Smile Politely

Terrence Howard is a Ridiculous Person

I would like to first admit that I didn’t hate the tracks I heard from Scarlett Johansson’s all-Tom Waits cover album, Anywhere I Lay My Head. Maybe it was the pure novelty of it, or maybe the pretty decent arrangements done by TV on the Radio’s David Andrew Sitek or maybe even the fact that Scarlett doesn’t have very good of a voice. Whatever it was, I found it pretty enjoyable.

That being said, I have an interest in movie stars wanting to totally embarrass themselves by attempting to be serious musicians. From the classic “Extravaganza” by Jamie Foxx (jump to 0: 52 to hear one of the best choruses ever penned) to the even more classic “Weight of a Man” by Russell Crowe to the quintessentially classic “Party All the Time”by Eddie Murphy, I love them all.

The latest to make the jump from big screen success to relative musical obscurity is Hustle N’ Flow’s Terrence Howard. Sure we’ve heard him rap, but Howard’s debut album, Shine Through It, shows us a sensitive, acoustic guitar-driven side we’ve never seen before. Yes, the man who once said “If they’re using dry paper, they aren’t washing all of themselves…If I go in a woman’s house and see the toilet paper there, I’ll explain this. And if she doesn’t make the adjustment to baby wipes, I’ll know she’s not completely clean,” has a sensitive side.

Drawing inspiration from artists like James Taylor and Howard’s personal favorite, Bread, the actor’s music is both inspiring and utterly boring. Debuting at the 31 spot on the Billboard 200, Shine Through It is one of those albums that’s definitively bad, but in a way that’s hard to articulate. It could be the overproduction or Howard’s uncomfortably thin falsetto, whatever it is makes the album not even funny to listen to. I think the reason is that you can hear in every note sung and strummed that he is taking himself way too seriously. Howard is so serious that you can’t even laugh at his seriousness. He’s like the guy that tries too hard in a pickup game of basketball—ruins it for everyone. Even though Howard may have trace amounts of talent, I’d listen to Paris Hilton’s “Stars Are Blind” over anything off of Shine Through It any day.

I would, however, like to be wowed by one of these crossover attempts. I hope that one day Josh Hartnett puts out a mind-melting soul record or Carlos Mencia releases a Josh Grobin-esque pop opera album.

In recent memory, a couple lower-tier celebrities have made some interesting music. Notably, Zooey Deschanel (the woman who looks concerned in The Happening) put out an album with M. Ward under the name She & Him that wasn’t so horrible. I’m also looking forward to a future release from “The Long Goodbye”:; an interesting twee project by Michael Cera ( Arrested Development , Juno) and Clark Duke ( Greek ).

Renaissance men are great, but impostors are the worst. I think that if you’re good at something you should stick with it. You shouldn’t try and be good at a whole lot of things just for the sake of letting everyone know all the things you’re good at. Terrence Howard, I’m glad you can express yourself through music, just don’t let us know about it.

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