A personal playlist by Terry Staunton
We’ve seen them on the screen, both silver and small, but there are many occasions when women of a thespian bent have entertained the notion of adding a singing string to their bow. Here’s a one-stop selection of twenty, in no particular order, but be warned; not everything that follows is especially great. Nevertheless, El Tel hopes you find a modicum of fun in all of them.
MINNIE DRIVER – Close To Me
Following the success of her first major film role in Circle Of Friends, Minnie opted not to take the recording contract she’d been offered by Virgin, but continued to make intermittent excursions into the world of music. Here she is making a pretty good job of interpreting one of The Cure’s best known songs.
GWYNETH PALTROW – Forget You
It started out savvy and sharp, but by the end of the second season Glee was bog-standard teen telly – the very thing it had set out to satirise. Like Friends and Ally McBeal before it, the reliance on star guest appearances became tiresome, but Gwynnie totally hits one out of the park here.
SIGOURNEY WEAVER – Back In The USSR
Heartbreakers isn’t a great film, but it’s worth a watch, because Sigourney is a criminally underrated comedian. Who wouldn’t fall for this light-hearted slab of swinging Soviet grooviness?
MERYL STREEP – I’m Checkin’ Out
Playing a character inspired by Carrie Fisher’s addiction diary Postcards From The Edge, the grand dame of Hollywood and beyond lets rip with her hitherto unheralded saloon gal persona. Prescient, if you’re looking for a one-word label.
LILI TAYLOR – Fuck You
Remember Gwynnie giving it loads of CeeLo earlier? Here’s indie icon Lili (Six Feet Under, Short Cuts, I Shot Andy Warhol) hollering the post-watershed original in a Manhattan piano bar.
JOAN COLLINS – Imagine
Nothing to say about this one, save for it being a ridiculous waste of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. And is there a reason why Shirley Bassey features in every shot of the clip?
GOLDIE HAWN – A Hard Day’s Night
It’s jazzy Fab Four time, endorsed by the legendary George Martin. This version featured on the late ‘90s album In My Life, on which the fifth Beatle produced all manner of odd folk covering songs by the best band ever.
GILLIAN ANDERSON – Extremis
Things are getting’ strange, I’m startin’ to worry. It’s an iffy song by Mulder-less Scully. Lame dance track designed to grab headlines, and it did. Ms Anderson found herself on the cover of Melody Maker.
MAE WEST – Twist And Shout
There’s an entire album of this stuff, y’know, and not just Beatles rock-outs. Many years later, Ringo Starr made a film with Ms West, which was even worse.
JULIA LOUIS DREYFUS – Sixteen Going On Seventeen
Post-Seinfeld but pre-Veep, arguably the greatest living comic actress indulges her girlhood Sound Of Music fantasies on David Letterman’s late night talk show, with a little help from an old friend. “Someone older and wiser, telling her what to do…”
JULIETTE LEWIS – Any Way You Want
The enigmatic star of Cape Fear and Natural Born Killers has been fronting The Licks between movie shoots for a few years, but this is her new single – and it rocks!
TINA FEY – Paints And Brushes
The genius behind 30 Rock and Mean Girls brings us an affectionate parody of Joni Mitchell.
RAQUEL WELCH – Bang Bang
The overture, written specifically for this 1967 TV performance, begins: “He had a rifle, oh what a rifle.” A couple of lines later, Raquel asks: “Who would have thought that a rifle of wood could ever find its mark?” Before long, we are confronted by male dancers brandishing big guns painted white. I think we can all agree that subtlety has taken a back seat.
REESE WITHERSPOON – Wildwood Flower
A strong and feisty woman she might have been, but let’s be honest; June Carter Cash couldn’t carry a tune if you gave her a rucksack. Reese won an Oscar for Walk The Line, partly by singing better than the woman she was portraying.
LIZA MINNELLI – Twist In My Sobriety
Angst-ridden coffee table folk from the overly-serious Tanita Tikaram (the first line is the title of a book by Maya Angelou), re-upholstered as a synth-pop torch song. Produced and arranged by the Pet Shop Boys, in case you couldn’t tell.
JENNIFER JASON LEIGH – Almost Blue
Speaking of Liza, JJL wowed Broadway playing Sally Bowles in Cabaret in recent-ish times, but this performance of an Elvis Costello song is from a long-forgotten film, Georgia, released 20 years ago.
JO BRAND – The Feminist Song
We’ll let the ever dependable Jo speak for herself on this one, shall we?
AMY SCHUMER – Milk Milk Lemonade
Attention, women who make lewd and lascivious videos to compensate for the shortcomings of the song. Attention, men who watch them. Amy, the poster girl for uncomfortable truths, has got your number.
TRACEY ULLMAN – Paint It Black
This is what happens when diehard Goths marry and move to the suburbs.
JANE FONDA – Songs By Women
Let’s finish with A-list Hollywood’s first radical feminist, in the company of Helen Reddy, reminding 1970s prime time TV audiences that women write great songs. Her truth is marching on…