November 15, 2019

When Good Actors Become Bad Singers

“There’s something novel, if not quite unprecedented, about the cultural space Jeremy Renner is inhabiting right now. Fresh off a sizable role in the highest grossing movie of all time, Renner is at least partly all of these things: an outdoor lifestyle brand sponsored by Amazon, the star of an upcoming Hawkeye series for Disney+, and a Jeep pitchman. He, or possibly a team of admins, also preside over the official Jeremy Renner app, a bizarre and obsessive community for fans to catch up on exclusive content, share horny Renner memes, or find out when it’s Rennsday. (Typically this falls on Wednesday, but sometimes it does not.)

Once in a position to inherit the keys to two of the most venerated modern action franchises, before each of the original stars reclaimed their roles to varying results, Renner isn’t quite a leading man, but he’s pretty close. So it’s riveting to see him earnestly pursue the role of rock frontman, already releasing four singles this summer. One single, “Main Attraction,” sounds like AWOLNATION fronted by the Michelin Man. Another, “Sign,” suggests that he’s jockeying to go on tour with an Amy Winehouse hologram.

Renner isn’t alone in this sort of musical exploration. Over the last decade or two, actor guys of a certain age — including, but not limited to, Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Costner, Idris Elba, David Duchovny, Russell Crowe, Johnny Depp, and so many more — have covered similar ground. From afar, most of these men share a number of things in common: divorce, little discernible musical talent, and the protection fame can provide you from failure. Women in Hollywood with scant musical background also attempt the pivot — Renner’s Avengers costar Scarlett Johansson, also Rita Wilson — but it’s often a slightly more winning enterprise, and is less steeped in the milieu of personal turmoil. For these men, this is what midlife crisis looks like when you’ve run out of luxury items to acquire or anyone to keep your impulses in check.”

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