Robert Downey Jr.
Late-night elements of New York saloons and cabaret jazz intertwined with California orchestral pop equals … Jimmy Webb? Sting? No, it’s pianist, writer and wonderfully evocative singer Robert Downey Jr. Follow his film career as one of the best actors of his generation, through his risky, poignant and self-aware dramatic turns, and you will find clues to his personal music. The simpatico ensemble includes wondrous cello, flugelhorn and strings. The album’s coda is “Smile.” Charlie Chaplin’s signature song—and methinks Downey’s, too—is beautifully rendered as he moves in mood from delicate to defiant to sublimely surrendered. “Light up your face with gladness / Hide every trace of sadness / Although a tear may be ever so near / That’s the time you must keep on trying / Smile / What’s the use of crying?”