?When it comes to go-to material for enthusiasts of snark, “celebrities who have made albums” will always be a bountiful shaft to mine. Snarky geeks are certainly no exception, and love to get in on the act by comparing notes on the best/worst efforts from Star Trek cast members (Shatner, Nimoy, Spiner and even Nichelle Nichols have been convinced to kill a few hours/credibility notches in a recording studio) or the most oddball releases from noted nerd icons (everyone from 2001 star Keir Dullea to The Fifth Element’s Milla Jovovich has been put on wax). These days the debates rage on, as noted comic-book ?ber-geek Donald Glover has been everywhere promoting the hip-hop he’s recorded under the moniker Childish Gambino, and lovingly lethargic Tron: Legacy big daddy Jeff Bridges is prepping a new album for the summer (fingers crossed that Michael McDonald, who appeared on Bridges’ debut in 2000, drops back in).
For the most part, actors from comic-book film and television adaptations have emerged from the heckling relatively unscathed. We all know of Surrogates/Red star Bruce Willis’ foray into whitewashed blues and Constantine embarrassment Keanu Reeves’ repeated attempts to get people to care about his band Dogstar.(even Ghost World/Iron Man 2’s Scarlett Johansson caused a bit of a stir when her vanity project turned out to be an album’s worth of Tom Waits covers). But, as you’ll see below, there are others who have either released a “one and done” flop that thankfully went away quickly, or who have quietly been making music that no one really gives a shit about for decades. We’re actually not sure which category is worse.
10) Lynda Carter, Portrait
?Hard as it may be to believe, the former Wonder Woman star is the most relevant entry on this list, as she just released a new album of smoky pop standards on April 26th… only her third album in 30+ years (good news: She’s on tour!). But Carter came from a musical background, playing in bands with names like Just Us and The Relatives before winning the Miss World USA pageant that kicked off her acting career. By 1978 she’d mustered enough star power to throw a lasso around Epic Records and demand they book her some studio time. Portrait is pretty much your standard harmless late-’70s pop, but at least Carter made the effort to co-write three songs in between covering banal tunes like Billy Joel’s “She’s Always a Woman.” Die-hard Wonder Woman fans likely remember Diana Prince belting two songs from this album in the 1979 episode “Amazon Hot Wax,” which at face value sounds like the most amazing thing that’s aired on television ever.
9) P (Featuring Johnny Depp), P
?A few years before Alan Moore wrote Johnny Depp’s name on a pebble and cast a spell on him for appearing in From Hell, and in-between making a couple of decent Tim Burton flicks, Depp played lead guitar and some bass on this throwaway alt-rock trifle. A supergroup of sorts (if you count Butthole Surfers frontman Gibby Haynes, a moonlighting Flea and Sex Pistol Steve Jones as “super”), 1995’s P gained some notoriety for their occasional gigs at L.A.’s Viper Room (which Depp co-owned at the time) and for their song “Michael Stipe,” which name-dropped River Phoenix and, legend has it, was the song the band happened to be playing on stage while Phoenix was dying on the Viper Room’s sidewalk in 1993. Two years later, Depp and Co. convinced Capitol Records to release their debut, which was met with the same muted enthusiasm as most of Depp’s mid-’90s films (did anyone out there actually see Nick of Time in a theater? Anyone?). Though indie label Caroline reissued the album in 2007 to cash in on Pirates sequel mania, Depp hasn’t made any music for public consumption since, save for his singing in Sweeney Todd. Seems like we all have Alan Moore to thank for that.
8) Alan Cumming, I Bought a Blue Car Today
?X2, Josie & the Pussycats and, er, Son of the Mask vet Alan Cumming is undoubtedly a multi-talented guy, and his portrayal of Nightcrawler was inspired and captivating (and these days, sorely missed). But in 2009, the Tony-winning actor must’ve been sick of hearing everyone praise fellow mutie/Broadway singing star Hugh Jackman, as I Bought a Blue Car Today could practically be subtitled “Hey, Hey, Look Over Here! Look Look Look!” Cumming seemed to be trying waaay too hard here, regurgitating a couple of the showtunes that made him famous, leapfrogging from electro to punk to theatrical pop, and tossing in a Cyndi Lauper cover, which, at the risk of sounding bigoted, ostensibly seems like an easy please for his multitude of gay fans. But hey, at least things like making albums distract him from actually appearing in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark (he was attached to play the Green Goblin) and making more of those weird cologne commercials).
7) Cesar Romero, Songs by a Latin Lover
?Most of the principle players of the ’60s Batman TV series had some flirtation with the music industry. While Eartha Kitt and Julie Newmar were actually accomplished vocalists, their co-stars weren’t nearly as lucky. In 1976, Adam West teamed with the tiny Target Records label to record a three-minute Batman episode set to the music of an ABBA knockoff; Frank Gorshin released a 45 in character as the Riddler (called…”The Riddler”); and MGM dragged teen idol Burt Ward into the studio for a couple of notoriously atrocious singles in 1966, conducted and arranged by a pre-fame Frank Zappa. But nearly a decade before refusing to shave his mustache to play the Joker, “Latin lover” leading man Cesar Romero cut an entire album of seductive, cinematic tunes, many of which sounded like this. Romero’s singing voice wasn’t too shabby, and we applaud him for (judging by the cover) telling Just For Men to fuck off, but we’d be far more excited for an entire album’s worth of this.
