You probably didn’t think that Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett would ever release a collaborative album. To many, these two artists could not be more different. She’s the eccentric, controversial diva who has lit pianos on fire, worn raw meat as clothes, and shot sparks from a pyrotechnic bra; he’s the beloved, classy crooner whose legendary jazz records could probably be found in your grandparents’ house. But if you scoff at the idea of a collaboration between these two, I’d advise you to think again, because their new jazz album, “Cheek to Cheek,” is nothing short of a masterpiece.
The pair team up to cover nine jazz standards, including the title track “Cheek to Cheek” from the 1935 film “Top Hat,” Dorothy Fields’ “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” and Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes.” This song is catchy and upbeat enough on its own, but hearing Lady Gaga sing it adds a whole new kind of fun. When she delivers the first line, “In olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking/Now heaven knows anything goes,” there’s a hint of acknowledgment in her voice about the irony of the situation. Lady Gaga practically embodies the outrageous, post-censorship modern entertainment industry, and yet she delivers these elegant classics as if she were a singer from 90 years ago. Her clear, powerful voice is complemented beautifully by Bennett’s velvety, swinging tones.
As enchanting as these duets are, each artist also gets a chance at a solo. Lady Gaga flawlessly executes a heartfelt rendition of Billy Strayhorn’s melancholy “Lush Life.” Gaga has explained that she has been singing this song since she was 13, but after a recent bout with misfortune, she is able to truly relate to the bittersweet lyrics, and it shows. Many artists have attempted to cover this song, but Gaga is among the few to sing it beautifully. Her voice glides effortlessly through its wide range and conveys all the woe and sorrow of a lonely, unlucky alcoholic.
Next, Bennett confirms what we already know: at 88, he has not lost his talent, and probably never will. His solo is a charming cover of Duke Ellington’s classic “Sophisticated Lady,” a perfect song to follow “Lush Life.” It’s almost as if he’s trying to cheer up its forlorn narrator, assuring her that all is not lost. What’s truly great about the dynamic between these two songs is that it reflects the friendship that Bennett and Gaga share, adding a heartwarming new dimension to the album.
“Cheek to Cheek” is a brilliant collaboration that is the result of a brilliant friendship. With two singles reaching number one on the Billboard Jazz Digital Songs Chart, it’s sure to please jazz fans and Lady Gaga fans alike.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.