Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for the Lady of pop and the gentleman of jazz making a marriage between their genres and proving that their differences are not so irreconcilable after all.
Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga dropped their collaborative album Tuesday, “Cheek to Cheek,” a sampling of standards from the Great American Songbook. It is a jazz record exclusively, and because Bennett is seasoned in the genre, Gaga’s contribution is under greatest scrutiny.
Gaga is no novice to jazz, having released covers of “White Christmas” and “Orange Colored Sky” on her live EP, “A Very Gaga Holiday.” She has even worked with Bennett himself in the past, featured on “The Lady Is a Tramp” off the album “Duets II.”
Still, Gaga made a name for herself in the field of radio-friendly electropop with the likes of “Just Dance” and “Poker Face,” and it is easy for the casual listener to dismiss her as just another pop star.
Without catchy beats to back her vocals or the slightest hint of Auto-Tune (which she arguably uses for artistic effect instead of to improve her sound), “Cheek to Cheek” showcases how Gaga is not just a cut above the average Top 40 vocalist – she is a cut above the average singer, period.
Her powerhouse voice is full of timeless range. Her more modern incarnation is iconic, and her more classical reinvention is perfect for the acoustic, big band swing of “Cheek to Cheek,” just as perfect as Bennett. They trade verses on some tracks, and croon others by themselves.
Though the songs are by George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern and others, Bennett and Gaga make them their own. Even the arrangement is a statement. Gaga, who mastered the art of the narrative track list on her last album, “ARTPOP,” takes full advantage of that formula here.
For example, they open with the summer single “Anything Goes,” the ideal thematic opener for the (seemingly) unlikely duo between Bennett and Gaga. Their “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” is partially revised with Gaga’s signature style of naming herself in her lyrics.
“Heaven, I’m in Heaven,” Gaga warbles, and, indeed, it is heavenly to hear her “dancing cheek to cheek” with Bennett after the intense public backlash and harsh record label politics during the “ARTPOP” era of her career.
What is more important than whether or not Gaga is any good is if the music itself is any good, and the answer is an objective “yes.” Gaga’s fans are sure to discover jazz through her, and Bennett’s following will discover Gaga through jazz.
Both the standard and deluxe editions of “Cheek to Cheek” are available on iTunes. The deluxe edition includes the whole track listing, plus “Don’t Wait Too Long,” “Goody Goody,” “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” and “They All Laughed.”
“The Fame,” “The Fame Monster,” “Born This Way” and “ARTPOP” tell the story of why the Lady went Gaga. “Cheek to Cheek” teaches us how Gaga – for whom no transformation is off-limits – found her way back again to being the Lady.
Collegian A&E Writer Hunter Goddard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.