“The Playlist” Asks Whether Or Not These Singers Can Act
Last week’s version of “The Playlist” showed that some actors can sing, or found a little luck on the way toward scoring success carrying a tune. This story is as old as Hollywood – actors want to sing and singers want to act. Many singers who have success take to the path of maximizing their career by putting themselves on TV or the Big Screen. Well this week we look at those successful voices and see if they have held up well in the acting world, and we look carefully at their work as thespians in this week’s edition of The Playlist.
When you have success in the world of music, you have exposure, you are a hot commodity with potentially a limited shelf life – think about how many One-Hit Wonders we have seen in our lifetime? When you are hot, you try to go for it all it seems. This idea is nothing new. Think about the likes of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley who started this trend. Hollywood decided they could get their fan base to the theaters and make money. Not much has changed today, but the pool is larger and the scrutiny is even more intense.
Nothing against Elvis, but his films did not exactly flex his acting talent too much – a victim of true typecasting in the 60s. Today that does seem to happen as much, mainly because you do not see many musical comedy films being made. The chops have to be there quickly or else the “15 Minutes of Fame” in the world of Hollywood will be closed for the most part.
Mariah Carey defies most reasonable logic of Hollywood. Her 2001 starring role in Glitter is considered by many to be one of the worst pictures in film history. How do you recover from that reputation? You are forced to do smaller films, not take much money, actually learn the craft of acting, then not be afraid to play against your own type to prove your point. 2009 was Mariah’s revenge in the Oscar winning film Precious, where she was not glamorous at all playing a social worker (Ms. Weiss) to near rave reviews.
Would I put Mariah in the top performances by a singer-turned-actor? Hard to judge, but take a look at this group of performances of singers becoming actors in this century:
Will Smith – Ali (his 2001 portrayal of “The Greatest” earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, coming a long way from being The Fresh Prince of Bel Air – although lasted 6 seasons and developed Smith’s talent)
Mark Wahlberg – The Fighter (from One-Hit Wonder in the 90s with “Good Vibrations”, to Calvin Klein model, to becoming what nobody could have expected – one of the most bankable actors today. 2 Oscar Nominations, a slew of critical acclaim, and this film which he fought for years to make with a good deal of his own money. Wahlberg played boxer Irish Mickey Ward and helped the 2010 flick earn 7 Oscar nominations.)
Tim McGraw - Friday Night Lights (Hard Choice between this and The Blind Side in 2009, but playing a down and out drunk father whose son is playing at his alma mater Permian H.S. and trying to re-live his life somewhat through him showed immediate star potential for McGraw in 2004.)
Justin Timberlake - The Social Network (portraying Sean Parker, the 2010 film won 3 Oscars including Best Picture, showing why the former member of N-SYNC has fully recovered from the 2008 major flop The Love Guru. What saved Timberlake from that disaster was critical praise for his work in Alpha Dog and Black Snake Moan before that.
Jennifer Hudson – Dreamgirls (Defined as a singer for being on American Idol in 2004, Hudson finished 7th and was without a recording deal, but this singer went on to score an Oscar win and upstage Beyonce in this 2006 musical. Hudson has shown she is more than just a one-trick pony with her work in Sex and The City and The Secret Life of Bees.)
Alicia Keys – The Secret Life of Bees (Since the 2008 film was mentioned, props for Keys’ work here after having played a bad-ass in Smoking Aces before this. Alicia has range and depth, plus a real future here if she wants.)
Donnie Wahlberg - Saw II, III, and IV (The most successful horror film series in film history, the New Kid as quietly been in brother Mark’s shadow but has carved a good resume that is now seeing TV success on CBS with Blue Bloods. Back in the 90s, Donnie scored his first success as a bad guy in Ransom)
Joey Fatone - My Greek Fat Greek Wedding (his small role in the Oscar nominated flick as Angelo in 2002 scored big laughs and showed real promise for another N-SYNC member, and yet he’s struggled to make it bigger.)
Mandy Moore - A Walk To Remember (the 2002 film took the 90s “Pop-Tart” and gave her an MTV Movie Award and Teen Choice Award victories for playing Jamie in this “Chick Flick”. Moore continues to work hard on her craft by doing a stint on Grey’s Anatomy in 2010, and voice Rapunzel in the Disney animated smash hit Tangled.)
As good as these performances were, they seem to be the exception to the rule. Look at this group of bad films that featured singers trying to act and at the same time killing careers:
Kelly Clarkson – From Justin To Kelly (from winning American Idol to instant Pop hits, then came the brilliant idea of capitalizing the show’s phenomenon with this 2003 film. The film made less than 5 million dollars – the film coast $12,000,000 to make. Kelly has said she’s no actress – no kidding!)
Adam Ant – Cold Steel (the 80s New-Waver took to working with a young Sharon Stone in this 1987 action flick that had Adam as the bad guy – the film closed in less than 2 weeks in 1987, and embarrassingly made less that 1 million dollars!)
Maria Carey – Glitter (Go back to earlier in this edition of The Playlist)
Debbie Gibson and Tiffany – Mega Python vs. Gatoroid (a SyFy Channel exclusive this past year – which usually means your career is hitting a new low for showing up on this network, yet there is an audience for this campy stuff. Gibson has earned credibility on Broadway, and killed it! Tiffany is just starting out, and bound for Reality TV?)
Beyonce - The Fighting Temptations (Her acting career has promise, but she seems to be placed in roles where she cannot be the true star. This 2003 film saw the downward slide of Cuba Gooding Jr., and Beyonce caught in the crossfire. The film barely made back the $30 million it cost to make this disappointment.)
Madonna – Shanghai Surprise (Sean Penn may regret his marriage to the “Material Girl”, but doing this 1986 film with her was worse. The film cost $20 million to make – the film made barely 2 Million Dollars!)
I could be here in this part of The Playlist, but I want some positivity to wrap up this week. Here are some highly anticipated performances for you to pay attention to by these singers:
Lenny Kravitz - The Hunger Games (His acting career was off to a great start playing a nurse in Precious, now Kravitz is part of the most highly anticipated movie of the new year. March 23rd is opening night, and if you followed the book Lenny is playing Cinna)
Ne-Yo — Red Tails (nearly $20 Million in its 1st week of release, the story of the Tuskegee Airmen has the talented singer playing one of the young airmen)
Katherine McPhee - Smash (The new buzz show for NBC debuts in February, and the former American Idol Runner-Up has already seen the media blitz and the Golden Globes Red Carpet to promote this “Broadway Musical” to TV.)
Ice Cube - 21 Jump Street (The Gangster Rapper turned actor has shown real skills with his work in the 90s with Boyz In The Hood, Higher Learning, and the cult classic Friday. This March 16th release should do very well at the box office as Cube plays Captain Dickson in the former FOX TV hit!)
Whitney Houston – Sparkle (In the 90s The Bodyguard made over $400 Million worldwide, then Waiting To Exhale took in about $100 Million, now her first film in over 15 years could be the comeback she desires as the matriarch of a family with 3 singing daughters. The success and failures play out in a flick due out late this year.)