So, You Think You Can Sing?: Actors Who’ve Dabbled in Music (Some Good, Some Not So Much)
Zooey Deschanel, Lindsay Lohan, Bruce Willis and Scarlett Johansson… want to know what they all have in common? They all attempted that rocky transition from actor to singer, some conquering this territory with success, but many failing spectacularly. The urge for actors to test their talents in other realms is an understandable one. It makes sense that if you’re celebrated for talents in one area, you surmise that you have what it takes to flourish in other arenas. The aforementioned actors are just a shortlist of individuals who’ve attempted the crossover, read on to find out which African American singers have dabbled into singing.
Howard’s performance as an actor and rapper in the acclaimed film Hustle & Flow earned him an Academy Award nomination and recognition for his…well, flow. He followed the film with the release of his first studio album, Shine Through It –which presents music that is far different than what’s featured in the film. Most often described as experimental, the album features soft-rock, R&B and soul sounds.
Malcolm Jamal Warner
The actor formally known as Theo, Warner is known for more than his acting roles, but also for his passion for music. He is a bass player, a member of a jazz/funk band called Miles Long, and the former co-owner of a record label called The Wonder Factor. He’s had two albums to date, The Miles Long Mixtape and Love & Other Social Issues.
It’s no big surprise that Jamie Foxx loves to sing, evident by the fact that half of each episode of the Jamie Foxx Show showcased him serenading someone or singing a jingle. But, what may be a surprise to some is that the successful comedian/actor/singer-songwriter has actual chops as a singer. He’s a Grammy Award winning artist, who’s had four albums: Peep This, Unpredictable, Intuition and Best Night of My Life.
An actor who’s known equally for his comedy, career oriented cross-dressing and controversial home life, Murphy also tried his hand at music. He provided background vocals for The Bus Boys, as well as releasing his own song. Murphy produced two hit singles, “Party All the Time” and “Put Your Mouth on Me.” He’s recorded five albums.
Lopez began her career as a Fly Girl dancer on In Living Single before transitioning to acting and singing. She released her debut album On the 6 in 1999 before gaining incredible success as a singer, performer and actress. She has seven studio albums.
King of family-style comedy due to the beloved Cosby Show, Cosby is also a celebrated musician, best known as a jazz drummer, as well as a bass guitarist. He’s performed alongside Jerry Lewis and Sammy Davis Jr., producing more than a dozen music albums, and he has an Honorary Doctor of Music degree from Berklee.
Will Smith & Jada Pinkett Smith
The entire Smith family is comprised of talented individuals. Everyone, even the 12-year-old Willow Smith has experimented with music. Though Will was technically a rapper first, he didn’t gain a huge following until after his appearance on the wildly popular television show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The Grammy award winning performer released five albums with DJ Jazzy Jeff and four solo albums, simultaneously becoming a huge box office draw in Hollywood. And, Jada Pinkett went into music under the stage name Jada Koren, forming the metal band Wicked Wisdom in 2002. Her band’s self-titled debut album was released in early 2006.
Taraji P. Henson
Henson made several television and film appearances before starring as Shug in Hustle & Flow, where she lent her vocals to the Academy Award winning song “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp.” She then performed the song live with Three 6 Mafia at the Oscars in 2006. Also, she performed “In My Daughter’s Eyes” on a charity album.
Norwood began her acting career around the same time she began her singing career, appearing on the short-lived show Thea in the same year that she signed a recording contract with Atlantic Records. Her self-titled debut album peaked on the Billboard charts, and three years later, she held the lead role on the show Moesha. Norwood has released six albums to date, and has sold over 30 million records worldwide.
Pratt, best known for her role of Breanna Barnes on the series One on One, often expressed her interest to sing through that character. Pratt performed a cover of “Circle of Life,” which appeared on the DisneyMania 2 album. She sang “It’s All About Me” for The Proud Family soundtrack, and “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes” alongside other Disney Channel Stars.
Palmer began her acting career with a stage production of The Lion King, and was chosen for a minor role in the film Barbershop 2. This lead to her and her family moving to California, where Palmer participated in American Juniors, a spin-off of American Idol. In 2005, Palmer signed a record deal with Atlantic Records. She sang the songs, “It’s My Turn Now” and “Jumpin,” which were featured in Jump In! Palmer has had two album, So Uncool and Keke Palmer, and also two mixtapes.