For Tony Bennett's final album, he once again teams up with flamboyant pop icon Lady Gaga to produce yet another project of smooth traditional jazz duets. The Mic's Maia Gibbs unravels the swan-song of a true musical legend.
Released by Columbia and Interscope Records on September 30, 2021, Love for Sale is the second and final collaboration album by Tony Bennet and Lady Gaga. It has debuted at No. 8 on the all-genre Billboard 200 chart and top of both Billboard’s Traditional Jazz albums and overall Jazz Charts.
Fans of the pair’s first album, Cheek to Cheek (2011), will be aware of Gaga and Bennett’s magnetic power. Gaga, as can be expected, brings the drama, the sparkly dresses, the hair. She shows her range, diverting from her pop staccato notes to climb the smooth jazz scale. Her and Bennett are like silk and suede (ironically a combination I think only Gaga herself could pull off). There’s an athleticism to their vocals, matching each other's pace and stepping in where their partner is weak, like a syncopated vocal rowing team. Their surprising friendship is shown throughout both of these albums, the songs being more of a musical conversation than the dynamics of a traditional duet.
"The air of reflection is carried through Gaga’s nostalgic playfulness and Bennet’s crooner softness."
The album marks a special place in Tony Bennett’s long-spanning musical career, as Love on Top became Bennett’s 15th Jazz No. 1 and his sixth top ten album on the Billboard 200 out of his sixty-one studio albums. With Love on Top he broke out his tie with Harry Connick, Jr. for the most No. 1s in the 54-year history of the Jazz charts. Bennett also broke the Guinness World Record for the oldest person to release an album of new material, at the age of 95 years and 60 days. Pretty remarkable statistics for an album that was released less than a month ago.
This acclaim and record-breaking can only be due to the eloquent and tender chemistry that the two artists carry throughout the album, and it’s the only fitting way to send off the career spanning 85 years. The air of reflection is carried through Gaga’s nostalgic playfulness and Bennet’s crooner softness. You will find yourself transported through the ebullient renditions of Cole Porter’s jazz standards.
This sentimental feeling holds even more weight after Bennett’s tragic Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 2016. This album is a remarkable retirement piece, and that somewhat takes the sting away from the knowledge that we’ll never hear new works or live performances from the great Tony Bennet. Songs like Just One of Those Things take on a certain poignancy with lines such as “so goodbye dear and amen, here’s hoping we meet now and then”. It’s enough to make your heart break with bitter-sweetness.
But that’s not to say there aren’t lighter moments to stop your crying. The pair are clearly having fun here, their vocals dancing around each-other in tracks like I Concentrate on You and Dream Dancing. Gaga often takes vintage lyrics and cheekily transforms them with her modern infamy, such as: “But if, baby, I’m the bottom, you’re the top” from the closing track, You’re the Top. The duo have mastered the meta-songwriting of It's De-Lovely and it’s poetic complexities, with a sort-of dexterous ability that makes listeners tap their feet. It is my personal favourite - if that sways anyone. These compliments to the artist obviously don’t come without those to the backing musicians. The breathtaking saxophone bursts, groovy double bass, horns, string shakes and piano twinkles all come together to create a concoction of perfection. The album truly fills you with delight, it makes you swing, or click, or jig. It makes you smitten.
Whether you have a love interest or not, you’ll make one up by the pure power of romantic jazz. You’ll find even the stoic of hearts becoming romantic whilst listening to this album. The best way I could describe it is like a musical marriage - the duet, the instrumentation, the lyrics. An old-age timeless marriage, like those in glamorous kitchen adverts or black-and-white movies. They display the timeless nature of these classics, as two artists from two vastly different generations and genres can transform these songs into something uniquely personal and special. Love for Sale is a fond farewell, an “I’ll see you again”, rather than a saddened goodbye.
Written by: Maia Gibbs
Edited by: Elliot Fox
In article images courtesy of Lady Gaga via Facebook. Video courtesy of Lady Gaga via YouTube.