Hey, did you know Jeremy Renner is a singer now? As he takes time out from being the least interesting Avenger to show off his karaoke chops, I have been left with many questions: Why? How? What? And so on. Mostly, I am fascinated by the trend of major Hollywood actors deciding to pick up a second career, and how often that fails spectacularly. I remember ‘Party All the Time’. I’ll never forget ‘The Return of Bruno’. I’ll speak up and defend Scarlett Johansson’s Bowie-produced Nick Cave covers!
The difficulty of ranking Renner’s songs is that this is music designed to be tolerated on a grand scale. It’s carefully engineered to be as wide-reaching in its appeal as possible, meaning it has to be utterly inoffensive and safe beyond all reason. You know the music that plays in chain restaurants that’s free of swears and cuts out all the guest raps just in case the ‘family values’ people think it’s ‘too urban’? This is Jeremy Renner’s music. It’s low-fat mayonnaise; it’s the white noise with a fake country twang; it’s music that begs to be put in car adverts during the Super Bowl (and, shock horror, you can hear his work on Jeep ads).
What Renner’s music mostly signals, however, is his desire to be Imagine Dragons, with a zesty dash of Florida Georgia Line. Now, that’s not a bad business strategy because both of those bands are wildly popular and well lots of records, but you can’t help but wonder why anyone would want to replicate that sound. Yet even those two bands, as utterly devoid of innovation as they are, are capable of a hook, of some sort of black magic that leaves you unable to get those damn choruses out of your head. Renner’s work lacks that. So, ranking this brief back-catalog of musical panache is surprisingly tough because of that deliberate beige-ness. How do you get all that wound up about something designed to be shrugged at? Well, that hasn’t stopped me before! Join me on this mildly inconvenient journey, my friends!
Eh, this one’s fine. It’s got some solid piano and horns work that gives it a distinctive element sorely lacking in his other songs, although I could live the rest of my life happily if I never had to hear another song that featured a lyrics about someone throwing their hands to the ceiling. By default, it wins the least worst award because at least there’s something here that I can imagine people wanting to voluntarily listen to for their own pleasure and not because they’re a masochistic pop culture hot takes merchant who is wondering about the life they have chosen for themselves.
House of the Rising Sun
Why yes, Jeremy Renner has done a cover of ‘House of the Rising Sun’, joining the ranks of literally every musician who has ever lived. I’m pretty sure all of you, my dear readers, have cut a record of this song at some point in your life. It’s practically a rite of passage. Renner’s cover isn’t the worst one I’ve heard, but it is devoid of the grit and soul that makes the song so ubiquitous. If you’re going to do this song, at least have the nerve to bring something new to it to differentiate from every karaoke bar’s Sunday night closing time wail-along.
This is very Imagine Dragons with a whole lot of The Greatest Showman if that musical was mostly metaphors of cars and f*cking. I swear I’ve heard this song a million times before as if it was engineered in a lab to be the song that plays during the montages of American Idol auditions. I buy Renner more as a skeezy dude who compares hot women to riding a motorcycle than I do as a loving boyfriend, but he needs to sleaze this one up if he really wants to sell it.
Heaven Don’t Have a Name
It’s tempting to rank this one as the worst song based on the sheer fraudulence of the title. Heaven does have a name, Jeremy. It’s right there. This metaphor is clumsy and poorly thought out. That makes sense, given the generally blasé nature of the song. This is Renner at his most bro-country. You can imagine this one being played at a family barbeque as a compromise to stop everyone fighting over music choices. It’s not that Renner’s voice is bad or anything. It’s perfectly cromulent, but it ain’t strong enough for the kind of power he wants to give a song like this. Springsteen, he is not.
Hello, non-offensive country-pop Jeremy Renner. Do you know what I don’t buy Renner as? A nomad. This isn’t a guy who can wander from place to place with nothing but a guitar on his back, not unless he called ahead to book a Travelodge. Here is a lyric that made me do a full-body cringe: ‘If this world’s a circle (ooh) I got no time for them squares.’ You know, for the hip flat earther in your life! This one gets ranked lower purely because of that shtick.
It’s Weird Not To Be Weird
This is the worst song for one very obvious reason: It’s not weird. Come on, could you ever truly believe that Jeremy Renner of all people is capable of true weirdness? He radiates the energy of a traffic warden who eats potato soup every day for lunch (no seasoning!) The title is, of course, a very famous John Lennon quote, but that doesn’t help Renner’s case with this song. It’s lyrically weak, blander than bland, and has the distinct air of a dad’s karaoke night about it, only without the drunken giddiness that would lend it some personality. Taika Waititi is in the video and he looks good but I have Google Images to sate that thirst.
Header Image Source: Getty Images.