Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett are said to be the “Odd Couple” of 2014, but Neil Simon’s characters Oscar and Felix have no relation to this jazz duo. Mr. Bennett and Gaga are in fact the most in sync, perfect pairing a music lover could hope for. On their album, “Cheek To Cheek”, the pair bounce their unique talents off each other in what reverberates into a sound so natural and pure. This album serves as an extension of ARTPOP for Gaga as she brings Tony’s art into pop culture for a new generation. In a world dominated by electronic, synthetic, machine made pop music, Cheek To Cheek re-instills the hope for raw talent and allows the joy back into making music.
Composed by Cole Porter
On the opening track, Tony and Gaga tell the listener that when it comes to their collaboration you really can’t have any expectations. You just have to let the music envelop you and let them do the work for you. The two lightly and freely sing to each other “The world has gone mad today and good's bad today, and black's white today, and day's night today...” which can be interpreted to how crazy and controlling the music industry has become. However, the two aren’t bothered as they continue to happily sing until Tony grants permission to the band to take over, quite literally when he tells them, “Go!” It’s a nice easy listen that makes you wanna wave your finger and perhaps break out into a tap routine (not saying I did or did not do this).
Cheek to Cheek
Composed by Irving Berlin
“Heaven, I’m in Heaven...” Gaga opens the song in her beautiful, smooth straight tone. She clearly is genuinely in paradise when she is singing Jazz with Tony and it really shows in this classic tune by Irving Berlin. The song quickly picks up into a light swing as Tony starts to repeat Gaga’s opening lyric. You can really feel how much they enjoy each other as they harmonize in the chorus. It’s a simple interpretation of the song, yet exquisite nonetheless.
Don’t Wait Too Long
Composed by Sunny Skylar
Tony’s first solo song on the album is truly a “Tony Bennett” song through and through. A very light, flowery, (almost) love song that composedly offers “Lady” some wise advice. It’s his beloved caution telling her not to wait to do what you love.
I Can’t Give You Anything But Love
Composed by Jimmy McHugh & Dorothy Fields
One of the standouts of their duets on the album. When the two come together, their love for music is what they have to share not only with each other, but with the listener as well. This is the two of them stating their passion for the music–it’s pure love, nothing else. The love continues to show with Brian Newman’s trumpet solo. It is truly elegant and stands out on the track, as well. This track could become a modern day “jazz classic” for this generation.
Composed by eden ahbez
This is one of my favorite tracks. Haunting, yet romantic. Gaga really proves her vocal variety with this song, pulling back into a softer, spoken straight tone. Paul Horn’s (may he rest in peace) flute solo is an ornamental addition to the song that introduces a quality of purity, making you feel like you are actually in nature. The harmonies at the end are truly beautiful as Gaga and Tony remind us “The greatest thing you will ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” Amen.
Composed by Matty Malneck & Johnny Mercer
This tune is a chance for Tony to show his song crafting expertise. He really takes the reigns on the song as Gaga playfully responds to his accusations of finding someone new by speaking over the track. We all know she’s right though, she’s not a goody she’s a baddy.
Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye
Composed by Cole Porter
Gaga’s first solo tune on the album and probably one of the greatest things she’s ever recorded. Sure, I’m probably biased, but she really proves herself as a jazz artist with this track. Starting off soft and sad, she crafts the song so beautifully (with the help of the band) bringing in the happiness of memories she has with her love, and back to the sadness of saying goodbye perfectly timed with the lyric, “how strange the change from major to minor.” She takes us out with a soft, breathy straight tone, sustained perfectly. Ella would be proud.
Composed by Cy Coleman & Carolyn Leigh
A Tony Bennett classic! This song brings us back to the happy, up-tempo couple we heard at the beginning of the album. Mr. Bennett perfectly describes Gaga as radiating moon-glow and asks, “Why can’t I latch on to you?” As we know, Gaga is ever changing and flitting from one passion to the next (strictly art speaking, not men). She carefully glides around Tony’s vocal line, jumping octaves smoothly as they both soar to the end.
I Won’t Dance
Composed by Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein II & Otto Harbach
They won’t dance! Don’t tell them what to do; Tony and Gaga are in control here. Another free and easy track for the two, maybe they won’t dance but their vocals are waltzing and gliding across the track so effortlessly. It’s a very heart warming tune regardless of it being about rejecting someone’s offer to dance in the fear of falling in love.
