Scarlett Johansson
Anywhere I Lay My Head


2.0
poor

Review

by Nick Butler EMERITUS
May 20th, 2008 | 132 replies | 17,978 views


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Not quite the epic fail it could have been, but close.

If there's anyone in the world it's impossible to say no to, then it's surely Scarlett Johansson. After all, she's young, she's rich, as an actress she's clearly got a lot of talent, and she's strikingly attractive in a way that suggests she was designed rather than born. Men don't do well when confronted with women like that, as one Woody Allen will attest (seriously, he hasn't talked about a woman so much since that thing with his daughter). This, and this alone, is the reason that nobody involved - not Woody, not David Bowie, not David Sitek of TV on the Radio, not Nick Zinner of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, not anybody at Rhino Records, not her agent, not her friends, not Tom Waits himself - took the time to tell her that recording an album of Tom Waits covers is a really, really, REALLY fucking bad idea.

And a bad idea it most certainly has turned out to be. To be fair, this is not as bad as it could have been - the avoidance of obvious tracks like "Hang Down Your Head", "Time", "Downtown Train", "In The Neighborhood", "The Piano Has Been Drinking", "16 Shells From A Thirty-Ought-Six", and "Ol' 55" at least makes things interesting, and is probably the album's biggest strength. No, as far as song choice goes, she's plumped for a nice splattering of songs from throughout the second part of Waits' career, right up to "Fannin Street", a song from the recent Orphans compilation. Clearly she knows her stuff as far as his music goes, and she has passion for these songs, so no complaints there. In fact, for the duration of the opening "Fawn" (an instrumental), it seems like this might be quite a pleasant album.

And then she starts singing.

It might be a bit on the harsh side to say that Johansson cannot sing, but honestly, Nico sounds like Bonnie Tyler in comparison. Her voice has no natural power, her range is incredibly limited, and she sounds curiously emotionless throughout. It's obvious on a lot of these tracks that she's been multi-tracked to within an inch of her life, in a vain attempt to make it sound like she's competent. That leads to the album's second crucial problem - its production. Do a Google search for the title of this album and the first thing that appears is a news article mentioning 'My Bloody Valentine-esque multi-layered and reverb-heavy production' - and that's not because it's a tribute to noise pop and shoegaze, it's because Sitek is doing absolutely everything in his power to stop you noticing the deficiency of Johansson's vocals. It lands the album so squarely in dreamy pop territory that you're almost forced to recall Cocteau Twins, The Jesus & Mary Chain, and Enya - only this album isn't as good as any of those reference points. "Song For Jo", the album's one original song, is especially guilty of this, and when Johansson's vocal turn at last year's Coachella is considered, it just comes off as cynical.

So it's overproduced, it's frequently monotonous, and the vocals are barely competent. If you were wondering how these's songs stack up to the originals, there's your answer. The down-home, whiskey-soaked vibe that Waits is famous for has been lost, and with it has gone much of the meaning hard-wired into these songs - the worst offender on that count is "I Don't Wanna Grow Up", which loses all of its intended irony. With such ridiculous production values, the songs simply aren't given room to breathe where they need it, which explains why a return to the originals immediately after hearing Johansson's takes is so refreshing.

The thing that really crucifies this album, though, is that the whole exercise just seems so utterly pointless. Will Tom Waits fans buy and enjoy this? I seriously doubt it. Will fans of Scarlett Johansson's films buy and enjoy this? Probably not, and even if they do, they'll know it's a covers album and will abandon it as soon as they dig out the originals. General music lovers? They'll see it as a novelty item. People who'll buy anything with a celebrity's name on it? They'll hate it - it's too insular, too lofty, not catchy enough. So we're left with....people who like Tom Waits' songs but hate his voice? How much of a niche market are we talking here? Anywhere I Lay My Head is a vanity project made by Scarlett Johansson, for Scarlett Johansson, and what's more, it sounds suspiciously like a desperate cry for credibility from a woman who doesn't actually need any.



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user ratings (45)
Chart.
2.4
average
other reviews of this album
heavymetallover (4)
Anywhere I Lay My Head transcends the label given to it by marketing campaigns, namely the label of ...

SoCalPunk21 (2)
Scarlett Johansson deserves kudos for attempting to make an interesting art-rock record of Tom Waits...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Iai
Emeritus
May 20th 2008



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

in before the swam of 14 year old boys saying they'd still do her

charlesfishowitz
May 20th 2008



1794 Comments


what?!!


...she's too uggo for me.

*reading review

Edit: sweet review...would've really never pictured her to release an album though. especially a tom waits cover albumThis Message Edited On 05.20.08

unretrovertigofied
May 20th 2008



220 Comments


21 years old here,

Still shag her.

Nice review too.

Duderino
May 20th 2008



827 Comments


I'd still hit it

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
May 20th 2008



4927 Comments


great review Iai, I'm actually interested to hear this now, I haven't heard an almost epic fail since Anti-Flag

br3ad_man
Emeritus
May 20th 2008



2125 Comments


Word man, word.

sgrevs
May 20th 2008



698 Comments


Awesome review. I don't know if I should bother listening to this, I'm a big fan of Waits and Johansson but probably not when combined. I am interested to hear her singing voice though.

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
May 20th 2008



3766 Comments


Nico sounds like Bonnie Tyler in comparison


Hahaha, nicely done.

Digging: Interpol - El Pintor

brandtweathers
May 20th 2008



2007 Comments


well handled.
I don't think I could tell any actress of her stature that doing something like this (which at first glance seems to have a fair amount of integrity) would be a vain move
Probably going to listen to a track or two

Odal
May 20th 2008



350 Comments


/would hit it

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
May 20th 2008



3766 Comments


I don't think I could tell any actress of her stature that doing something like this (which at first glance seems to have a fair amount of integrity) would be a vain move


*shrug*, its all part of celebrity. It dosn't matter what you do, just that do it. And then it gets reviews on our lovely little music community and people go OOhh Ahhh ANGER JOY HAPPY RAGE. She'll be writing children's books next and all people will see is Scarlet Johansson and be dazed by her celebritypower.

dub sean
May 20th 2008



980 Comments


I'm not surprised, but daaaaaayuum she is banging.

Burn2Burn
May 20th 2008



2378 Comments


recording an album of Tom Waits covers is a really, really, REALLY fucking bad idea.

haha, sweet.

Falling down is quite the colossal mess. Good review, too.

Doppelganger
May 20th 2008



3124 Comments


the concept of anyone doing an album full of Tom Waits covers enrages me

Time
May 20th 2008



81 Comments


Great review. The one song I've heard is not good at all. It pisses me off whenever I hear something about this being Scarlett Johansson's "original" debut album, but no mention of Tom Waits. Whatever, the people who like this probably wouldn't like Waits anyways.

foreverendeared
May 20th 2008



14678 Comments


this truly saddens me...... not the review though, that part was great

HeadCharge123
May 20th 2008



475 Comments


she fit (:

Altmer
May 20th 2008



5652 Comments


Monstrous review Mr Iai.

The Jungler
May 20th 2008



4827 Comments


really fantastic review. I don't have any Tom Waits whatsoever, but I'd definitely be interested in hearing the original on here, (especially is Sitek is producing) even if its terrible.
This Message Edited On 05.20.08

Big Baby Jesus
May 20th 2008



549 Comments


Dammit. I wanted EPIC FAIL.

It's probably as bad as I would imagine it to me. I'll definitely be listening to a couple songs, but not the entire album, as I am currently listening to every Death CD ever made, ever.



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