Love For Sale

Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga

Columbia/Interscope, 2021

http://tonybennett.com

REVIEW BY: Peter Piatkowski

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/11/2021

It’s always a curious thing when someone releases a sequel to something that wasn’t all that great to begin with. Given the success of 2014’s Cheek To Cheek, Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett have reunited in the studio for another album of pop standards. Part of the limited charm of the first outing was the novelty of pop star Lady Gaga suppressing her inner dance diva and playing the part of the chanteuse with legend Bennett. Though in his 80s, Bennett was still a masterful stylist, despite his voice weathered and wizened with age, whilst Lady Gaga indulged in her most insufferable theatre-kid fantasies.

On Love for Sale, the two superstars return with their oil-and-water combo to warble another platter of pop tunes from the Great American Songbook. It’s clear that despite age and health woes, Bennett possesses nearly all of his charm and gifts. The album was recorded between 2018 and 2020, after which Bennett was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Announcing his retirement from recording and touring, it appears as if my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Love For Sale is the music great’s swan song—unfortunate because he has to share the mic with Broadway Baby wannabe Lady Gaga. If his label released a final solo LP, that would be a far better capper to an illustrious career. Given his vocal performances on Love For Sale, there was still quite a bit of power left in Bennett during those recording sessions.

One of the biggest things Love For Sale has going for it is that it’s devoted to Cole Porter. That songwriter’s witty, complex, and urbane tunes are perfect for Bennett, one of the best interpreters of Porter’s work; Though Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, he’s never lost that deco-elegant New York style from his presentation. And though she hams it up something awful on the album, Porter’s affectedness matches decently with Gaga’s pretentions.

Cole Porter was a brilliant songwriter but not a very deep or emotional one. The best of his songs offer clever plays on words or interesting ways of using metaphor to express the elan joy of the lyrics. His music feels like watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing on some sleek, elegant set. Bennett and his duet partner do a fair bit of frisky vocal dancing on these tunes. “Night And Day” moves dreamily with a subtle bass strumming and swooning strings; the two stars trade verses with solid chemistry (though again, Gaga’s performance is all style over substance). Better is the title track, a jazzy number that is briskly paced, with Bennett showing off a nimbleness that belies his advanced age.

Though most of the songs are duets, each superstar gets a couple of solos, too. Bennett’s solos are beautiful and point to a great album (hopefully there are some awesome tracks in some archive awaiting release). Gaga’s solos aren’t as impressive, though her rendition of “Do I Love You” actually benefits from her theatricality, as she ably pretends to be a songstress.

But the bulk of the album is Tony Bennett repeatedly outshining his talented partner, who is a brilliantly gifted performer, but one that has been seriously miscast as a 21st century Peggy Lee. There’s so much effusive artifice in her work here, it’s hard to enjoy it; meanwhile, Bennett easily glides through this material, effortless and with evergreen charm.

Rating: C

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 2021 Peter Piatkowski and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia/Interscope, and is used for informational purposes only.