Actors venturing into singing — and vice versa — is nothing new. What’s really worth talking about is which talent reigns supreme in some of the most famous double (?) threats. We know, we know: You’ve spent many Saturday nights debating with friends over beers about whether Supernova Icon Goddess Mandy Moore is a better singer or actress. But relief is coming — and not just for the “Candy”/A Walk to Remember chanteuse. We’ve examined 15 celebrities who, on the surface, are equally as good (or, erm, bad) at singing and acting. However, we’ve managed to find a tipping point for each artist (except two, but we’re only humans). So, how did we get to our conclusions? We examined a mixture of album and box office sales, critical reviews and awards to determine the dominant talent. Take a gander at our results!
You’ve seen her: In movies like Selena (1997), Maid in Manhattan (2002) and The Back-Up Plan (2010). She has more than 25 feature films to her name.
You’ve heard her: On eight studio albums, including the classic On the 6 (1999) and defiant This Is Me…Then (2002). Her most recent album, A.K.A, was released June 2014. She also frequently collaborates with Pitbull, notably on hit songs like “Dance Again” and “On the Floor.”
And she’s better at: Singing. Lopez only has five “Certified Fresh” films, according to Rotten Tomatoes. (The highest one is the animated film Antz from 1998, if that tells you anything). Meanwhile, she has enjoyed a very successful music career with six of her albums achieving at least gold status. She’s garnered eight top-10 hits in the U.S. Although her albums are generally not critical darlings, On the 6 received a warm response, with the Los Angeles Times noting it was “shiny pop savvy.” Also, let’s not forget Lopez is a fiery live performer with the ability to precision dance her booty (eh?!) off and leave the audience begging for more. Plus, with Gigli (2003) on her rap sheet, we can’t in good conscience say Lopez is a better actress.
You’ve seen her: In all three High School Musical films (don’t act like you don’t watch them) and surprising roles like Candy in Spring Breakers (2013) and Agnes in Gimme Shelter (2014).
You’ve heard her: On the HSM soundtracks (duh), plus her two studio albums V (2006) and Identified (2008). She also does a little Britney Spears karaoke in Spring Breakers that is pretty life-changing.
And she’s better at: Acting (although she can sing). Hudgens flourishes when she’s blending these two talents; however, when isolated, she shines brighter on screen than the radio. Her two albums failed to crack the top 10 on the Billboard 200 and her singles were lukewarm at best. Meanwhile, Hudgens explodes in her Spring Breakers role, and Bandslam (2008) is all kinds of adorable. Plus, let’s be real, she’s magnetic in the HSM franchise.
You’ve seen her: In movies like Material Girls (2006), The Perfect Man (2005) and A Cinderella Story (2004). Oh, and a little (read: ICONIC) Disney Channel show called Lizzie McGuire.
You’ve heard her: On her three studio albums Metamorphosis (2003), Hilary Duff (2004) and Dignity (2007). She also released a Christmas album, Santa Claus Lane, in 2002.
And she’s better at: Singing. She is perfectly charismatic on screen; however, Duff has yet to transform herself for a role. (Rotten Tomatoes agrees, with zero “Certified Fresh” films to her name.) Hilary Duff is at her best when she’s playing, well, Hilary Duff. Her sweet, light voice excels on both the bubblegum kitsch of Metamorphosis and electro-pop froth of Dignity. She even has the oomph to make the rock/pop cheese on Hilary Duff sound at least endearing. And the critics agree: Rolling Stone dubbed Metamorphosis “gleaming” and Dignity “surprisingly successful.”
You’ve seen him: On the big screen in The Social Network (2010), Friends with Benefits (2011) and Inside Llewyn Davis (2013).
You’ve heard him: Melting your heart on any of his four studio albums: Justified (2002), FutureSex/LoveSounds (2006), The 20/20 Experience (2013) and The 20/20 Experience- 2 of 2 (2013).
And he’s better at: At first glance this a no-brainer; however, Timberlake has proved to be a capable — and good — actor in The Social Network and Inside Llewyn Davis. But we still have to give it up to the music. Timberlake is a natural entertainer with unparalleled singing and dancing pizazz. All four of his albums have been both critical and commercial successes. Plus, he has nine Grammys to his name.
You’ve seen her: On the television show Wizards of Waverly Place plus movies like Getaway (2013), Spring Breakers (2013) and Monte Carlo (2011).
You’ve heard her: On her solo studio album Stars Dance (2013) plus three LPs with Selena Gomez & the Scene.
And she’s better at: Acting. Gomez has released danceable, guilty pleasure hits like “Come & Get It” and “Slow Down,” but she’s yet to solidify a distinguishable pop star identity. Many of her efforts seem diluted and trend-chasing. While she won’t be winning an Academy Award any time soon, Gomez is much more natural and charismatic on screen. She was adorable in Ramona and Beezus (2013), vulnerable in Spring Breakers and charming in Monte Carlo. (Meh, let’s not talk about Getaway.)
You’ve seen her: Bringing it home in Dreamgirls (2006), blessing Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City (2008) and films like The Secret Life of Bees (2008) and Black Nativity (2013).
You’ve heard her: On her three studio albums plus singing in Dreamgirls and American Idol season three.
And she’s better at: Singing. This one’s a toughie because Hudson has both an Oscar and Grammy to her name. However, we have to surrender to Hudson’s out-of-this-world pipes. After all, Hudson’s vocal prowess contributed to her magnificent turn as Effie White in Dreamgirls that garnered an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Plus, her three albums have all reached the Billboard 200 top 10 and generated favorable reviews.
