Sing It Hasselhoff: Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson Break Up

by Dakin Hardwick on August 26, 2009


The happy couple before Ryan Reynolds tore them apart...

Last year, Scarlett Johansson released a record called Anywhere I Lay My Head, a moody collection of Tom Waits songs arranged by David Sitek. He put together a band consisting of members of TV On The Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, and the Celebration.  Reviews were very mixed, but I enjoyed the record a great deal.  The record has its fans, but in the end was a bit of a flop.  I don’t think anybody expected her to put something out again, especially so quickly.

So, on September 8th, record stores and your local web delivery service are going to have a record available called Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson Break Up. Upon researching this album, it looks like it was completed in 2006, but was shelved at the time. Pete Yorn has already put out a record this summer, so it looks like Scarlett’s label decided to piggy back on whatever hype may be surrounding that record.

The album opens up with a track called “Relator,” which is a driving country rock song. It feels like a rejected song from Jenny Lewis’ Acid Tongue. Instead of playing the bored diva, as she did on her solo record, she is trying to emulate the jazzy twang of fellow indie-cinema darling/pop singer Zooey Deschanel.

The next track is a song called “Wear and Tear.” This is a Pete Yorn song. Scarlett shows up on harmony vocals during the chorus, and is given a short refrain 2/3 of the way through the song, and her real voice is buried underneath enough effects to make T-Pain cringe. It wouldn’t be a bad song as a Pete Yorn album cut, but it’s not a duet.

The rest of the record strives to be a Graham Parsons/Emmylou Harris-esque collection of 70’s country-rock ballads. Yorn knows how to write a catchy song, but most of it feels distant, as if he’s writing to fulfill a quota, not from his heart. Many of the characters feel like they are derivative of characters from other songs. “Blackie’s Dead” sounds like he took Jenny Lewis’ “Jack Killed Mom” and tamed it down a couple notches.

In fact, the strongest song on the record is a cover of Chris Bell’s “I Am The Cosmos,” which has the dark sense of Anywhere I Lay My Head and lacks any vocals from Yorn, allowing Johansson to sing in her normal range, which is deep and breathy. She sing-speaks, and it’s a very effective interpretation of the song.

The next strongest track is the 2nd to last song, called “Clean.” It reminds me of Alanis Morissette’s more recent work, very sparse & dissonant, with flourishes of electronica and world beat mixed with gentle acoustic guitar. The song perpetually feels like it’s going to break into something loud, but it never does. It also one of the few songs where Yorn & Johansson don’t ever sing together, instead it feels like a break-up ballad where neither party wants to try to make it work.

The album closes with a song called “Someday.” It’s the 9th track, and at 4:10, is the longest track on the album by a minute and a half.  It’s a major key ballad, and it has an optimistic sense to it, despite having some awfully pessimistic lyrics, repeating the line “I cannot trust you this time” several times over. This song is also missing quite a bit of Johansson, as if the one he cannot trust is his duet partner.

I don’t think Johannson should give up on music.  This record isn’t bad, per se, but I don’t feel that these two blend very well together.  I’d really like her to further explore the dark experimentation of her work with David Sitek, and even a full scale duets record with TVOTR’s Tunde Adebimpe could be great, but this album doesn’t seem to play to the strengths of either party.  If you want to hear a great record by a beautiful actress with a great voice working with a great singer-songwriter, you should bypass this album and pick up She & Him’s Volume 1, if you haven’t already, and let this one go for now.

Songs To Download: I Am The Cosmos, Clean

Low Point: This may be the leading cause of layoffs at Atco & Rhino this year.

Score On The Hasselhoff Scale: Some residents of Germany will claim they enjoy it, but only because if they don’t like it, it may ruin their chances of bedding the celebrity.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Caroline August 26, 2009 at 6:34 pm

I think she should give it up altogether.


stella September 2, 2009 at 9:22 am

i think the record is great


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