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When describing pop-icon Lady Gaga, the words “smooth jazz” and “easy-lis­tening” do not come to mind. However, the young megastar has yet another game-changing move up her sequined sleeve.  She and stan­dards legend Tony Bennett just released a col­lab­o­rative album titled “Cheek to Cheek,” which samples a range of jazz classics from the Great American Songbook.

The incon­gruous couple has been making head­lines since the duo first per­formed “The Lady is a Tramp” together in 2011 on Bennett’s album “Duets II,” which held the number one spot on Billboard’s Jazz Chart in 2011, breaking digital download records.

The pair developed a strong friendship while working together, and Bennett, taking note of Gaga’s ability to sing jazz, approached her with the idea to make a col­lab­o­rative album. While it may seem odd that the pop-anthem singer most known for her arena-synth hits, like “Bad Romance” and “Poker Face” has sud­denly taken an interest in jazz, Gaga has been singing the genre since age 13.

“Cheek to Cheek” is designed as a refreshing homage to the great jazz stan­dards of the 1930’s. With tracks including, “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got that Swing),” “I Can’t Give You Any­thing But Love,” and “Lush Life,” Bennett and Gaga are set to sing stan­dards com­posed by the best American jazz per­formers, from Duke Ellington to Billy Strayhorn.

While it starts out a bit light, by track two, the album sinks its teeth into the heart of the genre; each track con­tin­ually delivers and builds upon the last, with a fair mix of duets and solos from the each artist. Gaga shows quite a breadth of range and control over her voice.

In the “Nature Boy” duet, an ethereal song that even gave Frank Sinatra’s some dif­fi­culty with his vocal range, Gaga’s pow­erful, yet smooth voice is rem­i­niscent of young Barbra Streisand. Bennett’s voice is equally pow­erful and impressive given his age.  The grainy warm tone of his voice makes a perfect base for Gaga to har­monize around.

Things take more of a sultry, sensual turn on “I can’t Give You Any­thing But Love”, while up-tempo tracks like “It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Swing” are simply set to please tra­di­tional jazz lovers.

The album is accom­panied by Bennett’s per­sonal friends along with a handful of Gaga’s old friends, who seek to bring their own flair to the album. Brian Newman, Gaga’s closest friend —who still is just a local Lower East Side rock-n-roller — now heads the brass section of the band on trumpet.

Bennett has been over­whelm­ingly sup­portive of Gaga’s tran­sition into jazz.

“She’s as good as Ella Fitzgerald or anybody you want to come up with,” he affirmed to Rolling Stone. “And that’s without her dancing and her philoso­phies.”

After the under­whelming success of her latest album ARTPOP, Gaga has fre­quently credited Tony Bennett with saving her life.

“Working with Tony on this album was artis­ti­cally lib­er­ating, giving me a break from the pop business,” Gaga quipped. “Whatever authen­ticity you hear in my vocals is because of Tony. He really under­stands me, and I can be myself around him. He helped me through a tough time.”

Throughout this album’s pro­mo­tional tour, Bennett and Gaga have been behaving like an awkward, romantic couple. It is strange to see Bennett, 88, and Gaga, 60 years his junior, arm-in-arm, cooing praises to one another during inter­views and pro­mo­tional shows, but it is the music that draws them together. Both artists seek to draw new audi­ences to the genre, both desire to maintain this important musical legacy rel­e­vance for future gen­er­a­tions.

“Cheek To Cheek” has already placed in the top ten most down­loaded albums on iTunes. Both pro­mo­tional singles, “Any­thing Goes” and “I Can’t Give you Any­thing But Love” also topped inter­na­tional jazz charts. The pair plans to tour this album together sometime in 2015.

On Oct. 24, PBS will air a pre-taped per­for­mance of the entire “Cheek to Cheek” setlist. Do not expect to see any out­landish dress from Gaga. She has chosen to dawn a more classic, glam­orous look out of respect for the genre.

One thing is clear, Gaga’s voice is not an act. This col­lab­o­ration, while it seems odd, cer­tainly comes from a pure place. The sin­cerity, ded­i­cation, and passion can be heard throughout the album, and it firmly anchors, “Cheek to Cheek” from start to finish.

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Kayla Stetzel
Kayla Stetzel has been reporting for the Collegian since 2013. She is resident of Ft. Wayne Indiana. She is a Marketing Management major with a focus in Law. When’s she’s not writing or studying case files, she’s keeping up to date with music industry news or volunteering with animals. She plans on attending law school with the intent of becoming an entertainment attorney. email: kstetzel@hillsdale.edu | twitter: @KaylaStetzel