They All Laughed
Composed by George Gershwin & Ira Gershwin
Lots of people have “laughed” at Gaga for her career choices, as well as Tony for his. Well, here they are ladies and gentleman–60 years later. They enthusiastically sing, “They all said we’d never get together...” and literally have a laugh at those that doubted them. A very lighthearted tune from the 1930s that The Gershwin’s today would probably title “Haters Gonna Hate.”
Composed by Billy Strayhorn
Gaga’s second solo track which serves as an autobiography no one ever wants to relate to. She successfully tackles this very difficult Billy Strayhorn tune. She admits, “I was wrong” in a beautiful belt and effortlessly, she retracts, “Life is lonely again” in her gorgeous alto range. Her push and pull in the song are wonderfully crafted and although effortless seeming, I know is a lot of work. Her genuine tears at the end of the song really rush through you as she comes to accept this is the life she will always live. 10/10 brilliant.
Composed by Duke Ellington, Irving Mills & Mitchell Parish
This is Tony’s reponse to Gaga’s Lush Life. It’s as if he takes the whiskey stained glass out of her hand at 2 am, and pulls her into him. He sees her for who she really is and his love for her really shows for her in this song. He sees all her potential and wants to lift her out of her pain. This love song really shows how Tony doesn’t even need to do much as he speaks a lot of the song. It feels more intimate and personal that way, but he still shows his vocal prowess as he takes us out at the end of the song with a beautiful sustained note.
Let’s Face The Music and Dance
Composed by Irving Berlin
Uplifted by Tony’s “Sophisticated Lady,” the two grab hands and dive head first into the next track. “There may be trouble ahead,” Gaga sings but she’s realized now’s the time to seize her opportunity to seize all the “moonlight and love and romance” and enjoy her time with Tony. We’re back into the swinging band instrumentals and, what’s this? A key change! They’re really jiving together and ready to keep singing together as long as they have the chance.
Composed by Jimmy Van Heusen & Johnny Burke
This tune can serve as a thank you from Tony to Gaga and Gaga to Tony. Gaga sings, “If you were mine, I’d never let you go.” as Tony joins in “and that would be But Beautiful, I know.” We’re nearing the end of the album and it’s their chance to have a final slow dance before the night is over. They don’t want the nigh to end, and neither do we. A gorgeous goodbye.
It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)
Composed by Duke Ellington & Irving Mills
But wait, there’s more! Encore! This is Tony and Gaga going full force jazz. We’re at the speakeasy and flapper girls are dancing their hearts out. This song is pure joy and gets you moving in your seat. Tony and Gaga scat back and forth and bring our evening to a close on a high note.
Bonus Tracks ❧
Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)
Composed by Sonny Bono
The song everyone is talking about. Gaga’s rendition of “Bang Bang” is truly her own. She starts off innocent and soft and as the song progresses, her emotion grows. With the help of the bongos, you can feel her passion rising as she jumps up an octave and beautifully “cries” for an answer, “Now he’s gone I don’t know why.” She croons and the warmth of her vibrato really pulls you into what she’s feeling. Beautifully crafted from start to finish.
Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered
Composed by Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart
This iconic Rodgers and Hart song must be a favorite of Gaga’s because she truly plays around with it and you can sense her familiarity with the tune. “I’m wild again, beguiled again, a simpering, whimpering child again,” she sings about how she has been reawakened by recording this Jazz album with Tony. She is thanking Tony for giving her this experience and how “Bewildered” she truly is by this opportunity she’s had. Her passion truly soars in the key change at the end as she takes one final bow.
Although I thoroughly enjoy a Lady Gaga pop banger, I’ve been waiting for Gaga to revisit her roots as a trained vocalist and showcase her talent for the world to see. Everyone is so quick to trash her for what’s on the outside: her costumes, her weight, her hair, etc. People are always judging her music on a basis of how she looks from day to day, but with this album she found a way through all the negativity: vulnerability. This album is raw, one take talent. She said she would put her money where her mouth is and she swallowed every penny. Even though she really has nothing to prove, she demonstrated her true vocal craftsmanship and ability to bear her soul in a song. Cheers to doing what you love and doing it well.
Cheek to Cheek is available to purchase worldwide at all major and independent retailers. Get your copy now, and swing into Fall!