Scarlett Johansson is a brilliant, stunning, gifted actress. Definitely more than just a pretty face, she also has an amazing, timeless voice. I have long since been a fan of Scarlett Johansson – from the first time I saw Ghost World and even more so when I saw her in the films Lost in Translation and Love Song for Bobby Long. She’s been in several enjoyable, well acted movies. However, as a long time fan, I was recently surprised to learn she put out an album with talented singer/songwriter Pete Yorn, titled Break Up, just over three months ago. Even more surprising - Break Up is her second album. Although it was recorded in 2006, two years before her debut album was released, Break Up didn’t make its way to listeners’ ears until 2009.
I had no idea Scarlett Johansson has such lovely chops! Up until two weeks ago I had only heard her singing twice before, once performing a bit of karaoke with Bill Murray in Lost in Translation and again in The Other Boleyn Girl when forced to sing by Queen Katherine of Aragon. I hate to say, but neither performance - although not terrible - led me to believe she would be releasing albums of her own.
Anywhere I Lay My Head is Scarlett Johansson’s debut studio album. Released in 2008, the album contains twelve Tom Waits covers (if purchased from iTunes, otherwise just ten) and one original track written by Scarlett Johansson and David Sitek of TV On The Radio (Sitek also produced the album). Also, David Bowie, members of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s and Celebration are featured on the album. Her voice, far from typical, gives a rustic, emotional, feminine spin on classic Tom Waits songs. She is beyond imitating as she makes each track her own in a way that makes the listener think that these aren’t randomly chosen, but songs carefully selected with thought and admiration. Listening to the covers, I could tell Scarlett has been singing along with them for years. The passion in these songs is evident. The way they are sung make it obvious that she really understands and has an intense affinity for them.
Break Up first came to fruition when Pete Yorn, after suffering a bout of insomnia, had a dream about recording an album with Scarlett Johansson. The album is meant to be reminiscent of Brigitte Bardot and Serge Gainsbourg, without “sounding” the same. It is compiled of eight conceptual tracks “reenacting the tempestuous course of a love affair on the rocks” from start to finish, according to Break Up’s website. In the song “I Don’t Know What to Do” Scarlett offers a very sensual, believable performance. The chemistry she has with Pete Yorn, when watching their live performances and videos, is completely mesmerizing. After seeing their dynamic performance of “Relator” on The Ellen DeGeneres Show I had to purchase the vinyl (and her solo album) for myself. On Ellen’s web exclusive they also sang the song “Shampoo” and have performed “Relator” on Live with Regis and Kelly and The Interface. This duo has quickly risen to the top of my favorites and I can’t seem to get enough of the two performing together on YouTube. There is a must-see interview of Scarlett and Pete with Ellen where Scarlett and Ellen sing a bit of Salt-N-Pepa’s “Shoop” together. Ellen sings most of it alone, but it’s seriously awesome!
Other musical performances by Scarlett include “Freedom! ‘90” with Alicia Keys and “Just Like Honey” performed at the Coachella Festival with The Jesus and Marychain. Both performances can be viewed on You Tube. She sings an enchanting version of the song “Summertime” for track one of the album Unexpected Dreams – Songs from the Stars, accompanied by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. The soundtrack of He’s Just Not That Into You, has Scarlett doing a sweet rendition of Jeff Buckley’s “Last Goodbye.”