Just as Pete Yorn’s star was dimming he got a mega-watt jolt by way of Scarlett Johansson, with whom he releases Break Up this week. The collection of songs was inspired by the collaboration between
Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot—convenient considering Johansson is the modern-day screen equivalent of the blonde sex-kitten—though the styling seems slightly more along the lines of Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra.
The catchy first single, Realtor, an upbeat boy-girl sparring duet in the vein of “Jackson,” got healthy radio play and piqued interest, suggesting an exciting album lay ahead, but none of the other songs quite live up to that promise, or that adorable little ditty.
On the album’s other standout tracks, like Shampoo and I Don’t Know What To Do, we hear hints of Yorn’s hook-laden career highpoint, Musicforthemorningafter, as he manages to interweave the romantic and the sexy – no small feat – all with those familiar lilts and rasps that seemed forever gone. But these flashes of greatness are few and far between.
Elsewhere, Pete gives us humdrum lyrical content and equally dull delivery, nothing like the snap, crackle and pop of his glittering 2001 debut. Blame it on the break-up blues, which he was suffering from when penning the appropriately titled album, though we don’t even get the heart-wrenching beauty of miserablism.
Johansson does her part, bringing throaty sex appeal to her twangy vocals, which are affected and charmingly imperfect, just like on her debut, Anywhere I Lay My Head (a collection of Tom Waits covers).
Break Up was actually recorded in 2006, so technically it’s Scarlett’s first offering, which is why we’ll cut her some slack.
The actress should’ve drawn upon that Golden Globe-nominated know-how and brought more spirit, cutesiness and spunk to her parts. Instead, she just seems to be trying to sing the best she possibly can in the two days it took to lay down her vocals.
What would have worked better here is a more whimsical, simple and sweet album. It’s lacking the punch and feistiness, along with the wink-wink cheekiness that made those ‘60s duos so memorable. Save for a few tracks, Break Up is a mostly forgettable album that finds Pete and Scarlett taking themselves just a little too seriously.