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Actors who can sing ó and some who can’t

By Sean Daly
St. Petersburg Times
Gwyneth Paltrow is getting beat up pretty dang good for her new movie ěCountry Strong,î about an alcoholic Nashville warbler struggling to stay on the charts. Although the flick flatlined, her vocals proved surprisingly decent, an effervescent midrange coo she also loosed in 2000ís ěDuetsî and on TVís ěGlee,î where she played Holly Holiday, a role she’ll reprise this spring.
Of course, Paltrow is a member of a rather rare group: actors who can sing well. Alas, a much larger demographic is actors who can sing well enough to make cats explode. Herewith, some of the best and worst thespians-turned-golden throats, with a special place reserved our all-time king of pleasurable pain.
The good
Jamie Foxx: Granted, the fast-talkiní comedian sounds better as Ray Charles than as himself. Nevertheless, the Oscar winnerís champagne-room vibe helps sells his smooth R&B bangers.
Neil Patrick Harris: It doesn’t matter if he’s the belt-it-out host of every other awards show or slaying us as Bryan ěDream Onî Ryan on ěGlee,î NPH is our No. 1 man crush. His top pop moment? A hilariously sobby end-credit version of ěCatís in the Cradleî on ěHow I Met Your Mother.î
Jennifer Lopez: Yes, Jenny From the Block makes for tabloid fodder. And her upcoming ěAmerican Idolî stint has bustaroo written all over it. But time travel to certain clubs on a Saturday night circa ë97, and you’ll find a mass grind-a-thon to the Latina heat of ěWaiting for Tonight.î
Other good actor-singers? Richard Harris, Vanessa Hudgens, David Soul and Lee Majors. (You know: ě’Cause Iím the unknown stuntman that makes Eastwood look so fine…î).
The Bad
Bruce Willis: Remember the ripe, faux-blues awfulness that was the 1987 hit ěRespect Yourselfî? Bruceís desire to caterwaul was the second-worst case of a vainglorious Hollywood actor doing whatever he flippiní pleased.
David Hasselhoff: There are large groups of people (namely, Germany) who will disagree with our disparaging of the Hoff. But if youíve ever YouTubed one of his classics ó try ěJump in My Carî óyouíll be aghast at how the Hoff has no problem sullying the planet with his aural badness.
Eddie Murphy: The fact that I have 1985ís ěParty All the Timeî on my iPod (itís a Rick James thing, OK?) does not excuse Eddie from being No. 1 on our Hollywood all-ego team. He was a brilliant comedian, and we still root for a comeback. But Edís desire to dominate in all facets of entertainment was the very height of fame-hungry sliminess.
Other bad actor-singers? Leonard Nimoy, Jack Wagner, Don Johnson and Patrick Swayze. (Oh, come on. ěShe’s Like the Windî stinks!)
Itís hard to put William Shatner in either category. After all, his 1968 rendition of ěMr. Tambourine Manî is so bad itís actually good ó well, ěgoodî if you enjoy overwrought, hamtastic spoken-word readings that make you shoot milk out of your nose.
Sean Daly can be reached at sdaly@sptimes.com.

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