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Scarlett Johansson, the musician, was last seen being loathed for Anywhere I Lay My Head, her Dave Sitek-assisted suite of Tom Waits covers, a project that was probably doomed (critically, anyway) by her incredible beauty and success way before it even got started. But that record was better than it had any right to be: Sitek got his Phil Spector moment, building an ridiculously lush production landscape out of rich source material; and Johansson, it turned out, could basically sing–in a limited range, and with limited affect, maybe, but with grace and a bit of an emotional charge as well.
Break Up, her forthcoming duets record with anodyne singer-songwriter dude Pete Yorn, seems like less of a fraught set-up. She will not be venturing into one of the most treasured canons in American music. “Relator,” the record’s streaming first single, exhibits none of the pathological seriousness of Anywhere. From the neologistic title on down, it’s a pretty lighthearted affair–a chirpy, analog homage to playful goodhearted pop from the Lemonheads to Paul Simon to Cat Stevens and beyond, an entire Wes Anderson soundtrack compressed into two minutes and change. Yorn’s blandness here reads as if he were merely good-natured; Johansson sounds casual and a bit sad but not at all self-regarding. Hate this at your own risk.
“Relator” [The Break Up Album]