Monday, September 22, 2014

Cheek to Cheek | Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga


★★★★☆

Around the world, pop music journalists, both professional and amateur alike, are stuck between a rock and a hard place thanks to Lady Gaga. We are currently at a stalemate between "who are we to critique a jazz album?" and "we have to review this because it's Gaga." While we have been fervently awaiting a new set from Gaga, jazz was expected to be a side project rather than a full-fledged follow-up to her last pop album. (Correction: some of us have been anxiously waiting for this album; everyone else is just caught up in the fact that ARTPOP moved a smaller number of units than Katy Perry's Prism.) However, she's not driving into this new musical world alone and has instead partnered with jazz veteran Tony Bennett for Cheek to Cheek.

The power duo of Bennett and Gaga (whom Tony lovingly calls "Lady") first partnered for their rendition of "The Lady is a Tramp" for Bennett's 2011 Duets II album. After their success with that piece, the two went on to hand-pick some of the most influential pieces of American jazz music to record for this collaborative album. Song selections include the lead single, "Anything Goes," and the highly-anticipated "Lush Life." Also preceding the release of the album were "Can't Give You Anything But Love," "Nature Boy," and an hour long special on the Home Shopping Network that was essentially fifty percent interview footage and fifty percent shameless promotion by a blonde representative from the network ("And no matter how many copies you buy tonight, guess what! You pay shipping once. So you can get one, or you can get ten, you could get twenty, and you only pay shipping one time.")

The album is such a refreshing change of pace for Lady Gaga, especially the completely raw vocals throughout the album. This is perhaps the purest form of the Lady's vocals we've been graced with in studio quality since "Speechless," which was released as Gaga was still in the dawn of her career. While perhaps big band instrumentals weren't the expected backing to these great vocals, I'm just glad to hear Gaga at her full potential. From her highest belts to lowest croons, she delivers a quality sound that complements the smooth delivery from her vocal counterpart, Bennett. I can't promise that this is an album that pop music lovers are going to play constantly for the next six weeks, but it is an album that everyone can easily fall in love with. Bennett and the Lady's timeless pieces will provide the perfect serene atmosphere for a warm bubble bath or perhaps a quiet Sunday drive. At the same time, Cheek to Cheek formally reveals that Lady Gaga is much more than your average pop star.

Cheek to Cheek will be available September 23 under Interscope Records and Columbia Records in both standard and deluxe formats. Exclusive versions can be at Target department stores and the online Home Shopping Network store.

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