Somewhere on the road between meat frocks and vomit painting, Lady Gaga got a little lost.
The sales for her latest album, “Artpop,” have been less than impressive when measured against the success of “The Fame” and “The Fame Monster.” When she went off on a Springsteen-inspired rock-and-roll tangent with “Born This Way,” we rocked with her there, too.
But even though “Artpop” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts, it was still met with a collective “Enh.”
It seems we have reached saturation point when it comes to the zany antics of Gaga, which is why the most radical thing she could do right now would be to release an album of standards, the little black dresses of music.
It’s coming. Entitled “Cheek to Cheek,” the forthcoming album from Gaga and Tony Bennett capitalizes on the success of their first song together, “The Lady Is a Tramp,” which appeared on Bennett’s “Duets II,” the album he released to celebrate his 85th birthday.
While the list of artists was impressive — Bennett sang with Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin, Willie Nelson and even Amy Winehouse, the collaboration he did with Gaga is what really soared. The two released a charming video of “The Lady Is a Tramp.” Countless YouTube videos offer proof of Gaga’s ability to sing live, but before then, video of her capability as a jazz vocalist were more obscure.
This weekend, Gaga offered another tease of what “Cheek to Cheek” could sound like, singing the Gershwins’ “I’ve Got a Crush on You” at the Ottawa Bluesfest, a stop on her “Artrave” tour.
She lacks the coquettish, elegant lilt of Sarah Vaughn; instead, you tend to hear the power behind her voice, as she demonstrated in a surprise performance with Bennett at the Montreal Jazz Festival, where she sang Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life.” She said the upcoming album “will be the end of the beginning of my career.”
If Gaga does have a small chip on her shoulder about her time at New York University — she’s the school’s most famous dropout — it’s about the school’s failure to find a place for her unique voice. During her concerts, the singer has talked about how she had trouble limiting herself to a “type.” She was too bluesy/jazzy/Broadway to do pop, and too pop to be a strict jazz artist. She’s found a way to do both, and bring some of her classic Gaga juju to the standards. In the case of “The Lady Is a Tramp,” it was her trademark platforms, which made her taller than Bennett, and cotton-candy blue hair.
She also did “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with Joseph Gordon-Levitt — noteworthy not just because of the genre, but because the arrangement subverted the song’s original gender roles, which can sound a bit date-rapey in today’s climate. If “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” was written in 2014, it would be more like: “Baby it’s cold outside/OK, I’ll get you an Uber even though surge pricing is in effect right now.”
If you really want to go down a rabbit hole, it’s also worth checking out the “Glee” version by Darren Criss and Chris Colfer.