She may be a Hollywood It Girl, but Scarlett Johannson's new CD, "Anywhere I Lay My Head," is hardly earning her indie cred on the music scene.
Buzz about the disc, a set of Tom Waits's songs and one original produced by Dave Sitek of indie favorite TV on the Radio, has been bubbling since January, but the album, released May 10, didn't even crack the top 50 on the Billboard chart. Critics have widely panned it, advising Johannson to hold on to her day job.
As an actress with a built-in audience, "it's harder for sure," Billboard senior editor Jonathan Cohen said. "But the thing is, I don't think people are hating on Scarlett's album because she's an actress. It's just not very good. But when celebrities do things like this, they have more to risk in the sense that people already know then, have an opinion about them. So it better be up to par, or you're going to get slammed, and big."
Johansson's CD is one in a string of recent celebrity vanity projects. Celebrities hop – and sometimes flop -- from one arena to another and, these days, it seems, more frequently than ever before.
There are restaurateurs like Patti LaBelle, Jay-Z, Robert DeNiro, Jennifer Lopez, and Eva Longoria-Parker, whose L.A. hotspot Beso is a celebrity hangout. Longoria, for one, claims her venture is driven by both passion and talent. On her menu: "I make the best guacamole in the world. And my tortilla soup for which I am renowned for."
"Desperate Housewives" star Eva Longoria-Parker opened her restaurant Beso this spring.
There are fashion designers, like Jennifer Lopez, Gwen Stefani, Jessica Simpson, Jay-Z (again), Justin Timberlake, Sienna Miller, Sarah Jessica Parker, Natalie Portman (who does a line of vegan shoes) and Hilary Duff, whose Stuff line made $5 million in its first year.
"When I created the first line of clothes, I didn't really have as much of an understanding of the business," Duff told Youngmoney.com in 2006. "The first slew of clothes that hit the stores didn't look exactly like I would have wanted. I just started learning the business side of how to get things made for the public."
Hilary Duff's successful clothing line, Stuff, is sold at Target.
And let's not forget the celebs venturing into the political realm, like Ronald Reagan, Sonny Bono, Clint Eastwood, Jerry Springer, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
"Harold & Kumar" and "House" star Kal Penn, who's been stumping for Barack Obama, has political aspirations himself. "I'd like to run for Congress when I'm older," said Penn, who's also wrapping up two film studies classes he's teaching at UPenn this semester as a guest lecturer while pursuing a Masters in International Security from Stanford. "I just know that I have a passion for social change and I think that's a great way to go about doing it."
Career coach Julie Jansen said celebs are exploring their options to find meaningful work, just like anyone else. "Being a celebrity is rarely what it seems to be -- maybe a small percentage of it is meaningful," said Jansen, author of "I Don't Know What I Want, But I Know It's Not This: A Step-By-Step Guide to Finding Gratifying Work."
"Celebs have resources regular people do not have -- money, skilled advisors, instant publicity, adoration, and instant recognition," Jansen continued. "Don't forget celebs were regular people before they became celebrities. They have all the same dreams, needs and feelings that anyone has."