Two years ago Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga did a spectacular version of “The Lady is a Tramp” for Bennett’s Duets II album that set a new standard for mix-and-match celebrity partnerships. This was not one of those self-conscious Shakira/Blake Shelton crossover deals. There was spontaneity, sass and soul on Bennett and Gaga’s one-night stand, so much that you wanted to hear more. Cheek to Cheek continues the collaboration, and while it’s not bad, the chemistry isn’t quite recaptured on this album of jazz standards, which was produced by Bennett’s son Dae, with the rest of Bennett’s musical team in charge.
After a bold, brassy start with the Cole Porter classic “Anything Goes,” inconsistency sets in. Gaga leads on “Nature Boy,” but is upstaged by Paul Horn’s flute solo. She holds her own, but sometimes sounds self-conscious next to Bennett, who has lived and breathed these songs and sung them definitively for the last 60 years. Gaga was able to embellish and stay in character with “The Lady is a Tramp.” But when she tries to do the same on “Goody Goody,” on which she hardly participates except to mutter mindless patter like “I’m not a goody, I’m a baddy,” she just sounds like a brat. After their Duets II track was finished, Bennett told Gaga, “I know you’re a lady playing a tramp.” Gaga’s superior range and ability is in too much conflict with her persona here. Cheek to Cheek would have worked better had it been recorded by Tony Bennett and Stefani Germanotta, the gifted girl who would be Gaga.