for Lady Gaga. Now, who thought I would ever, ever say that?! I surprise myself sometimes.
I’ll admit I didn’t know much about Lady Gaga’s music—a little out of my wheelhouse, which includes traditional Irish dance music (think Riverdance) and soothing birdsong—but what I did know was that she had become rather infamous for her onstage and red-carpet antics, including showing up to the Grammys in a giant transparent egg carried by men in gold short-shorts and workboots, parading down the carpet in a raw meat dress, and recently having a performance artist vomit green goo on her as she sang a disturbing song called “Swine.”
Call me old-fashioned, but I’d rather watch Ella Fitzgerald standing regally still on stage while singing her heart out on a classic from the Great American Songbook.
Well, blow me over with a feather, but that’s just what Lady Gaga does on her new duets album with legendary crooner Tony Bennett! Carol, my magazine designer and a serious crooners fan, gave me their new CD, Cheek to Cheek, this week, overriding my hesitation about anything Gaga by saying she was sure I’d like it, and I must admit, I immediately found a new appreciation for Gaga!
Who knew she had a wonderful, full, rich voice well-suited to classic tunes like “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and “Anything Goes”?
Her collaboration with Tony Bennett started back in 2011, when she sang “The Lady Is a Tramp” on his Duets II album. And this unlikely pair formed an immediate bond; not only did they have deep Italian-American roots in common, but Tony recognized a genuine love of jazz under all the crazy trappings of her public persona. “”She is actually a very authentic jazz singer,” he said. “She will turn a phrase, she will make it different, because of the moment that she is singing. And so, what happens is it keeps the songs alive; the interpretations become very intimate and everlasting.”
In a documentary about the making of their CD, Tony said that Lady Gaga, who he sweetly calls “Lady,” actually might be his favorite person to sing with, and that’s saying a lot, since he’s probably sang with just about every wonderful singer in the last 78 years. Because that’s how long Tony Bennett’s been singing publicly. Tony, who recently turned 88, was already singing by age 10, when he performed at the opening of New York City’s Triborough Bridge next to then-mayor La Guardia, who patted him on the head. He’s gone on to enjoy one of the longest singing careers in history, winning 17 Grammy Awards and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for his 100+ albums. And, at 88, he still sounds wonderful—smooth, soothing, and yes, even sexy. (It doesn’t hurt to know that he’s known as one of music’s nicest guys, as well, and as a passionate—and very good—painter.) Just listen to their rendition of 1947’s “But Beautiful” and see if Tony’s line, “And I’m thinking, if you were mine, I’d never let you go,” brings tears to your eyes, like it did to Lady Gaga during their recording session. (Watch it here.) The CD debuted at number one on the Billboard Chart, making Tony the oldest living artist to earn a number one album in the U.S.
Okay, I’ll admit, I’m kinda gaga for Tony and this version of Gaga!