Before Sept. 18, I would have dismissed the idea of a Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett collaboration as ridiculous. But “Cheek to Cheek,” released last week, has proved me wrong. This sophisticated album is the perfect mix of contemporary and classic.
Lady Gaga is famous for her flamboyant and eccentric style, provocative live performances and visually compelling music videos. Alternatively, Tony Bennett is a classic jazz crooner, his voice adding warmth and intimacy to everything he sings.
It can be difficult to find a connection between the two when it comes to musical style. But as it turns out, Gaga has always had an adoration for jazz — she’s been singing it since she was a young girl. “Cheek to Cheek” was inspired by Bennett and Gaga’s desire to introduce jazz standards to a younger generation, believing that the tracks have universal appeal.
A few songs stick out as especially memorable. “I Won’t Dance” is a charming, laid-back tune that highlights Gaga and Bennett’s vocal compatibility. Gaga shows off her un-autotuned voice atop a playful brass background, joined by Bennett’s complementary, walnut-like tone.
If you fancy an upbeat, brassy, big-band sound, “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” is the perfect pick-me-up, with wandering trumpet solos and energetic “doo-wop, doo-wops” from Gaga and Bennett that drive right through the number.
In “Lush Life,” Gaga captivates as she flies solo, accompanied only by a quiet piano, flaunting her ability to carry sustained and powerful notes.
“Cheek to Cheek” seems to be a compilation of the “greatest hits” of classic jazz, consisting of standards by some of the more famous composers and lyricists – Cole Porter and Irving Berlin are just two of many on the album.
Gaga and Bennett’s atypical collaboration may get us wondering whether other contemporary pop artists are secretly connected to other genres. Perhaps Nicki Minaj has an interest in Beethoven and chamber music. If she ever decides to release a symphony of her own, there’s apparently a market: “Cheek to Cheek” has been a commercial success, selling more than 100,000 copies in the first weekend of its release. Perhaps this will challenge other recording artists to follow in Gaga and Bennett’s footsteps, creating a more cross-generational musical world.
Before last week, it seemed impossible that a woman who once dressed as a filet mignon for the VMAs would ever team up with a classy old-school gentleman in a tuxedo. But on this album, they’re a natural fit.
You can listen to “Cheek to Cheek” online here.
Contact CU Independent staff writer Audrëy Rodríguez at firstname.lastname@example.org.