Summer and songs. They fit together like Santa and snow, like sex and the city, like Coldplay and Rihanna in the Princess of China single and video, which both acts no doubt are hoping will be the song of the summer of 2012. (And if it’s not, Rihanna’s got another shot anyway, with Where Have You Been, the fifth single from her Talk That Talk album.)
But the songs of summer aren’t just about the latest, greatest hits when warm weather starts to roll around. If they were, we all would have been stuck with Adele’s Rolling in the Deep, Nicki Minaj’s Super Bass and LMFAO’s Party Rock Anthem on an endless beach loop last summer (and certainly some of us were). The hottest season has been figuring prominently into pop since the beginning of time, regardless of the temperature outside.
This year, it will be no different. So while the rest of the world is sweating it out to Rihanna and Coldplay, or Rihanna on her own, or brand new music from Justin Bieber, Usher, Chris Brown, or Fiona Apple (my personal beach pick), feel free to pad your summer mix with these ten entries, some of the best summer’ songs ever.
The ex-wives of Hollywood stars Prince, R. Kelly, Will Smith, Jose Canseco and Eddie Murphy are set to star in their own television series, creatively titled Hollywood Exes. The show will run for ten summer episodes and will follow the five women as they go about their daily lives create their own success. As of now, none of the women’s former significant others are scheduled to make an appearance. Hollywood Exes is set to air on VH1 sometime this summer.
Mark Wahlberg already knows a thing or three about reinvention. When he first burst onto the entertainment scene in 1991 as the leader of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunk”a two-hit wonder from whom nobody expected any kind of longevity, and afterwards as a Calvin Klein underwear model”few probably thought he’d be likely to succeed past the mid-decade mark.
Yet two decades later, he’s still here. He’s a movie star and a respected actor, a successful producer (of the TV series Entourage and Boardwalk Empire, and of last year’s Best Picture Oscar contender, The Fighter) and an Academy Award acting nominee (Best Supporting Actor for 2006’s The Departed).
His next project: making Justin Bieber a film star. “I see the guy and spent time with him, and you see what he does and how he does it,” Wahlberg told MTV News last year, “and then you actually have a conversation with him, and it’s there.”
Picture this (because Wahlberg already has): Bieber in a The Color of Money-type film, which Wahlberg is developing for Paramount Pictures, with basketball replacing pool. Bieber would take the Tom Cruise role, and Wahlberg would cast a formidable screen legend like Robert DeNiro, Robert Duvall or Jack Nicholson as the grizzled vet, the Color of Money archetype that finally won Paul Newman an Oscar in 1987.
It sounds like a dream job”for someone else. If Will Smith, Queen Latifah, Justin Timberlake, Tim McGraw and Wahlberg himself have taught us anything, when making the transition from music to movies, it’s best to start small. Both Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera tried to fulfill their film-star fantasy by starring above the title the first time out (in Crossroads and Burlesque, respectively), and thus far, neither one’s Hollywood dream has come true.
Enimen has yet to find a follow-up worthy of his debut starring role in 2002’s 8 Mile; the Hollywood heat surrounding The Bodyguard star Whitney Houston, set to test the acting waters again in a 2012 remake of Sparkle, quickly cooled after three films; Beyoncé has gotten plenty of acting work, but her Hollywood career has yet to generate any kind of major excitement; and Evita aside, Madonna has been most successful onscreen in supporting roles (Desperately Seeking Susan, Dick Tracy, A League of Their Own). Former American Idol contestant Jennifer Hudson won an Oscar her first time out for Dreamgirls, but what has she done for us lately?
That Bieber’s 2011 documentary/concert film, Never Say Never, was a major box-office success ($73 million in North America) indicates that movie-ticket buyers will shell out bucks to see him on the big screen. And he’s already had a guest-starring role in C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation. But pop stars are always booking cameos and story arcs in hit TV shows, and in Never Say Never, Bieber was literally playing himself. If Wahlberg is going to guide him through the Hollywood jungle, he’d be wise to pull out the map that he himself used.
For now, let somebody else drive. Don’t even let him ride shotgun just yet. Bieber would be better off in the backseat, cast in an ensemble movie where he doesn’t have to do all of the heavy lifting (see Taylor Swift in Valentine’s Day”on second thought, don’t).
When Wahlberg landed his first major starring role, in 1997’s Boogie Nights, he was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood) and surrounded by highly esteemed talents like Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Don Cheadle, John C. Reilly and a soon-to-be-briefly resurgent (and Oscar-nominated for the first time) Burt Reynolds.
Even after Boogie Nights, Wahlberg’s most notable films”I Heart Huckabees, The Departed, The Fighter”have featured plenty of Oscar-caliber talent. And in The Departed, it was Wahlberg, not costars Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon or Jack Nicholson who walked away with the Oscar nod.
