Cheek to Cheek is an album by Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett that was released on September 19, 2014 by Interscope and Columbia Records.
- Anything Goes
- Cheek to Cheek
- Nature Boy
- I Can't Give You Anything But Love
- I Won't Dance
- Lush Life (Lady Gaga)
- Sophisticated Lady (Tony Bennett)
- Let's Face The Music And Dance
- But Beautiful
- It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)
In 2011, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga first met after she had performed a rendition of Nat King Cole's "Orange Colored Sky" at the Robin Hood Foundation gala in New York City.
Bennett then asked Gaga to sing a duet with him on his album, "Duets II" and the pair recorded "The Lady Is a Tramp" for the album.
In September 2012, Bennett confirmed to Rolling Stone that Gaga wanted to record a jazz album with him and there was a well-known composer associated with the project, and although not on a par with songwriters like George Gershwin or Cole Porter, he had had several hits to his name.
Swing band and composer Marion Evans was also under consideration for collaborating on the album; Bennett confirmed recording sessions would start soon after.
In January 2013, Evans confirmed that he would have a fairly significant part in the making of the album, stating "I don't know at this point exactly how many songs will be on the CD, but I'm sure we'll have about four or five different-sized orchestras or bands. It'll turn into a giant panic, I can assure you. That's just how this business is."
Later that month, Gaga, after her performance with Bennett at the final inaugural ball of President Obama's second inauguration, announced the album formally through her Twitter.
"And here's me and my handsome date, I simply cannot wait for our album together, he's my darling!" she wrote as a caption for a photo tweeted of the pair, along with revealing the title of the album as "Cheek to Cheek."
In September 2013, Bennett explained that for the album, they recorded "all great standards, quality songs; George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, songs like that. With a big swingin' band and great, great, jazz artists playing."
He told Chicago Tribune that his main intention of recording the album with Gaga was to introduce the jazz standards to a younger audience, believing that the tracks had a "universal appeal" and "timeless quality" about them.
Gaga told the Daily Telegraph that with her previous three albums, she felt unable to achieve her full vocal potential. She described "Cheek to Cheek" as a "rebellious" and "liberating" album for her because she was able to sing without worrying about record producers engineering it for radio.
Bennett said that Gaga had written an original song for the album titled "Paradise". It also contained solo performances along with the duets; Gaga later clarified that the album contained only standards.
The songs were handpicked by Bennett and Gaga; they selected tracks from the Great American Songbook including: "Anything Goes", a Porter song, "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" and "Sophisticated Lady" by Duke Ellington, "Lush Life" by Billy Strayhorn, and the title track by Berlin.
"Cheek to Cheek" debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 and topped Billboard's Jazz Albums & Traditional Jazz Albums chart, selling 131,000 copies during its first week. It also peaked at #4 on Billboard's Top Digital Albums chart. It was certified gold by the RIAA.
As of 2019, the album sold more than 773,000 copies in the country.
At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 to reviews from music critics, "Cheek to Cheek" received an average score of 64, indicating "generally favorable reviews", based on 12 reviews.
MTV News's Gil Kaufman praised the album, calling Bennett and Gaga "a match made in heaven". He added that the singers were able to "flawlessly" merge their unique vocals, that was reflected in their in-studio rapport, and thus onto the songs on the album.
Caroline Sullivan of The Guardian awarded the album with four out of five stars, claiming that "Gaga is a wonder". She also praised that "Cheek to Cheek reveals the considerable warmth and depth of her voice".
The Times critic Will Hodgkinson praised the album giving it a rating of four out of five stars. He added that Gaga could have been a "habitué of Upper Manhattan piano bars and supper clubs.. as Stefani Germanotta, classy singer of standards".
Jazz critic Marc Myers reviewed the album for The Wall Street Journal, claiming that "the biggest surprise on the album is Gaga's solo vocal on 'Lush Life', a difficult song that has troubled even the most seasoned jazz-pop singers, including Frank Sinatra. Her lower register is warm and her phrasing is heartfelt."
In his favorable review, Chicago Tribune critic Howard Reich wrote that "Cheek to Cheek serves up the real thing, start to finish... Both singers revel in swing rhythm, eager to buoy from one offbeat to the next and the next. They achieve considerable energy. But it's when things slow down that you can hear what these artists are capable of as interpreters, alone and together."
Jazz author Ted Gioia, who reviewed the album for The Daily Beast, was surprised by Gaga's ability to sing jazz, saying that "in all fairness to Lady Gaga, any singer who matches up with Tony Bennett needs to get loud and assertive... Her voice projects an appealing innocence [on] 'But Beautiful' and 'Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye'".
Rating it four out of five stars, Lewis Corner from Digital Spy complimented the vocal mix on the album, adding that "Cheek to Cheek may not be the glittering spectacle we've come to expect from Lady Gaga, but with Tony Bennett's guidance the pair have delivered an authentic and solid jazz record that respects the genre's generous history.
Jon Dolan from Rolling Stone gave the album three out of five stars and praised Gaga's vocals. Dolan felt the album "proves she can be a sophisticated lady".
Charles J. Gan from Associated Press also praised Bennett and Gaga's singing, writing that "Had she been born in an earlier era, Gaga would have been right at home in an MGM musical".
Idolator's Bianca Gracie described the album as "a refreshing listen that highlights the undeniable talent of both Bennett and Gaga and how well they work together".
Writing for the National Post, Mike Doherty observed that Gaga took "liberties with the beat, bends notes, purrs and whoops away" with the vocals, while Bennett was able to complement with his characteristic "dapper approach".
With three and a half stars out of five, Kenneth Partridge from Billboard opined that Gaga justified Bennett's faith in her – but sometimes "too forcibly" – and that she needed him, more than he needed her, on the recording of the album. Partridge summarized that overall, they had a "blast together and both will benefit from this pairing".
Another three and a half star rating came from Lydia Jenkin of The New Zealand Herald, who declared the album as "seamless standard renditions".
Jim Farber from New York Daily News awarded the album with four out of five stars, claiming that "Gaga has always been a power singer" and "She has a lot of Liza Minnelli in her". Bennett received great review from the site about the agility and pluck he is able to sing the songs.
James Reed from The Boston Globe praised the album and felt that both singers "bring out the best in each other".
Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph gave the album a rating of three stars out of five, writing: "If you take this album in the spirit of throwaway fun in which it seems to have been concocted, it is harmlessly engaging".
Giving "Cheek to Cheek" a rating of A–, Glenn Gamboa from Newsday declared the album as "straightforward jazz, gorgeous and well crafted".
Adam Markovitz of Entertainment Weekly commented that Bennett and Gaga are "in–if not quite heaven, then at least a pretty swell piano bar" and gave the album B+.
In a mixed review, Stephen Thomas Erlewine from AllMusic declared that "Cheek to Cheek is a record where the music and even the songs take a backseat to the personalities".
Alexa Camp from Slant Magazine gave the album a rating of two out of five stars. Camp criticized Bennett and Gaga's vocals in the album, adding that "If not for the session musicians' top-notch work... much of Cheek to Cheek, which drags at an economical 45 minutes, would sound like glorified karaoke."
San Francisco Chronicle writer Aidin Vaziri was disappointed with Bennett and Gaga not "highlight[ing] each other's wildly distinguishing features", adding that "the background music is far more exciting than the people singing over it".
Mikael Wood from Los Angeles Times complimented Gaga's vocals in the album but panned her "cheap exploitation: of a bunch of important songs she brings nothing to; of an 88-year-old legend with whom she has zero chemistry; and, most disappointingly, of our eagerness to follow her down an unlikely creative path."