Because James Franco is a thoroughly post-modern, mess-with-your-head, Andy Kaufman sort of celebrity — an inexhaustible actor, writer, filmmaker, academic and creator of “invisible art” — his first foray into music was bound to be weird. Sure enough, Franco has given us Turn It Up, out this week on DJ/ rupture’s Dutty Artz label. The three-song EP pairs Franco with performance artist and sometime drag queen Kalup Linzy, and as the bananas video for the single “Rising” attests, their sound is inspirational lover-man synth-pop.
While Turn It Up may be Franco’s commentary on actors dabbling in music — a phenomenon that’s given us unmemorable records by Bruce Willis, Russell Crowe and Billy Bob Thornton, among others — some movie stars have actually made quality albums. Here’s five actors who might legitimately consider quitting their day jobs.
1. Ryan Gosling
By rights, the 2008 self-titled debut by Gosling’s Dead Man’s Bones should have been a disaster. Working with friend Zach Shields, the Half Nelson star originally intended to write a musical about ghosts. In the end, Gosling and Shields decided to make a gothy folk-pop record, enlisting the Silverlake Conservatory Children’s Choir, an organization formed by Flea, to sing backup. Somehow, the whole thing worked, and the duo is reportedly working on a follow-up. [Watch here.]
2. Jason Schwartzman
In 1998 Schwartzman made both his cinematic and musical debuts, portraying Max Fischer in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore and drumming on the first album by L.A. power-pop band Phantom Planet. While Phantom Planet Is Missing was a flop, the group’s 2002 second try, The Guest, proved a hit, thanks in part to “California,” which became the theme song for The O.C. Schwartzman left Phantom Planet during the recording of 2004’s self-titled third album, but he wasn’t done with music. He returned in 2006 as Coconut Records, a solo showcase for his smart, tuneful indie-pop. [Watch here.]
3. Jena Malone
The Shoe isn’t just the name of Malone’s quirky folk-pop partnership with pianist Lem Jay Ignacio — it’s a musical contraption housed in an old steamer trunk that the Sucker Punch actress invented herself and plays onstage. The band recorded an EP, At Lem Jay’s Garage, in 2008, and a full-length is due out later this year. Watch as the duo gets down with dioramas in the video for “Raccoon.” [Watch here.]
4. Donald Glover
The second-hardest working man in showbiz after James Franco, Glover appears on the comedy series Community, tours the country as a stand-up comic, performs as part of the Derrick Comedy sketch troupe, and makes music as Childish Gambino, his hip-hop alter ago. He’s also written for 30 Rock and The Daily Show, and while he’s perhaps best known for his comedy, he’s not worried about being seen as a novelty rapper. “It’s kind of a good thing, because people expect it not to be good,” he recently told Hive. “I feel like, when you listen to a 50 Cent record, you’re not going to be like, “Okay, are there going to be some big jokes? What’s the silliness value of this 50 Cent record?” But things like Lil B or Odd Future or Das Racist – those are groups where you have to take every line like they come. Some things are serious and some aren’t, and I would like to be in the same genre they are.” [Watch here.]
Born of hip blood to English actress Jane Birkin and the legendarily lecherous French singer-actor-poet Serge Gainsbourg, Charlotte Gainsbourg first dabbled in music in the mid-‘80s, when the then-teenager dueted with her dad on the tune “Lemon Incest.” She recorded a full-length album in 1986, but as her film career took off, she put music on the back burner. It wasn’t until 2006, after she’d appeared in such films as I’m Not There and The Science of Sleep, that she dropped her sophomore effort, 5:55. A traumatic head injury inspired the follow-up, 2009’s IRM, which was produced by Beck. Gainsbourg isn’t the world’s most expressive vocalist, but she sings with the detached cool that’s hers by birthright. [Watch here.]