ORANGE Music Roundup: Best Actor-to-Musician Transitions

Being a successful actor sounds like a dream come true for most people, but some of them still aren’t satisfied. Not willing to be confined to one career path, they try their hand at music. Some of the results are good — and some, not so much. Because the success rate is so spotty, the ORANGE Music Section is celebrating actors who can cross the threshold and make convincing, respectable music.

Tess Cagle – Robert Schwartzman (Rooney)

Were you really a true tween in the early 2000s if you didn’t gush over Robert Schwartzman in “The Princess Diaries?” He was the epitome of dreamy as Anne Hathaway’s love interest, Michael Moscovitz, who played in a rock band and gave us ridiculously high hopes for men when he sent Mia that pizza with “I’m sorry” written out in M&Ms. Luckily for us, he didn’t go away — he pursued his music career with the band Rooney, who slightly update the sound of the British Invasion. The band gained minor traction with their  2003 debut and support slots for Weezer and the Strokes, but their best-known song is “When Did Your Heart Go Missing?” off their sophomore album, 2007’s “Calling the World.” The band hasn’t received much buzz lately, but with a new album set for May, I have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of Shwartzman yet.

Ignacio Martinez — Macaulay Culkin (The Pizza Underground)

The most packed show I saw at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2014 was not Neutral Milk Hotel’s out-of-nowhere headlining set or the Death from Above 1979’s reunion. Instead, it was a show for a pizza-themed, Velvet Underground cover band fronted by the now-grown-up child star of the “Home Alone” movies, Macaulay Culkin. As I squeezed through the venue doors and the anticipating crowd, the air reeked potently of pizza. The other members, clad in sunglasses and using pizza boxes as tambourines, took the stage, but Culkin was nowhere to be seen. Finally, somebody carrying a ghostly, long-haired man à la “Weekend at Bernie’s” appeared from backstage and propped the man up against the microphone, as he performed the entire opening song in this way. Immediately after, Culkin sprang to life and proceeded to perform one of the most electrifying, sincere and downright fun sets I’ve ever witnessed.

Armando Maese — Eddie Murphy

I initially found out about Eddie Murphy through him dressing up as a piece of broccoli in “Daddy Day Care,” but my strange obsession with VH1 pop culture shows at an early age showed me that Eddie Murphy was also an unstoppable force in the ‘80s.  I don’t want to focus on the multiple box office successes he had in this time period, because he also had a hit single with none other than Rick James. “Party All The Time” is an absolute classic.  It has just the right amount of cheese and a relentlessly catchy synthesizer hook that will not get out of your head no matter how hard you try.  Still, Murphy’s vocals were obviously the star of the show, and he proved to be a surprisingly capable (if limited) singer.  It’s a shame that his music career faded away as quickly as “The Adventures of Pluto Nash” disappeared from theaters.

Kristin Evans — Michael Cera

Michael Cera is best known for being the awkward sidekick and the occasional meme. After his performances on the “Juno” soundtrack and Weezer’s “Hurley,” it was obvious that he could sing and play guitar, but I don’t think anyone expected him to make his way into the music industry. In a way, though, Cera never really did make the move. Instead, he released his debut album, “true that,” on Bandcamp without a hint of promotion. Cera’s songs are short, sweet, indie-folk tunes. The 21 tracks show off his talent and versatility, as Cera wrote (save for two covers), recorded and mixed the entire album in his home.  Perhaps the best summary of Cera’s approach to his music career is one of the seven tags on his Bandcamp page: “modest.”

Kaitlin Reid — Drake

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I’m not really sure why this is even up for debate. Aubrey Drake Graham began his celebrity career as the wheelchair-bound Jimmy Brooks in teen drama “Degrassi” — aka the “bottom” — and has now skyrocketed to “here” — a place where he boasts a streak of No. 1 albums, several Top 10 singles and even a Grammy for Best Rap Album. He is consistently regarded as one of the greatest rappers of the 21st century and continues to find success on the music charts and in pop culture. (Between “Degrassi” and smash single “Hotline Bling,” he is the king of memes). Although many diehard “Degrassi” fans may miss watching Jimmy’s story unfold, I think it’s fair to say the rest of us feel #blessed Drake decided to pursue a music career instead.

Amy Fennie — Zooey Deschanel (She & Him)

I first fell in love with Zooey Deschanel as Will Ferrell’s co-worker and love interest in “Elf,” who sang a delightful version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” in the restroom and freaked out when Ferrell snuck inside to duet with her.  That was when the world first discovered Deschanel had a serious set of pipes. In 2008, she and singer-songwriter M. Ward formed the indie duo She & Him, and fans got to hear more of her breathy, jazzy voice. Deschanel has managed to combine the singing and acting worlds by lending her voice to the beloved indie flick “(500) Days of Summer” and the theme song for her TV show, “New Girl.” Between her delightfully quirky voice and her role as one of the most lovable characters on television, it’s hard to deny Deschanel’s overwhelming charm.

Bryan Rolli — Donald Glover (Childish Gambino)

I love Donald Glover, but he really pisses me off. He gave the world its first taste of his brilliance at 21 when he started writing for “30 Rock.” Then he joined the cast of “Community” as the douchey ex-football star turned team player Troy Barnes, helping to make the show’s first two seasons some of the smartest and funniest content to ever grace a television screen. But of course, he jumped ship midway through season five (and trust me, we all felt the absence) to pursue his concurrent musical career under the alias Childish Gambino. He funneled his experience on TV and wealth of pop culture knowledge into his lyrics over the course of two full-length albums, proving to be a razor-sharp lyricists and adept MC, despite what the critics said at the time. His sophomore album, 2013’s “Because the Internet,” was a concept album dealing with the internet’s power to connect the entire world and eliminate any sort of rules or barriers to entry. Long story short, it was brilliant, and it left me craving a proper follow-up. But after a joint-release EP and mixtape in 2014, Glover seemed to pull the plug on his alter ego, saying, “I feel like Childish Gambino is a period that should come to a close.” Since then, he’s been hard at work on a new television series, “Atlanta,” and no doubt dabbling in other projects. Glover is one of the most multitalented artists alive, and anything he does is sure to impress. Still, I’ll always miss Gambino. But given his penchant for reinvention, he might return someday.