We’ve finally heard her forthcoming album of Tom Waits covers for ourselves, and it’s official: Scarlett Johansson just gave us a Woody Allen. (And by the way, can’t you just hear the little man saying schwing?) The disc, Anywhere I Lay My Head, is good. So good, in fact, that we have been involuntarily drawn into Woody Allen’s mind, where, on a well-worn throne lacy with cobwebs, Johansson sits, beneficent, opaque but with a stirring hint of depth, totally capable of carrying a string of movies and fulfilling our very purpose as a chronicler of the absurd beauty that this tragic existence sometimes affords.
And yes, girl can sing. Not like Waits — that, of course, would be impossible, not to mention unbecoming. Think Nico, if Nico weren’t a Germanic death angel but the remaining American actress of her age who has not openly displayed her vagina. And who here is the Woody to Johansson’s crooning alter-ego? Dave Sitek, that arrogant white guy from TV on the Radio. (He acted as producer. David Bowie, by the way, also sings on a couple of songs, but obviously he's no 24-year-old actress.) Such is the power of this album that in Sitek we now find not merely a strangely unlikable hipster, but a sort of dark sellout visionary — a man who beheld a left-field talent capable of fluke, chart-climbing success where others saw a not-very-good actress liable to record a wretched commercial flop. His pompous indulgence in studio trickery, hubristic aim to re-create every song from the ground up — in a Louisiana studio where he claims he had no choice but to allow the sounds of crickets in, no less — and (judging from interviews) creepily overbearing direction of the talent herself resulted, quite simply, in a work of great and singular beauty. If we had to grade it on a rating system, we would give it one burning, elemental star, in honor of Scarlett Johansson herself. —Nick Catucci