Lindsay Lohan did it; no one liked it. Heroes’ Hayden Panettiere tried, and no one cared. Now, Gossip Girl’s Leighton Meester is going where other actresses should have feared to tread, but sadly didn’t: A single from her upcoming album got leaked to Perez Hilton, and surprise, surprise, it reeks. History has proven that it’s nearly impossible for young, up-and-coming actresses to add “singer” to their résumés, so we can’t figure out why these kids keep aiming for cross-genre superstardom when they’ve barely got a foothold in their first career. Is getting to hang out with the dude who works the Pro Tools software really worth diluting your budding, buzz-worthy brand?
Singers turned actresses have a decent (or at least trophy-littered) track record: Barbra and Madonna — well, in Desperately Seeking Susan at least — earned accolades, and, more recently, Jennifer Hudson won an Oscar almost entirely because of her powerful voice. Beyoncé finally even got herself nominated for a Golden Globe by playing Etta James (though we’re sure the wig and that brave mild weight-gain helped). Therein may lie the key: Great singers are often great, in part, because with every note they’re playing a role, even if that role is just “girl who feels quite strongly that you should have put a ring on it.” With the right movie part, one that’s close enough to their pop-star persona, the rest can fall into place. But flip the hyphenate the other way and it’s hard to find as many happy endings — maybe because an ability to cry on cue when your TV boyfriend gets hooked on opiates and Thai hookers doesn’t translate to singing prowess, no matter what your high-school drama teacher told you.
Ergo, the output of most actress turned singer hyphenates winds up being kind of embarrassing, often in a way that’s harder to overcome than a sex tape or a boyfriend with an awkward fondness for fraud. Emmy Rossum hasn’t done much since dropping her Enya-lite album, possibly because it was hard to take her seriously after seeing the music video where she ran through traffic in a prom dress. High School Musical’s Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Tisdale keep peddling bubblegum pop that’s complicating their attempts to convince people they’re also actresses who’ve outgrown Disney cheese. LiLo pumped out two albums, but can you name any of her songs besides the anti-paparazzi rant “Rumors”? They fizzled, and the thinner she spread herself, the more she spun out of control and sabotaged both careers. Hilary Duff and Mandy Moore flip-flop so often back and forth that now their relationships get more press than their careers. And yes, J. Lo sold a ton of albums once she became Jenny From the Block … but you’ll notice she hasn’t co-starred with Clooney since.
It’s a lot of effort for very little reward, especially if it hurts people’s attempts to take you seriously. In Meester’s case, cutting what will likely be a tedious, overproduced album will make her look more like a generic starlet, rather than arguably the biggest talent on her entire television network. We understand not wanting to be pigeonholed as a CW actress, but with her lauded comedic skills and flair for drama — both straight up and “melo” — she ought to be hustling for meaty roles that will give her carte blanche down the road. Ditto Panettiere. Adding their electronic, nondescript wailings to the already-large pile of CDs full of electronic, nondescript actorly wailings is as pointless as Tiger Woods joining The Hills: He might pull it off without laughing, but why languish in mediocrity when you can be awesome at something else? So seek a ticket to the Grammys another way, ladies — and if you really want to sing, there’s always the shower.