Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett: Love for Sale review – jazz intruder enlivens the crooner’s swan song | Lady Gaga

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When Lady Gaga has announced her 2014 duet album with Tony Bennett, Cheek to Cheek, various explanations have been given for the existence of an album that would once have seemed unthinkable. It was a homecoming: long before Stefani Germanotta changed her name and became an artistic figure in downtown Manhattan clubs, she had trained as a jazz singer. And that was a reaction to the control in the mainstream pop world. On the albums that made her world famous, she protested, the producers had auto-tuned her vocals against her will; singing standards was “to rebel against my own pop music”.

The artwork for Love for Sale. Photography: RP

If you wanted to be cynical, you might also have suggested that this was a wise move. Before Cheek to Cheek, Gaga’s career had faltered. His third album, Artpop, met with mixed reviews and, by its previous standards, disappointing sales. You didn’t have to buy the rumor, categorically denied by the singer, that it lost her $ 25 million label and led to layoffs to understand that the transfer of 2.5 million copies was significantly different from the 15 million from his debut. If the pop world escaped her, Cheek to Cheek cleverly opened Lady Gaga to a different market: not jazz fans per se, but the old-fashioned, easy-to-listen to audience of BBC Radio 2 – a cohort it’s worth. worth adding, who still buy physical products.

This cynical voice might say something similar about Love for Sale, a collection of Cole Porter songs that arrives a year after Gaga’s Chromatica: a well-commented return to electronic dance-pop that hasn’t restored it to its place. dominant in the pop firmament. But the cynicism is a rather difficult posture to maintain vis-a-vis the album itself, which arrives carrying an emotional charge that its predecessor did not have. Bennett, 95, has Alzheimer’s disease, diagnosed after plans for the album were laid: The two shows he and Gaga gave last month in New York City were his last public performances, and Love for Sale will be the last new release in a recording career that has begun. 72 years ago. His family were not convinced he would be able to record the album.

Beyond sympathy and sentiment, Love for Sale disarms cynicism simply by being a lot of fun and contagious. If Gaga implements another step of a tendril-eyed ploy to broaden her appeal, she doesn’t look like it. Indeed, if you wanted to address a criticism, it is because it sometimes feels like it is having too much fun to inject the required pathos into a song like Night and Day. It is best served by lighter and faster love songs. Bennett’s voice is clearly that of an older man, but it never belies his failing health: he has always been a full vocal singer, and the amount of power he can still muster is quite remarkable. And if his condition affected the chemistry between them in the studio, you wouldn’t know from the proof of I Get a Kick Out of You or You’re the Top.

Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett: I Get a Kick Out of You – vidéo

Presumably aware of the objections jazz fans might raise against Lady Gaga recording another standards album – mainly, that there are countless extremely talented jazz singers fighting for recognition and contracts from recording – she starts the album with some kind of apology, reversing the lyrics to C’est De-Lovely: “Control your urge to curse, while I crucify the verse.” But it is not necessary. With arrangements that offer no concessions in this century, her performances avoid all the obvious pitfalls one would expect from a pop singer eager to prove that she can cut it without the intervention of a studio. She doesn’t over-sing, or camp songs; nor does she seem intimidated by the company she keeps. There is an ease of conversation in his voice.

While it is never going to supplant Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book in anyone’s affection, Love for Sale emphasizes that Lady Gaga can sing jazz in an honorable way. Whether it’s again, without Bennett, it’s up to everyone to guess. And while you’re unlikely to achieve that, say, The Beat of My Heart or his late ’50s work with Count Basie, that’s not a bad way for Bennett to say goodbye. It’s not just that it always sounds great. He’s already claimed the modern material he was forced to record on 1970s Tony Sings the Great Hits of Today! made him physically ill; It’s only fitting that an artist so resistant to pop trends should say goodbye by allowing a huge contemporary pop star to enter their world, rather than the other way around.

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