I was so looking forward to watching a taped PBS American Masters TV show of Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga singing classic songs from their much-hyped album “Cheek To Cheek”. And then it began…I realized again that some people do justice and some don’t, to the canon of forever popular music written from the 1920’s through the 1950’s, mostly for Broadway and movies. Lady Gaga is one of those singers in my opinion that should stick with what she does best, and not try to sing any song where her over-the-top persona takes over and people concentrate more on her than on the song itself. Plus her voice is all about the bass with little room for nuance and delicateness. I’m sorry, but you can’t sing a duet with iconic Tony Bennett of “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t got That Swing) with spiked hair and a plunging neckline. Very much Cher-like, Lady Gaga changed outfits for every song. Some worked, some did not. Master Bennett and the music are class acts and not well suited to a woman who normally sings with a hundred people on stage, and animals and fireworks. That’s fine for what it is and I would love to see one of Lady Gaga’s shows, but whoever thought of this merging was off target by a mile. I’m sure the album will sell well, if only because Rod Stewart’s monstrously popular takes on the songbook went off the charts, and I’m sorry again, but he was terrible…TERRIBLE at interpreting the collection.
Barbra Streisand has the same problem as the Lady…her voice is too overwhelming for most of the familiar songs recorded by so many so earlier than Ms. Streisand, but I’m not surprised artists want to record this fabulous collection. Who wouldn’t? I have a great shower voice and I love to sing these songs all lathered up imangining looking in the audience and seeing my mother, my wife, and my entire high school class sitting center row front, crying with happiness over my ability to master the feelings of much of the 20th century’s music. But that doesn’t mean I could do it with Tony Bennett.
Celine Dion has one of the biggest voices ever, and can sing these songs because she will simply stand there and sing them with her interpretation, but it will be nothing but music to the ears. The same goes for Diana Krall, k.d.lang, Jane Monheit, Stacey Kent, and of course Madeleine Peyroux to name a few modern era songstresses.
So Tony, I’m begging you, in a few years when you do another album with a lady, pass on the gimmick and go for authentic. You’ll be happier than you probably are at the moment..
P.S. Tony Bennett, 88 years young can still bring it. His solo, How Do You Keep the Music Playing, brought tears to my eyes and produced a standing ovation from the audience.