology right now. But it’s not a bad idea, maybe I’ll bring it up! (laughs).
OS: It seems to be a big trend lately. A lot of bands are getting back together, doing reunion tours, re-releasing albums…
PT: I think it’s a great idea. I hope all those shows do well for those bands. We’ve talked about something like that before but we definitely have not been focusing on that lately.
OS: Your last album, Good Morning Revival, was more of a pop record than your previous releases. Has your sound evolved again on Cardiology?
PT: I think pop has always been part of our sound, no matter what the albums sound like. The twins can’t help but write catchy pop songs. The music to it is always changing. We’re always trying to do something different. We don’t want to do the same thing over and over again. I think Cardiology sets itself apart…I think every album is completely different. It’s still Good Charlotte, I don’t think any album doesn’t sound like us.
OS: So it’s still Good Charlotte, just a different take on it?
OS: Cardiology was finished awhile ago, but you decided to throw everything out and start over with a new producer and a new record label. What was the reason for that decision?
PT: We just weren’t feeling it, you know? Things weren’t feeling right. We established a lot of good relationships with Sony and it was a peaceful parting. We were just ready to move on to a new label that would be a little more energetic and focusing on us instead of other bands. Capitol is really making us feel that way. We haven’t felt this much love from a label since The Young and The Hopeless, so we’re really excited. Things are hopefully winding up really well here and that’s what we wanted. We wanted a proper setup for a release and stuff instead of everything just being pushed out there when we weren’t ready, so that’s why we took so long with this one.
OS: Some of the bands you’ve been on tour with recently were fans when your first record came out. What is it like to play shows with bands who grew up listening to your music?
PT: It’s a lot of fun. They all told us they were fans every day! It was really cool. It definitely made me feel a little older…we’re not the “spring chickens” on the tour buses. We started so young and we were always the youngest, but now that’s just not the case. But it was cool. A lot of the bands made us feel really good about ourselves.
Pick up Cardiology, in stores and on iTunes now…and check out the music video for the first single, “Like It’s Her Birthday” below!
Ke$ha, Ciara, Jewel, Jake Shears and more tell bullied kids, It Gets Better
This week, several artists took to their webcams to record heartfelt messages for Dan Savage’s It Gets Better project”aimed at bringing hope to bullied gay and lesbian teenagers. Ke$ha, Ciara, Jason Derülo, AJ McLean, Joel Madden and Jake Shears are just a few of the musicians who’ve posted their own messages. You can check them out here.
Hollerado go 8-bit for Americanarama video
Watch your back, OK Go. Canadian rockers Hollerado have come out with their own ambitious video choreography, and it’s pretty bitchin’. Watch them create a larger-than-life 8-bit video game with a big box, some placards and a couple well-timed sound effects.
Weezer offered $10 million to break up
How mean-spirited and pointless can people get? Head over to www.thepoint.com and see firsthand. That’s where Weezer-hater James Burns established his fundraising campaign to come up with $10 million to offer to the band in exchange for them hanging up their guitars for good. Beard writes:
Every year, Rivers Cuomo swears that he’s changed, and that their new album is the best thing that he’s done since Pinkerton, and what happens? Another pile of crap like Beverly Hills or I’m Your Daddy. This is an abusive relationship, and it needs to stop now.
Tired of Weezer, too? Throw some virtual money over to Beard. He’s already got nearly $300! Who’s your daddy now, Cuomo?
Saudi Arabia Photoshops Mariah Carey
What to do when you’re an ultra conservative country promoting a concert for a scantily clad pop singer? You Photoshop the poster, duh. In this case, Saudi Arabia officials covered Mariah Carey’s whorish shoulders with extra cat. Problem solved.
Lil’ Wayne gets solitary confinement
Most inmates get solitary confinement when they try to shank somebody. Lil’ Wayne got his for having headphones and an MP3 player charger. We’re no criminals, but seems like that would make a really ineffective shiv.
- Kenny Chesney Number 1 on Billboard
- Kanye West announces new album title
- Justin Bieber to revive Punk’d?
- Kim Zolciak debuts new single, Google Me
- Homeless man + two Kermit puppets + Under Pressure = lolz
- Levi Johnston stars in Brittani Senser’s After Love video
- Lady Gaga, Yoko Ono and more celebrate John Lennon’s 70th birthday
- Beach Boys Broadway musical?
- Kanye West hides ballerinas under blanket on SNL
- Mario arrested for assaulting his mother
- Dave Grohl files $75 million lawsuit against Scissor Sisters