Scarlett Johansson is undoubtedly young and lovely, a radiant movie star with nearly three dozen films to her credit. But if she can sing, she doesn't show it on her debut album.
A collection of Tom Waits covers, "Anywhere I Lay My Head" would have been a tricky record for even an experienced musician to make. Johansson is not an experienced musician. She was offered the opportunity after a recording a Gershwin song for a benefit album.
She ambitiously set out to remake 10 Waits tunes, but fans of his guttural voice and industrial sound will likely be disappointed by the results.
Johansson's vocals are blurred with so much production that it could be any movie star behind the microphone. Worse, though, is her emotionless delivery of Waits' poetic lyrics. She sucks the sadness right out of the title track, making its woeful "I don't need anybody because I've learned to be alone" into a throwaway line.
The 23-year-old isn't even convincing on "I Don't Want to Grow Up," a song energetically covered by the Ramones in 1995. (Note to Scarlett: whispering lyrics does not make them compelling.)
Musically the album is a mixed bag. The title track sounds like it was preprogrammed on a department-store keyboard. Other songs, though, have more interesting stylings, such as the music-box introduction to "I Wish I Was in New Orleans" and the Waits-ian clang on "Green Grass." David Bowie also lends his vocals to two tracks.
But none of it is enough to save Johansson's voice or convince listeners that this is more than a vanity project.
CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: The only original tune on the album, "Song for Jo" is a haunting, acoustic guitar-driven track that accommodates Johansson's overproduced vocals and inspires no comparisons to a musical heavyweight like Waits.
By Sandy Cohen