[Review] Pete Yorn and Scarlett Johansson make a flat, safe, off-white mush

Yorn Johansson breakup

Movie stars like making music, it’s just a fact of life. Remember Eddie Murphy’s “Party All The Time?” Or more recently Jamie Foxx’s surprisingly successful hip-hop career (thanks Kanye). In the world of indie/folk, we saw last years pairing of M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel as She & Him. The duo created a lot of hype, but released a good, but ultimately disappointing album. And so we come to 2009 and we have the eerily similar pairing of Pete Yorn and Scarlet Johansson. Even eerier is the fact that it too is a good, but ultimately disappointing album. Because I guess movie starlets and singer/songwriters just aren’t meant to make music together. Like oil and water.

Unlike She & Him, Pete Yorn and Scarlett Johansson don’t have the sweet indie charm. They’re more like the safer, more mainstream version. You know, the one your friend heard about on an ad at the end of a VH1 show. Much of their album, Break Up, is just too much the same and too much bland. The songs are written just fine and the two are talented enough to hold the thing together. There just isn’t any risk-taking (did I ever mention how much music critics love risk-takers?) and the end-result is a safe, off-white mush that you just can’t mold into anything fun and exciting.

That isn’t to say there aren’t any high points. Because there are! “Shampoo” is a nice song that showcases the two, although it too falls flat. “Relator” is folky and upbeat, in contrast to much of the rest of the album. As a single it’s just fine. It jangles around in all the right ways to tug at the cuteness-loving heartstrings. But everything just seems so calculated. Almost as if they made a wonderful album and gave it to the record company only to hear “It’s too good! Go back and make it all more boring!”

As the story goes, Pete Yorn wrote the record back in 2006 after a dream struck him with inspiration. Scarlett Johansson came in later and sang all the vocals in two afternoon sessions. It has back-pocket project written all over it and it shows. There’s nothing wrong with making a side-project for fun. But if the two expect to find success as a musical duo, they need to record something more solid and fleshed out than Break Up. She & Him can record a second album because despite their faults, they proved to work well together and made a great effort at recording a good album together. Good chemistry takes time, and this relationship just hasn’t had any time to flourish. It’s ok, just don’t expect a great record to come of it.

Pete Yorn and Scarlett Johansson – “Relator” [MP3]

Pete Yorn and Scarlett Johansson – “Shampoo” [MP3]

Pete Yorn and Scarlett Johansson – “Blackie’s Dead” [MP3]

Buy Break Up on iTunes

3 comments to [Review] Pete Yorn and Scarlett Johansson make a flat, safe, off-white mush

  • carlos

    who the fuck is she and him?

  • This is so bland even VH1 wouldn’t want it.

  • ashley

    so i just got an ipod shuffle (obsessed – it makes washing the dishes so much fun!) and “relator” came on, but i didn’t know it was “relator” until i held down the middle button and it said “scarlett johansson.” i looked at the dishes in shock, because i can’t stand that girl, but i actually liked the song. who knew?