Lady Gaga has always been much more than the polished and controversial popstar that the world has come to love. Behind the costumes and the make-up is an incredible voice that can sometimes get lost in the crazy that surrounds her. Her 2013 album Artpop was deemed a flop by critics after it failed to reach the dizzying heights of her previous releases but we think those claiming it was the death of Lady Gaga’s career are a bit wide of the mark. As if to stick two fingers up at the backlash from the pop world, Gaga has released an album of jazz standards with legend Tony Bennett.
Cheek To Cheek was actually due for release last year after Gaga and Bennett completed recording the album in the first half of the year. Due to her commitments with Artpop the record was pushed back and back and it’s finally been released. Gaga and Bennett first met back in 2011 and recorded The Lady Is A Tramp for Bennett’s album Duets II. That collaboration was well-received and the pair started to discuss recording more together with Cheek To Cheek being the end result.
The Lady Is A Tramp features on the deluxe edition of Cheek To Cheek and it’s a great reminder of where this album journey began. Across the tracklisting Gaga and Bennett cover a variety of jazz standards, some solo most together, whilst backed by a live band and jazz musicians. The album opens with Anything Goes, written by Cole Porter, and it eases you into the record. Gaga and Bennett released the track as the album’s lead single and it’s definitely one of the strongest cuts on the record.
One of the things that surprises on the record is just how well Gaga and Bennett’s voices work together. Gaga shows off a completely different side to her abilities whilst Bennett sounds in fine form after all these years. They shine when they bounce off each other on tracks such as Goody Goody where their vocals are playful and their chemistry evident.
Standout moments on the record include the beautiful piano ballad Lush Life, the powerful I Won’t Dance, and the jazz scats of It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing). Of the solo moments Gaga shines on include the lounge jazz of Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye whilst Bennett is exceptional on the gorgeous Sophisticated Lady.
There will be those critics that use the commercial success of Cheek To Cheek as another stick to beat Lady Gaga with if it doesn’t sell millions of copies. Those that do come out with that nonsense have clearly missed the whole point of the record. Cheek To Cheek is never going to match Gaga’s biggest sales but nor do we think it was ever supposed to. Instead it repositions Gaga and reminds you of just what an incredible vocalist she is. Who better to reinforce that claim than Tony Bennett?