Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga




Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga would make good poker players. By waiting seven years to record their second album together, they also waited until Bennett was 94 (he’s since turned 95). Think about that for a moment. The credulity-defying achievement of still having a voice that can pitch and hold notes at that age is the ultimate proof of what a technically expert singer he’s always been.

The pair share a playfulness that keeps their duetting buoyant across most of this Cole Porter tribute. During I Get a Kick Out of You, for instance, after Bennett delivers the line, “I suddenly turn and see your fabulous face”, you hear Gaga say off-mic, “You talking about me?” and then hear smiles infuse their subsequent singing. There’s also a genuine panache to the way their voices interact on Dream Dancing with You and the inevitable I’ve Got You under My Skin (given the full big-band treatment, with Gaga in barnstorming form).

As we already knew, she can be completely convincing in this idiom that blurs jazz singing and crooning, and their voices blend like two horns: hers having a slightly brassy quality that she can tame to prettiness, and his a rasp he can disguise with a bronze veneer.

The low point is Gaga’s solo rendition of Do I Love You?, which wades into a quicksand of sticky strings and loses itself there. By contrast Bennett’s first solo, So in Love, is among the highlights, his performance swathed in on-mic intimacy and an arrangement that underscores the song’s drama, without adding bombast. Meanwhile he gives a masterclass in how to paper over the cracks in his range, judiciously speaking an occasional word that only compounds the emotional impact, and on a swinging Just One of Those Things he could be 64 rather than 94.

Where he underplays (partly from necessity), Gaga likes to overplay, so their performances meet somewhere in the middle: her theatricality flirting with his restraint. She’s wonderful on her other solo, Let’s Do It: sassy and funny as she lets her voice off the leash. Sometimes she sounds like Ella Fitzgerald and sometimes like Judy Garland – which is weird, given those two greats were polar opposites in timbre and phrasing.

It’s in the public domain that Bennett has Alzheimer’s disease, and this will be his last record. He goes out on a high.