Good luck to them both. They’ll need it. Wahlberg may have proven that he’s a miracle worker by going from rapper to underwear hunk to Oscar nominee, but Bieber holding his own with a DeNiro or a Duvall or a Nicholson sounds like an almost-impossible dream.
10 Music Stars Who Deserve a Hollywood Big-Screen Test
1. Lady Gaga
Best Performance in a Video: “Paparazzi”
2. John Mayer
Best Performance in a Video: “Who Says”
Best Performance in a Video: “Blow”
4. Mary J. Blige
Best Performance in a Video: “Be Without You”
Best Performance in a Video: “Glitter in the Air” (live at the 2010 GRAMMY Awards)
Best Performance in a Video: “Warwick Avenue”
7. Fiona Apple
Best Performance in a Video: “Fast As You Can”
8. Richard Ashcroft
Best Performance in a Video: “Break the Night with Colour”
9. Roisin Murphy
Best Performance in a Video: “Overpowered”
10. Brandon Flowers
Best Performance in a Video: The Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done”
Once you’re a hugely successful musician, with lots of people telling you how awesome you are, making the leap into acting (or painting, or politics, or baseball, or aviation, or molecular biology) must seem like a piece of cake. There are so many object lessons to teach us how untrue that is (Britney Spears’ Crossroads, anyone?). But there are a few double-threats out there who have successfully made the leap.
10. Queen Latifah
It’s pretty aggravating to see a talented actor take an opportunity to do quality work, wipe their ass with that opportunity and flush it down the toilet. Queen Latifah has done this a couple of times. She could have had a solid career as a supporting actress after The Bone Collector and Bringing Out The Dead, but then she kicked America in the crotch by being part of The Country Bears, among other debacles. She was then lucky enough to be cast in Chicago, and it was inarguably a star-making performance. Finding herself in that enviable position, she accepted roles in a bunch of utter garbage, including Taxi and The Perfect Holiday. Sigh. But dammit, she’s always fun to watch on screen, whether it’s comedy or drama, and I suspect she’ll continue to appear in quality movies from time to time. Just don’t expect consistency.
It’s never a surprise when an entertainer has more than one talent, and in the hip hop world, that usually translates to rappers trying their hand at the silver screen. Some have been more successful than others”carving out bona fide acting careers that ultimately overshadow the music”and some probably wish they would have stuck to the mic. Here, a rundown of hip hop’s adventures in Hollywood.
Will Smith: The Fresh Prince made the transition from hip hop to household name look easy. Aside from his hit TV show that ran from 1990-1996, he surprised everyone with his serious acting chops in movies like Independence Day and Men In Black. Now, the esteemed actor has movies like Ali and The Pursuit Of Happyness under his belt, earning as much, if not more credibility in acting circles than music ones. It seems he’s finally found a way to meld all of his talents, serving as a patriarch of one seriously talented family. Daughter Willow blew up the charts last year with her hit, “Whip My Hair, son Jayden starred in last year’s Karate Kid remake and hit the stage with Justin Bieber at this year’s GRAMMY Awards and wife Jada is still going strong with her TNT show, Hawthorne as she moonlights as front-woman for her band, Wicked Wisdom.
Queen Latifah: The Queen took a cue from her longtime BFF, Will Smith, and transitioned from a hip hop heavyweight to a Hollywood starlet. She took on tough roles like Chloe, in Set It Off, in 1996 and showed off her comedic timing with smash hit Bringing Down The House. She proved her singing abilities in the hit musical, Chicago, in 2002 and has followed up with a string of successes at the box office including Beauty Shop and Just Wright, co-starring our next crossover champ, Common.
Common: The Chicago rapper made a name for himself in underground circles long before he hit big in the mainstream. After the success of his 2005 album, Be, he hit the silverscreen alongside Alicia Keys in Smoking Aces. He has followed up with roles in American Gangster and Street Kings, and has managed to remain relevant on the music scene, with his last albums, Finding Forever and Universal Mind Control scoring high marks. Now, he’s taking heat for his latest visit to the White House, after being invited by President Obama.
Ludacris: Luda shocked everyone when he took his raunchy reputation to the big screen and pulled a complete 180 for his role in the Oscar-winning film, Crash. The Atlanta-bred rapper earned the respect of Hollywood without compromising his street cred; which remains in tact after the release of his 2010 album, Battle Of The Sexes.
T.I.: Before his recent stints in the big house, T.I. tried his hand on the big screen, starring in ATL and last year’s Takers alongside Chris Brown. While his efforts were well-received for ATL, his role in Takers was a bit of a stretch, suggesting that this emcee might want to stick to what he knows best. Still, his undeniable appeal was enough to bring music fans to the movies, so we’re guessing there’s more to come.
