Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga

  • Cheek to Cheek [Streamline/Columbia/Interscope, 2014] B+
  • Love for Sale [Columbia/Interscope, 2021] A

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Cheek to Cheek [Streamline/Columbia/Interscope, 2014]
I'm agnostic at best as regards the urban legend of Bennett's ageless cool. It's too classy on his end and too voguish on that of his eager young admirers. But this guy isn't just 80--he's 88, old enough to awaken in a 72-year-old like myself something approaching the dreams of immortality he instills his thirtysomething partisans. Granted, it's his twentysomething partner who provides the elan vital here. Gaga grabs these standards as Linda Ronstadt never did and Annie Lennox should be tried for trying--rock-'em sock-'em uptempo, not quite overripe on ballads, and having a ball both ways. In a true collaboration--both solo turns fall flat--it's her enthusiasm, her vulgarity, and the liberties she takes with the tunes that make the concept sing. That said, however, Bennett always sounds like he has some left in the tank. It's inspirational, I admit. B+

Love for Sale [Columbia/Interscope, 2021]
The news that this pair were revisiting their cross-generational gimmick seven years after its launch got no rise out of me, because while Cheek to Cheek was definitely enjoyable, it was often no more than that. And while the duo's young distaff half had since emerged from her shrewdly individualized carapace of glam-pop celebrity to prove a gifted actress and adaptable all-around entertainer with a high alto of near-Ella sweetness and definition and the brains to begin the "It's De-Lovely" opener with its semi-recitative "tinpantithesis" prologue, her senior partner had not only turned 95 but been diagnosed with Alzheimer's way back in in 2016. But I failed to register two things. First, all 12 titles are by pantheon wit-and-a-half Cole Porter, who not only devised the term "tinpantithesis" but festooned "Let's Do It" with "Lithuanians and Letts do it." Second, Alzheimer's has been found to be much easier on your verbal memory if you are singing, at which point lyrics you could once recite verbatim pour past your vocal cords and into the air as if they were notes on a scale, as they also are. Of course, this assumes you retain a larynx worthy of the name, which not every singer of 75 much less 95 can claim. Anthony Dominick Benedetto still has one--he sounds leaner, a bit drier, but also capable of enunciating every word in a long-cultivated New York accent whose miraculous juice and intuitive smarts could make an 80-year-old hope for a longer life than many would consider seemly. A