Looking back at some of the strangest cameos in film and TV history, we were struck by how many of them were by musicians. It makes sense. After all, musicians are already out of place among actors on a TV or film set. What they bring to the table is different from what actors bring, in terms of star quality, charisma, self-expression and established personae. If you’re familiar with both the musician’s work and the characters in a movie or TV show (and the actors who play them), then it’s fun to watch the discharge of weird energy that takes place in the pop star’s fish-out-of-water encounters with fictional characters and the stars who portray them. Here, then, are 14 of our favorites from over the years.

Justin Bieber, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2010-11)

The Canadian teen idol appeared on two episodes of the veteran procedural drama as Jason McCann, a young anti-tax radical and a bomb expert who causes explosive mayhem all over Las Vegas before the cops shoot him dead. The pop singer didn’t make Beliebers – er, believers – out of a lot of longtime CSI fans, but whatever twisted schemes his character is planning behind that baby face, you certainly can’t take your eyes off him.

Elvis Costello (with Sean Penn and Harry Dean Stanton), Two and a Half Men (2004)

In the Season Two premiere, boozy jingle writer Charlie Harper (Charlie Sheen) invites a few pals over for a night of cigars, Scotch and male bonding. The pals just happen to be an Oscar-winning movie star, a legendary pop songwriter and a veteran character actor. It’s odd to see such celebrated talents used as props to throw into sharp relief the ongoing tensions between Charlie and his dweeby brother Alan (Jon Cryer), but all three guests get off several good punchlines, generally at their own expense. And Costello takes an offhand comment of Penn’s, in which he denies having any flagpole-raising problems with his then-wife Robin Wright, and turns it into a mournful ballad, with the refrain “Rally ’round the flag.”

Bruce Springsteen, High Fidelity (2000)

The Boss has dispensed a lot of advice over the years, but he’s acted in only one movie. Here, he appears as himself, rock icon, moral exemplar and guru to John Cusack’s music-store geek. The vignette has its roots in Nick Hornby’s novel, and Cusack’s real-life acquaintance with Springsteen made the cameo a reality. Bruce tosses off a few guitar licks and words of wisdom about women, but what he says is of less consequence than the surprising fact that he’s there at all.

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