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The 411 Music Top 5 01.29.13: The Top 5 Actor-Musicians

January 29, 2013 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas


NOTE: For my criteria, the artist had to have significant work in both music and acting; in other words, not just a novelty album or a cameo. (Broadway work doesn’t count as music in this one particular set of criteria.) My rankings take into consideration both their music and acting work, with a more weight to music than to acting.

Honorable Mention: Donald Glover, Queen Latifah, Justin Timberlake, Will Smith

5. Jennifer Hudson

Jennifer Hudson’s elimination has to be considered the worst decision ever to happen on American Idol…at least, until they cast Nicki Minaj. How many reality show cast-offs do you know that could turn right around and win an Oscar within three years for a musical singing role? To this day, Simon Cowell probably wakes up in a cold sweat having had nightmares about that elimination. Hudson has been incredibly smart both as a singer and an actress, waiting a decent amount of time before releasing a new album so as not to flood the market while taking only those roles that interest her, as opposed to for a paycheck (We’ll assume that Three Stooges was a case of temporary insanity.) Hudson has won a Grammy and an Oscar, putting her halfway to to joining the incredibly rare company of EGOT winners; a recurring role on Smash this season could conceivably get her one step closer.

4. Ice-T

Ice-T is probably the most prominent example of a rapper who acts. Yes, Will Smith is obviously more of an A-lister than Ice, but Smith also feels like an actor who used to rap, and sometimes does it again just because he’s bored. Ice has always felt like someone who is interested in doing both and whether he’s copping it up in his twelve years-and-counting stint as Fin on Law & Order, directing and producing work like his 2012 documentary Something From Nothing: The Art Of Rap or even appearing on his terrible reality show Ice Loves Coco, you never forget that he’s got his feet planted firmly in both worlds with no inclination to stop doing either. And unlike Ice Cube, his acting career hasn’t downward spiralled into half-assed family fare.

3. Jared Leto

I’ve always really wanted to hate 30 Seconds to Mars. As a rule I dislike actors who think they can turn out music careers just because they’re stars (I’m looking at you two, Keanu Reeves and Russell Crowe) and Leto’s alt-rock band strongly gives that impression when you first hear about them. The problem is that they’re just so damned enjoyable to listen to. I’ve tried to successively dislike all three of the Requiem for a Dream star’s LPs–their self-titled debut, A Beautiful Lie and This is War–before I finally gave up. Yes, Leto is a pretty boy who is a bit too full of himself, and yes 30 Seconds to Mars contains the trappings of the emo bands I generally despise. But I dig his work both as an actor and a rocker.

2. David Bowie

David Bowie’s music always had a strong element of the theatrical to it, so there probably shouldn’t have been much surprise that he ended up crossing over. In truth, Bowie was beginning his acting career before he broke through and became a musical star. He studied avant-garde theater under famed mime artist Lindsay Kemp and appeared in Kemp’s 1967 theatrical production Pierrot in Turquoise and appeared in a short film in 1969. His more well-known acting career kicked off in 1976 with The Man Who Fell To Earth and from that point forward Bowie was a double-threat. Whether adopting the Ziggy Stardust stage persona or playing Jareth in Labryinth, Bowie has channeled his intense charisma and artistic spirit in a variety of ways, and we can imagine he will continue to do so for quite some time. Also…if you don’t like “Magic Dance” (as seen below), it is possible that you don’t have a soul. Just sayin’.

1. Frank Sinatra

There are a lot of singers who can act, and a lot of actors who can sing. There are a very few who are singer/actors, and those that do follow the path that Frank Sinatra blazed. The leader of the Rat Pack created some of the most iconic music of the twentieth century and established an equally-iconic presence in film, so much so that actors and musicians from all walks of life have tried to emulate him. To be frank and to put it bluntly, anyone who attempts to cross over from one form of media to the other not only has Sinatra to thank, but will probably remain (as a singer/actor combo, at least) forever in his shadow. He is the prototypical double threat.

The Final Word
As always, the last thoughts come from you, the reader. We’re merely unpaid monkeys with typewriters and Wikipedia. Here’s what you need to do: List your Top Five for this week’s topic on the comment section using the following format:

5. Artist – “Song”: Why you chose it
4. Artist – “Song”: Why you chose it
3. Artist – “Song”: Why you chose it
2. Artist – “Song”: Why you chose it
1. Artist – “Song”: Why you chose it

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Jeremy Thomas
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