When Lady Gaga announced her 2014 duet album with Tony Bennett, Cheek to Cheek, several explanations were given for the existence of an album that would once have seemed unthinkable. It was a return to her roots: long before Stefani Germanotta changed her name and became an artistic fixture in midtown Manhattan clubs, she had trained as a jazz singer. And it was a reaction to the control that is exercised in the world of conventional pop. On the albums that made her world famous, she protested, the producers had self-tuned her voice against her wishes; Singing standards were “rebelling against my own pop music.”
If you wanted to be cynical, you could have also suggested that it was a smart move. Before Cheek to Cheek, Gaga’s career faltered. His third album, Artpop, received mixed reviews and, by his previous standards, disappointing sales. You didn’t have to believe the rumor, vehemently denied by the singer, that she lost her record label $ 25 million and caused layoffs to realize that the 2.5 million copy trade was noticeably different from the 15 million from her debut. . If the world of pop was getting out of hand, Cheek to Cheek cleverly opened Lady Gaga to a different market: not jazz fans themselves, but the old-fashioned, easy-to-hear end of the BBC Radio 2 audience. : a cohort, it is worth adding, who still buy physical product.
That cynical voice might say something similar about Love for Sale, a Cole Porter song collection that comes a year after Gaga’s Chromatica: a well-revised return to electronic dance-pop that did not restore its dominance within the pop firmament. But cynicism is quite a difficult pose to maintain in front of the album itself, which comes with an emotional charge that its predecessor did not have. Bennett is 95 years old and has Alzheimer’s, diagnosed after plans for the album were laid out: the two shows he and Gaga gave last month in New York were their last public appearances, and Love for Sale will be the latest release from a single. recording career that began. 72 years ago. His family was not convinced that he could record the album at all.
Beyond the sympathy and sentiment, Love for Sale disarms cynicism simply by being contagiously funny. If Gaga is enacting another stage in a piercing eye plan to broaden her appeal, it doesn’t sound like that. In fact, if you wanted to launch a criticism, it’s that he occasionally feels like he’s having too much fun to inject the necessary pathos into a song like Night and Day. She is best served by lighter and more lively love songs. Bennett’s voices are clearly those of an older man, but they never disprove his ill health – he was always a full-voice singer, and the amount of power he can still muster is quite remarkable. And if their condition affected the chemistry between them in the study, you wouldn’t know from the evidence from I Get a Kick Out of You or You’re the Top.
Presumably aware of the objections jazz fans might raise to Lady Gaga recording another standards album – notably, that there are countless highly talented jazz vocalists fighting for recognition and record deals – the album begins with a sort of excuse me, changing the lyrics of Es De-Lovely: “Control your desire to curse, while I crucify the verse.” But it is not necessary. Set with arrangements that offer no concessions to this century, her performances avoid all the obvious pitfalls that can be expected from a pop singer eager to prove she can do it without the attentions of the studio. She does not sing too much, nor does she camp the songs; Nor does she seem intimidated by the company she maintains. There is an ease of conversation in his voice.
If you’re never going to impersonate Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book in anyone’s affections, Love for Sale underlines that Lady Gaga can sing jazz in a credible way. Whether he chooses to do it again, without Bennett, is anyone’s guess. And if he’s unlikely to catch up with, say, The Beat of My Heart or his late 50s work with Count Basie, it’s not a bad way for Bennett to say goodbye. It’s not just that it still sounds good. He once reclaimed the modern stuff he was forced to record in the 1970s Tony Sings the Great Hits of Today! made him physically ill; It is appropriate for an artist so resistant to pop trends to say goodbye by allowing a great contemporary pop star to enter his world, and not the other way around.
This week Alexis heard
Jon Hopkins – Deep in the Glowing Heart
Powerful and epic ambient electronics, infinitely less buoyant than the album title (Music for Psychedelic Therapy) might have you believe.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism