When you’re someone who’s successful and famous thanks to how good – or bad, in some cases – you are at one specific craft, the temptation might be there to try your hand at a completely different art form. More often than not, though, you’re probably better off sticking to your day job. In the case of these 10 celebrities, music is certainly not a craft that was meant for them. With that in mind, we’ll be counting down 10 celebrities with failed music careers.
We’ve decided to list these celebrities in alphabetical order as opposed to actually ranking them from 10 to one, because really, they’re all equally embarrassing when you think about it. From basketball players to actors to socialites to siblings of other recording artists, it’s actually pretty unbelievable how many of them have tried their hand at a music career, and failed miserably. Even if they were successful at one point, certain circumstances came along to derail their momentum in a pretty gigantic way (Ashlee Simpson, anyone?).
Whether they ended up releasing full albums, or only singles that were either moderately popular or full-on flops on the charts, it’s pretty evident that music couldn’t have possibly been a smart career move for many of these celebrities. While there have been exceptions – for example, actor Jared Leto has led a very successful music career as frontman of 30 Seconds to Mars – there’s otherwise not a ton of evidence saying that being a solid musician while initially being famous for another craft exactly go hand in hand, no matter how well-known a celebrity they are. Here are 10 celebrities who may have been successful through other art forms, but whose forays into the music world ended up being failures, listed in alphabetical order by last name.
10 Russell Crowe
Russell Crowe has built up a reputation over the years for, as South Park so accurately described it, “making movies, making songs and fightin’ round the world”. Although he’s gained a bad rap for the latter of those three, it’s his music career that’s more embarrassing than anything else. Crowe sings lead for a band that was once called 30 Odd Foot of Grunts – no one knows why – but is now called The Ordinary Fear of God, and once collaborated with Alan Doyle of Canadian group Great Big Sea. They have also played sold-out tours in the States and Crowe’s home country of Australia. The reason for this probably has much, much more to do with his acting career than for anything else.
9 David Hasselhoff
Despite being arguably one of the easiest targets for ridicule as far as has-been celebrities are concerned, one thing people might not know about the ‘Hoff is that he’s had a music career – and one that has produced 18 albums and a great amount of success in Germany. In fact, his fame as a musician in the German-speaking world in general is quite substantial: he’s had a number one single apiece in Germany and Switzerland, as well as two in Austria. More recently, the former Baywatch star and America’s Got Talent judge released a cover of a hit Australian song called “Jump in My Car” in 2006, and made it to number three on the UK charts – even if it was more or less ironically.
8 Jennifer Love Hewitt
Known for short as “JLH” during the height of her fame in the ‘90s while on the show Party of Five, Jennifer Love Hewitt had a couple false starts as a musician before finally getting onto the Billboard charts with her late ‘90s single “How Do I Deal”, from the soundtrack to her movie I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. In the early 2000s, she released singles “BareNaked” and “Can I Go Now”, which were popular in Australia, but she hasn't really done much of anything musical since then. Hewitt is currently known for her recent addition to the cast of the popular crime drama Criminal Minds.
7 Paris Hilton
Before she decided to try her hand at DJing – much to the dismay and outcry of the electronic dance music community at large – Paris Hilton was at the height of her fame, and the attention she got from the press in the mid-aughts was never-ending. With that, the socialite tried to become a pop star in 2006, releasing her debut album Paris that same year. Her first single, the reggae-influenced “Stars are Blind” was as terrible as you’d expect, but did chart high in a number of different countries – cracking the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 and charting within the top five in several places elsewhere.
6 Lindsay Lohan
Far, far removed from the days of her starring in Disney’s The Parent Trap, even at the height of her fame, Lindsay Lohan attempted to raise her profile beyond just acting in movies like Mean Girls by trying to start a career as a pop star. Her relatively short-lived music career begat one notable single, “Rumors”, but not much other than that. Although she was already well-known for it at the time, Lohan’s career has taken a backseat to the well-documented and seemingly never-ending turmoil of her personal life, and she hasn't released anything music-related since 2008 – something we’re all probably better off for.
5 Eddie Murphy
Once upon a time, Eddie Murphy was a brilliant comedian who rose to fame at a time when both he and Saturday Night Live were funny. However, his comedic talents while in his prime couldn’t translate into musical talent – in fact, it was quite the opposite. Murphy’s musical career gave us a lame, Rick James-produced pop hit called “Party All the Time”, which has been frequently referred to as one of the worst songs of all time despite making it to number two on the Billboard Hot 100 upon its release in 1985. Since then, Eddie Murphy’s career in comedy and acting has seen some hits, but arguably many more misses.
4 Leonard Nimoy
Okay, so Leonard Nimoy never really had much of a music career to begin with, but his foray into music in the ‘60s is just too embarrassing to ignore. “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins,” his musical tribute to the Hobbit protagonist of the same name, is not only cringe-worthy to listen to; it’s just strange. Surprisingly, Spock ended up releasing five albums during his time playing that character on Star Trek – the first of which had Nimoy in character as Spock throughout the whole album. Later albums featured embarrassing covers of songs by artists like Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman and Johnny Cash.
3 Shaquille O’Neal
Thanks to his success on the court with the Orlando Magic and then with the Los Angeles Lakers, Shaq probably thought he was powerful enough to do just about anything, even music. Thus, his rap career was born. Despite his music being subjected to bad critical reviews – not to mention his rather unnatural-sounding flow bringing down the quality of his music – Shaq managed to put out five albums and snagged two Top 40 singles in 1993 from his debut LP Shaq Diesel. The last music-related thing he gave us was a collaboration with Fat Joe and the late Big Pun on a track called “Extortion” last year.
2 Ashlee Simpson
While we aren’t ignoring the fact that Ashlee Simpson had several high-charting singles back in her day as she tried emerging from the shadow of her more successful older sister Jessica, her failed music career has more to do with the fact that her lack of authenticity was so flagrantly exposed in a way that reminded many of Milli Vanilli in the late ‘80s. After her shambolic appearance on Saturday Night Live that probably needs no description here, her career saw only three more top 40 singles before she fell more or less into has-been territory, save for her high-profile three-year marriage to Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz.
1 Bruce Willis
Of all the failed celebrities-turned-musicians on this list, you surely didn’t expect this one, did you? Alas, Bruce Willis did indeed try out a career as an R&B-pop singer in the late ‘80s, first releasing an album of R&B songs called The Return of Bruno in 1987, which was then followed up by a same-named HBO special. Somehow, the album – which was comprised largely of covers of other R&B songs – made it to #14 on the Billboard album charts, and Willis put out one more album two years later. After the release of those two albums, he’d go back to his acting career – which, let’s face it, he was much better off doing.