Cheek To Cheek, an album of duets by Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga
Pop culture fans live for unlikely pairings and collaborations and the pairing of Lady Gaga, one of the top pop stars to emerge in the 21st century with Tony Bennett, one of the most successful crooners of the 20th century, is among the most unlikely yet. The two got together for a recording on Tony’s 2012 album Duets II felt like a natural match for the both of them. So naturally, they’re singing cheek to cheek.
Cheek To Cheek consists of traditional pop and jazz standards from the 1920s, 30s and 40s, including a few from the Great American Songbook. Tony is once again in his element with a top notch performance that doesn’t at all suggest his abilities have waned after seven decades. It’s even more impressive when you consider that he’s 88 and still going strong. Plus, he just broke his own record for being the oldest artist to have a #1 album.
With Tony effortlessly confirming his status and doing so while sounding as comfortable as he does, all ears are on Lady Gaga to hear how she performs by his side and whether she does justice.
Despite what her own pop material shows, Gaga has solid vocal ability. Her stripped down, acoustic live performances have shown that.
When you remove the production and the electropop backdrop, and take into account how much she has embraced and performed with some of the most historical figures in music, her involvement on an album such as this really isn’t that far fetched.
She really shows her chops on Lush Life, one of several solo recordings she has on Cheek To Cheek. Her presence is prominent throughout the album, even when she takes a minimal role, such as on Goody Goody. she’s merely reacting to Tony’s delivery with one-line responses, which don’t really add anything to the song but the cuteness factor makes it a highlight.
Next to Tony’s obvious level of comfort with these songs that he’s made a career out of, Gaga’s naivety seems to have a slight air of stiffness in her performance that could be an issue of confidence or nervousness, rather than a question of her ability.
On Cheek To Cheek, she’s the student being taught by one of the greats of modern music. In some ways, it’s a bold move for someone as relatively new as she is to sing next to the one of the star voices of the old generation, but it’s a move that shows her versatility, adventure and ability.
In addition to what they both bring to this collection individually is what they also bring together. Tony and Lady, as he affectionately calls her, have a natural chemistry. And he does refer to her as such in I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, though he does slip a “Gaga” in there for good measure.
The magic between the two is most apparent in how much they affect the other when in each other’s presence. Lady has a new elegance about her that is different than any of her other styles and personas over the last five years, and it only comes out when in Tony’s presence, while Tony has a reserved youthfulness when around her. He’s cool and smooth.
Cheek To Cheek is significant because of what it does for both of them, even if it doesn’t contribute anything on a larger scale. It’s a pleasant collection of songs that continue to live on by being brought to new generations from two voices of two very different generations. It’s not an important album now but could very well have relevance at a later point in the future.
1. Anything Goes
2. Cheek To Cheek
3. Don’t Wait Too Long [Tony Bennett solo]
4. I Can’t Give You Anything But Love
5. Nature Boy
6. Goody Goody
7. Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye [Lady Gaga solo]
9. I Won’t Dance
10. They All Laughed
11. Lush Life [Lady Gaga solo]
12. Sophisticated Lady [Tony Bennett solo]
13. Let’s Face The Music And Dance
14. But Beautiful
15. It’s Didn’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)
16. On A Clear Day, You Can See Forever [Tony Bennett solo]
17. Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered [Lady Gaga solo]
18. The Lady Is A Tramp