Cheek to Cheek is here! Already getting great notices in the UK, where it came out yesterday, the Tony Bennett- Lady Gaga project is a winner for both singers and for us. More importantly, as I told you when the pair taped their PBS special (airing next month), Gaga turns out to a fabulous jazz singer with a rich, textured voice.
Indeed, even though Gaga sings perfectly well on her own rock songs, this form seems like it’s her metier. Jazz standards give her a chance for more emotional readings, whether comic or dramatic. There’s so much personality in her voice that suddenly she feels like the natural progression from Bette Midler than begins with Barbra Streisand. She’s their heir. Who’da thunk it?
Tony, of course, just keeps going. At 88, I guess he’s a tribute to bad living followed by a clean life. When you think that Tony Bennett sort of wandered around for about 20 years and then was rediscovered– well, thank goodness. His phrasing, reading, and intelligence are impeccable. You can tell that he’s mentored Gaga, too. She is damn lucky.
There are 11 duets on the album, and a pair of solos for each singer. Gaga excels on “Lush Life” by herself. Bennett takes a new crack at “Sophisticated Lady,” and “Don’t Wait Too Long,” both of which he’s done before. Let’s face it, he’s sung every standard over the last 60 plus years. But Tony never fails to bring new colors to songs each time he tries them.
You know, Tony labored under the shadow of Frank Sinatra for years. But since Sinatra’s death, we’ve had this extraordinary Bennett Renaissance that no one could have expected. Compare “Cheek to Cheek” to Sinatra’s late – career duets albums. Ol’ Blue Eyes couldn’t have pulled this off at 68, let alone 88. (He died at age 82.)
As for Gaga, this turn of events guarantees that she will be with us forever. Unlike Madonna, Gaga has about ten career possibilities. She’ll be able to do anything she wants, especially Broadway, when her fan base ages out. Movie musicals? Why not? We are stuck with her, but in a good way. If she takes care of that voice, Lady Gaga will be getting a Kennedy Center honor and lots of other things 30 and 40 years from now.
Congrats to Tony’s sons, Danny– his manager, and Dae–his producer on “Cheek to Cheek.” They nailed this thing.