You’ve seen him: In critically-acclaimed films like Fight Club (1999), Requiem for a Dream (2000) and Dallas Buyers Club (2013).
You’ve heard him: As the lead singer in the band Thirty Seconds to Mars.
And he’s better at: It’s a draw! We can’t choose between Leto’s singing and acting; we want them both, damn it! Leto’s turn as a transgender woman, Rayon, in Dallas Buyers Club earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, not to mention he was exquisite in both Requiem and Fight Club. When you match that with Leto’s successful Thirty Seconds to Mars run — its 2013 album Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams earned an A- from Entertainment Weekly — you’ve got a genuine double threat. Here’s hoping Leto never stops delivering the good music, great movies and smoldering stares.
You’ve seen her: As Aria Montgomery on the ABC Family television show Pretty Little Liars, plus films like Scream 4 (2011) and A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song (2011).
You’ve heard her: Serving up country realness on her debut album Road Between (2014).
And she’s better at: Acting, but she still has time to prove us wrong. Hale sounds flirtatious and fun on Road Between and has ample country twang to boot; however, her natural abilities shine greater on screen. As PLL’s HBIC, Hale is confident, magnetic and relatable. Also, she can deliver a one-liner like no other.
You’ve seen her: Causing emotional breakdowns in A Walk to Remember (2002) in addition to Chasing Liberty (2004) and Because I Said So (2007).
You’ve heard her: Transitioning from Britney-esque pop tart (“Candy,” “I Wanna Be With You”) to folky crooner (“Extraordinary”).
And she’s better at: Singing. Moore only has two “Certified Fresh” films on Rotten Tomatoes. (The highest ranking one is 2010’s animated film Tangled, where Moore plays the musically-inclined Rapunzel.) Moore’s most endearing moment in A Walk to Remember is when she sings “Only Hope” in a high school production. Sensing a pattern here? She succeeds best when her voice comes first. Plus, how can you resist the musical treasure that is “In My Pocket?” (It’s all we’ve got to keep us warm.)
You’ve seen him: In movies like Django Unchained (2012), Dreamgirls (2006) and Ray (2004).
You’ve heard him: On his four studio albums, most recently 2010’s Best Night of My Life.
And he’s better at: Acting. Foxx has won two Grammys, but his albums have generally garnered mixed critical reception. On the flip side, Foxx has enjoyed a lustrous film career with two Academy Award nominations (he won in 2004 for Ray). Also, he has great comedic timing in both Horrible Bosses films. “Blame It” (feat. T-Pain) will always be our jam, but Foxx works best playing characters.
You’ve seen her: As the adorkable Jess in the hit Fox sitcom New Girl plus films like (500) Days of Summer (2009) and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005).
You’ve heard her: As one half of the indie duo She & Him.
And she’s better at: It’s a draw (again)! Deschanel is arguably one of the wittiest — and most talented — women on primetime television. (With three Golden Globe and one Emmy nominations, the critics seem to agree too.) She has a natural likability on screen that can’t be taught. As a musician, she brings a similar effervescent energy. Her voice is dynamic and sounds effortless in the indie genre. Rolling Stone gave She & Him’s first two albums three and a half out of five stars each, so it looks like Lady Z is doing something right.
You’ve seen her: As the title character on the hit Disney Channel series Hannah Montana and movies like The Last Song (2010) and LOL (2012).
You’ve heard her: Bangerz, bangerz! Her four studio albums include the electro-tinged Can’t Be Tamed (2010) and 2013 party LP Bangerz.
And she’s better at: Singing. While we first got to know Cyrus on screen, she seems much more natural making music. Her actings gigs rarely fair well critically, and something about her performances always feels forced. However, with her powerful voice and knack for a good hook, Cyrus is music dynamite. Her most recent record Bangerz received an A- from Entertainment Weekly and three and a half out of five stars from Rolling Stone. Jeez, looks like she really can’t be tamed (and thank God for it).
Harry Connick, Jr.
You’ve seen him: Marrying Debra Messing (and just being hot in general) on the hit sitcom Will & Grace, plus film roles in Independence Day (1996) and P.S. I Love You (2007).
You’ve heard him: On any of his 26 (wowza) studio albums.
And he’s better at: Singing. Connick, Jr. is full of charisma in Will & Grace and smoldering chutzpah in Independence Day, but we can’t resist his smooth jazz vocals that make us swoon. Plus, all the mothers in the world would hate us if we said this dude was a better actor.
You’ve seen him: Dribbling basketballs alongside Hudgens in the HSM franchise plus starring roles in Hairspray (2007) and Neighbors (2014), among others.
You’ve heard him: On the HSM and Hairspray soundtracks.
And he’s better at: Acting (but only when he’s singing). With the exception of Neighbors, Efron shines brightest when he’s dabbling in acting roles where he also has to use his pipes. Both Hairspray and the final HSM film faired well critically, whereas his other roles were tepid at best. You know what this means, right? It’s time for Efron to hit Broadway.
You’ve seen her: In films like Burlesque (2010), Footloose (2011) and Safe Haven (2013).
You’ve heard her: On her 2008 debut self-titled album, including the successful country single “That Song In My Head.”
And she’s better at: Footloose is Hough’s only “Certified Fresh” film. She works well when music is incorporated into her movies. That’s why she’s better at singing (or maybe even dancing). Her twangy voice feels charming in the country genre, and something about it feels more fluid than her acting gigs. Like Efron, we think Hough would do well in musical theatre.
[Photo: Getty Images]