50 Cent: G-Unit’s leading man first flexed his acting muscles in the film, Get Rich Or Die Tryin, where he basically played himself, rather convincingly. His next attempt was a serious fete; the rapper starred in 13 and then dropped over 50 pounds to play a cancer-stricken football player in his next film, Things Fall Apart. The movie is due out this year, and in it 50 solidified his place as a real method actor, likely opening him up for future projects. In the meantime, he’s not hanging up his mic, recently promising a new album to fans by year’s end.
Bow Wow: Bow Wow has been on the scene since he was just a pup, dabbling in acting gigs between best-selling albums. He starred in Roll Bounce, a movie suited perfectly for his tween fan base of the time. He also had roles in Car Wash and Hurricane Season, but has since returned to his rapping roots, signing with Young Money last year. Now that the dog is all grown up, we wonder if he’ll take a shot at some more adult movie roles. At the moment, you can catch him starring in Tyler Perry’s latest film, Madea’s Big Happy Family, in theaters now.
Soulja Boy: The teen dream rap phenomenon has already added actor to his resume, starring in the soon-to be-released remake of Juice. In it, he reprised the role of Bishop originated by Tupac Shakur in 1992, sending some fans into a fit of rage. Now, he’s considering stepping into Pac’s shoes again after being offered the role of Pac himself in the upcoming biopic by Antoine Fuqua.
In addition to breakout internet stars like The Astronomical Kid (14-year-old Brooklynite Brian Bradley), two other youngsters are taking the music industry by storm: Willow Smith (the 9-year-old daughter of Will and Jada Smith) and Daniel “Diggy” Simmons (the 15-year-old son of Rev Run). Though it’s hard to ignore the argument of nepotism with regard to Willow and Diggy’s meteoric rise to fame, there’s no question they are capitalizing on their genetic gifts and tenacious talent to launch their solo careers at an age when most kids are still thinking about a driver’s permit, or in Willow’s case, riding the big rides.
While young starlets are not a new trend”(think Miley Cyrus, Lindsay Lohan, Hilary Duff, Selena Gomez) both Willow and Diggy have bypassed the typical Disney-tinged, tween idol approach and gone straight to the big leagues. Neither of their singles, Diggy’s “Oh Yeah” with labelmate Lupe Fiasco and Pharrell or Willow’s “Whip My Hair” scream teeny bopper kid” pop. Instead, both hold court with the hottest hits on the pop charts, giving their older counterparts a run for their money (and likely an award or two).
Diggy signed with Atlantic Records in March of this year after his debut mixtape, The First Flight, hit his blog in December 2009, garnering critical acclaim most notably for freestyling over Nas’ track “Made You Look.”
He also inked a deal to rep AT&T in a national TV ad campaign, proving his star power is strong enough to hawk expensive PDA’s to adults rather than lunchboxes and notebooks to kids. Diggy’s latest mixtape, Airborne, released through Atlantic in September seems to serve as a tasty teaser while he continues working on his debut full length album.
But Diggy was well known to the American public before his recent success. The budding rapper, designer, blogger and entrepreneur first arrived in our living rooms at tender age of 10 when his family’s hit reality show, Run’s House, aired on MTV in 2005. It’s not a stretch to see the musical prodigy (progeny) exploring a career in music considering his dad is legendary DJ, Rev. Run of Run DMC and his uncle Russell, heads up Def Jam”though Diggy claims no help from his dad or uncle in getting the deal with Atlantic. Diggy’s siblings including brother Jo Jo and older sisters, Angela and Vanes (from Rev. Run’s first marriage to Valerie Vaughn) also carved their own careers from the success of the show”launching, in Jo Jo’s case, a music career, while the sisters opted to start a shoe line, acting roles and star in their own MTV spin-off, Daddy’s Girls.
Willow Smith, on the other hand has been in the public eye seemingly from infancy, both as a style icon and as the daughter of one of the most compelling couples in Hollywood. Willow began her acting career at age 8 alongside mom, Jada Pinkett-Smith in Madagascar 2 before showing off her musical talents with her simultaneously kid-friendly and adult smash single, “Whip My Hair.” Shortly after the single was leaked online in September, Willow signed with Roc Nation where label President, Jay-Z compared her to a young Michael Jackson. The single has been so successful legions of young fans (and adults too) began making their own videos to the addictive tune. Willow’s official video for the track, which was directed by Ray Kay (Beyoncé, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga) and debuted on BET earlier this week, features some serious moves, guest appearances and one messy paint fight.
Rumors of a duet between Diggy and Willow seem inevitable. For the moment, we’ll just have to enjoy their musical (and marketing) genius individually.
Cortney Wills is a pop culture journalist born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She has lived in LA, Chicago and NYC and enjoys all things entertainment.