6) Clarissa and the Straitjackets (featuring Melissa Joan Hart), This Is What “Na Na” Means
?Melissa Joan Hart was already pretty much a beloved geek icon by the time she starred in Sabrina the Teenage Witch, thanks in no small part to the three years she put in on Nickelodeon’s Clarissa Explains It All. During those three years, Nick roped her into doing a lot of stupid crap, like recording this seven-song EP in character in ’94 as Clarissa that frustratingly never explains what “na na” actually means. The “profound” sentiments expressed on tracks such as “I Want a Car” and “Wishing for Rain” certainly don’t help matters (nor does the between-song banter of Clarissa and best friend Piper), but producer Rachel Sweet (composer of the Clarissa theme song) keeps things moving along briskly, and Hart doesn’t embarrass herself completely…though it’s easy to see why she enlisted pal Britney Spears to sing the theme to Drive Me Crazy a few years later. And least Joey Lawrence was nowhere to be found, right?
5) Ron Perlman, Of Love and Hope: Music and Poetry from Beauty & The Beast
?Before you get too excited, no, Hellboy himself didn’t make any effort to carry a tune on this 1990 soundtrack disc. But you get the next best thing: poetry read in character as Vincent (ya know, the beast). And oh, what dizzying prose it is; in case you couldn’t tell from titles like “Acquainted With the Night” and “Ode: Imitations of Immorality From Recollections of Early Childhood,” it’s pretty heavy-handed and completely preposterous stuff. But we give Perlman credit for not breaking character or cracking up once during the finished product (though we long for the outtakes… seriously, there has to be some “samophlange”-level hilarity in the vaults somewhere). This collection received a re-release in 2005 thanks to Rykodisc, but immediately fell back out of print, so you’re looking at dropping at least $40 for the type of bad poetry that can currently be enjoyed on a million Twilight message boards.
4) Helen Slater, One of These Days
?Though the Supergirl star hasn’t been seen on the big screen since 1994’s Lassie, she’s been making pleasant piano-jazz albums featuring her original compositions for the last eight years in between the occasional guest spot on TV. Her first stab, One of These Days, was recorded live in real time with no overdubs in 2003, but sadly does not include an homage to the Omegahedron. Of course, Slater will likely never escape her overzealous super-fans, judging by this particularly effusive Amazon album review: “She is the most incredible actress ever, and now she has made so much more inspiration through music as well! This album touches on so many simple things that one tends to overlook. It is amazing how clear she makes Sunday ice cream and apple pie so tender and melodic and professional!” So if you like jazzy numbers that make desserts on the Lord’s day “clear” and “tender,” this One’s for you.
3) John Wesley Shipp, Images
?Riding high on his Guiding Light daytime soap fame, the once and future Flash cranked out a pop album for the masses of “stories”-obsessed grandmothers and the unemployed who huddled around TV sets. It’s such a forgotten obscurity, no one’s even bothered to ask Shipp about it in interviews, though we have insane things on the Internet like the John Wesley Shipp Worship Site to preserve its legacy. Released on the tiny Jamie Records label in ’81 and endorsed by then-Guiding Light exec producer Douglas Marland (who certainly wasn’t biased at all), it’s a mostly somber, downtrodden affair, with songs like “Love Will Never Be the Same Without You,” “Learning to Live With a Heartache” and “I’m Picking Up the Pieces of My Life” dominating the proceedings. We’re sure if Shipp could’ve seen what the future held in terms of spandex and villains played by Luke Skywalker and Keith Partridge, he would’ve been far more upbeat.
2) John Schneider, Worth the Wait
?It’s not really a fair assessment of longtime Smallville dad John Schneider’s music career to act like we’re surprised he had one. This is a guy who had a Top 20 pop single in 1981 (a cover of “It’s Now or Never”) and numerous No. 1 country hits throughout the mid-’80s, even if most us at the time were tykes watching Dukes of Hazzard and completely unaware that Bo was having better luck on the charts than Waylon Jennings (recognition was also a factor, as most of Schneider’s album covers had him brandishing an impressive ‘stache that seemed to only grow between Dukes seasons). But after 1987’s You Ain’t Seen the Last of Me racked up only middling sales, Schneider took nearly a decade off from recording, returning clean shaven, born again, and in a Garth Brooks hat for 1996’s Worth the Wait, released on a label dubbed “FaithWorks.” Not surprisingly, Wait tanked and fell into its own private Phantom Zone. Pa Kent’s still at it these days, releasing music on his own label. Who knows? Maybe his next album will feature Tom Welling on cow bell.
1) Robert Downey Jr., The Futurist
?What’s a troubled star to do in the years between getting clean and reviving his career with a starring turn in Iron Man? Why, record an oddball vanity project, of course! Downey played some piano and wrote eight of the 10 tracks that appear on this jazz-folk hybrid (a Charlie Chaplin tune and half of a Yes cover round out the bunch). Even when sounding like a nasal Bruce Springsteen, Downey manages to not embarrass himself too much… though he certainly hasn’t been in the rush to issue a follow-up since the heavily promoted Futurist debuted at No. 121 on the Billboard chart its first week of release in 2004, a surprisingly grim figure given that no less than Oprah invited him on for a song or two. It just goes to show that people love to hear the quick-witted and self-effacing Downey talk about his struggles, but could care less when he’s singing about them. Fun fact: All four leads in the first Iron Man flick have gotten their “I wanna make an album” groove on; in addition to Downey and the aforementioned Jeff Bridges, Terrence Howard put out a justifiably ignored album in 2008, while a post-Country Strong Gwyneth Paltrow is at work on her first full-length effort. The movies were right: Everybody wants to be Tony Stark.