TOM WAITS GETS LOST IN TRANSLATION

Scarlett Johansson sings
Tom Waits: Singin’ in the Pain…

After posting my review of Bukowski’s Post Office on Monday, I became curious about what average readers were saying about Bukowski these days, so I went to goodreads to check out the reader reviews. One interesting thread started when a reader posted a comment that reading Bukowski always made her think of Tom Waits. The thread went on for some time as many others agreed.

I’ve long been a Tom Waits fan and just reading the reviews made me want to listen to one of his old albums. Looking through my CD rack, I had to laugh when I came upon “Anywhere I Lay My Head,” a CD I’d purchased a couple years ago and had forgotten about.

How I came to own this one… I was driving along listening to NPR and someone mentioned that Scarlett Johansson (the actress) had just released a CD in which she sings ten songs by Tom Waits. That intrigued me. The thing about Waits is that he sings great songs but he has a terrible voice. It’s not so much a frog in his throat as a Black & Decker chainsaw. He’s this skinny little white guy, but the first time I heard him I thought it was Rich Little doing a bad impression of Louis Armstrong.

So, I’m thinking, geez, Scarlett Johansson… I didn’t even know she could sing. She’s got to sound better than Tom Waits. She’s gorgeous. I mean, she’s got a great ass and any woman with an ass like that has got to have a fantastic voice. Don’t ask me why my mind works this way. I’m just being honest here.

Lo and behold, a couple days later, I get an email from Borders offering me $15 off on any item in the store. I don’t know how Borders managed to stay in business as long as they did because they sent me so many discount coupons they had to be losing their shirts from my purchases alone. Every week I was going to one of their stores and buying something for next-to-nothing. Anyway, I go to Borders and pick up the new Scarlett Johansson CD, titled “Anywhere I Lay My Head,” which lists at $18.99 (but costs me $3.99 with the coupon), and I stick it in my CD player to listen to as I drive home.

The verdict:  Worst $3.99 I ever spent. Waste of a $15 coupon. Fine ass does not translate to fine voice. This may be the single most irritating CD I have ever purchased. I don’t think I listened to a single track all the way through. I let each song play for about 60 seconds before advancing to the next track. Mercifully, the musical accompaniment to Scarlett Johansson’s “voice” (and I use that term loosely) is so loud you can barely hear her sing. Unfortunately, the musical accompaniment itself is almost as bad as her voice—tinkling bells and overbearing organ riffs and bizarre percussion.

Tom Waits is one of those singer/song writers, like Leonard Cohen, who can’t sing for beans, but for some reason just seems to have the right voice for the songs he sings.

The Scarlett Johansson CD is so bad I can’t help but wonder if it was produced entirely as a practical joke on the public, the critics, and the whole music industry, just to prove that a good-looking babe can sell anything.

If I may quote just two lines from the lyrics of Waits’ “Anywhere I Lay My Head”:

She’s laughing in her sleeve, boys,

I can feel it in my bones…

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4 thoughts on “TOM WAITS GETS LOST IN TRANSLATION”

  1. Scarlett Johanssen has a great ass? Whoa. I’ll have to glance down the next time. I mean, it’s not exactly that part of her anatomy in the CD cover photo, I can’t help noticing. As for her singing, maybe she’s doing a bad imitation of Rich Little doing a bad imitation … Or maybe she just thinks you’re supposed to sing Tom Waits’s songs as badly as you can.

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