The track record of actors turned musicians is not a strong one. Eddie Murphy, Bruce Willis, Lindsay Lohan, Juliette Lewis — crap, all of it. It doesn’t seem to work the other way around, though. Plenty of musicians (especially rappers) make fine actors. I guess singing is already a form of acting, while the reverse isn’t true.
I mention this to point out why the success of She & Him is a very special achievement. Zooey Deschanel (Almost Famous, Elf, All the Real Girls) is the “she” in She & Him, while the “him” is alternative singer-songwriter M. Ward. But the band’s name is deceiving, because this is truly Deschanel’s work. She wrote all the original songs and sings every track, while Ward handles production and plays the guitar.
Deschanel doesn’t just break the actor curse, she shatters it. Anyone who enjoyed Elf (and who doesn’t enjoy Elf?) probably remembers her soulful renditions of ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ and ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town.’ Her voice is absolutely charming, the kind of laid-back swooning sound you hear in clips from the 1940s.
Her songwriting is quite solid as well — a mix of doo-wop, easy country and swing. Her tunes are so strong that the album’s weakest moments are two covers (‘You Really Got a Hold On Me’ and The Beatles’ ‘I Should Have Known Better’). It’s not that those songs aren’t great (on the contrary, they’re classics), but they break the unique mood she’s established with her own songs.
While I hope Deschanel’s success doesn’t give any ideas to other wannabe-singer actors, I’m definitely looking forward to Volume Two.