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Top talents who succeed at acting and music

Fear not for Joaquin Phoenix, the man who portrayed the Man in Black. The two-time Oscar nominee, who recently retired from acting, isn't making the transition to the concert stage all by his lonesome.

Fear not for Joaquin Phoenix, the man who portrayed the Man in Black. The two-time Oscar nominee, who recently retired from acting, isn't making the transition to the concert stage all by his lonesome.

Kevin Costner and his band, Modern West, release their debut CD, Untold Truths, to stores tomorrow, which caps a recent run of actor-derived recordings from Terrence Howard, Wayne Brady, Scarlett Johansson, Jack Black and Billy Bob Thornton.

We wish them luck in their endeavours.

Balancing movies and music can be tricky, but it's not impossible. Barbra Streisand, Liza Minnelli and Queen Latifah, to name a few, have won or been nominated for both Grammy and Academy Awards.

Seeing as we're in a particularly good mood at the moment, we're leaving the thousands of crappy actor-musicians to their own devices (you can thank us later, LL Cool J) and focusing on the very few who can do both with equal aplomb, and who do it regularly.

1. Will Smith. It's safe to say Will Smith is more actor than rapper these days: The last two films from this two-time Oscar nominee grossed over $1 billion worldwide. Nonetheless, his music career remains solid. A rumoured reunion with DJ Jazzy Jeff could bring the former Fresh Prince back to prominence. Not that he needs the help. Three of Smith's four solo recordings, which have sold 12 million copies combined, have reached the Top 10.

2. Jamie Foxx. The former standup comic was king in 2004, garnering two Oscar nods (and one win for best actor), as well as a chart-topping single with rapper Kanye West. One year later, his sophomore recording topped the sales charts, making him the fourth Oscar winner in history to have a No. 1 album. His third musical effort is coming down the pike, and in March he plays a blind musician alongside Robert Downey, Jr. in The Soloist -- which has Oscar buzz written all over it.

3.Justin Timberlake. We would have been laughed out of the building a decade ago for suggesting the product of boy band 'NSYNC had any talent to speak of. Not so nowadays. His music speaks for itself, but we recommend seeing him on the small screen (Saturday Night Live; Elton John's video for This Train Don't Stop There Anymore) or in films (Alpha Dog, The Love Guru.) You will be impressed.

4. Dwight Yoakam. His friend Billy Bob Thornton gets all the press, but Dwight Yoakam is the best at balancing country music with acting. Yoakam often plays the heavy (Yoakam was scary good in Panic Room and Sling Blade), but he has range: He plays a pastor in the upcoming Vince Vaughn/Reese Witherspoon comedy, Four Christmases, and has another four films in post-production. His spectacular music career is the icing on the cake.

5. Mos Def. A rapper of considerable renown (as a thrice Grammy-nominated solo artist and with his groundbreaking duo, Black Star), Mos Def blew TV minds in 2004 with his Emmy-nominated portrayal of pioneering heart surgeon Vivian Thomas. He has done similarly excellent big-screen work (The Woodsman, Monster's Ball, Be Kind Rewind), in addition to a stint on Broadway opposite Jeffrey Wright in Topdog/Underdog, the Pulitzer Prize-winning play.

6.Billy Bob Thornton. Most could do without Thornton's music, which touches upon everything from classic country to classic rhythm and blues, but that says nothing of his credentials (Thornton once worked as a roadie for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band; he also appeared on Warren Zevon's final recording, The Wind.) But when you need a curveball acting performance, this chameleonic Oscar winner -- who is rumoured to be playing Bruce Springsteen in an upcoming biopic -- is the go-to guy.

7.Jack Black. He has been a musician almost as long as he has been acting, but it was not until 2001, when his joke-metal duo Tenacious D went public, that the world got hip to Black's dual personality. He is a master of both fields, as proven in music-themed films School of Rock and Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny, and has a funny bone with no off position. Colour us big-time impressed.

8. André Benjamin. On the silver screen, he's André Benjamin, a welcome presence in comedies (Semi-Pro, Be Cool) and action films (Four Brothers, Revolver.) On stage and in the studio, he becomes André 3000, the freaky half of multimillion-selling, multiple Grammy-winning Atlanta rap duo Outkast. Not bad work if you can get it.

9.Mandy Moore. Her fifth album, 2007's Wild Hope, closed the book on Moore's past as a teen-pop queen. Critics were receptive to her new, serious-minded material, and have grown increasingly fond of Moore's acting ability. She has been great in precisely one film (Saved!, a scathing satire of Christianity) but solid work on TV (Entourage, Scrubs) proves that this 24-year-old has only one way to go: Up.

10. Alicia Keys. She sang a duet with Jack White on the new James Bond theme for Quantum of Solace, which should open her up to a whole new audience. Though there aren't many unaware of her musical talent -- she has won 11 Grammy Awards -- and has done solid work in three movies, Keys is still awaiting her breakout role.

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