The path across genre boundaries produces pearls: Lady Gaga dances with a jazz senior; Scott Walker revels with the US duo Sunn O))).
Cross-generational and cross-genre musical liaison: Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett. Image: Steven Klein/Promo
With the desire to transgress, Lady Gaga achieves brilliant results. When it comes to the visual, the theatrical variety of presentation in her staged imagery, the 28-year-old American exploits this level more shamelessly than any pop star before her. If only to present a selfie to her 42.5 million followers on Twitter day after day: So this is what I look like in a see-through white tube dress while waiting in an airport transit zone. Excuse me?
Her music inevitably took a back seat in this 24/7 performance; Gaga’s song selection often seemed uninspired. Showing emotions in show business? The American artist’s answer sounded uncharitable. Perhaps even on purpose. All the more shocking that she now claims her love of music as the currency for her new album "Cheek to Cheek". Suddenly she presents an expressive voice without any alienation, does without the tried and tested autotune effect when singing. In her video clips, too, she can recently be seen during the recording process, sitting behind a Neumann microphone, the lyric sheet always in view: hard work, and that, too, of course, as a precisely timed production.
Together with 88-year-old entertainer and singer Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga has now released "Cheek to Cheek," an album of jazz standards and classics from the Great American Songbook. The duo interprets songs by Cole Porter (346531/anything-goes-tony-bennett-and-lady-gaga: "Anything Goes"), Irving Berlin ("Cheek to Cheek") and Billy Strayhorn ("Lush Life"). The decisive factor in the selection and performance is not that Gaga shines alongside an entertainer who has been in the business since 1952. Rather, it’s a matter of interpreting the song material as faithfully as possible.
"Thank you Lady Gaga for bringing this music to life," Bennett writes in the booklet. Lady Gaga enacts cultural history not only through her vocal presence. The real achievement is that with "Cheek to Cheek" she introduces her own generation to humanism, poetry and the abysses of these evergreens in the first place; a generation that sets emoticons instead of describing feelings and finds the shitstorm normal.
Little Monsters is what Lady Gaga calls her fans. They do get snapshots of their burlesque heroine in suspenders next to a senior citizen with yellow-tinted glasses in the booklet: A photo spread in Vice magazine couldn’t look more porn-like, but otherwise the music is demurely veiled.
Gaga fans now have to find their way around in a world of sounds and signs that seems as prehistoric as the theme tune of "aktuell sportstudio" on ZDF. Where Lady Gaga is now, U.S. singer Scott Walker was already in the mid-1960s: a celebrated pop star at the top of the charts who brilliantly interpreted the songs of other artists. Time in the spotlight got Walker so bad that he voluntarily entered a monastery and returned with a voice that he had trained in self-study of Gregorian chant. Walker thus became a master of stretched and pressed vocals. He pairs monstrous coloratura with a consistently somber sonic signature on his sparse solo albums. When it serves the cause of this drasticness, Walker sometimes even taps his hand on a large piece of ham to make a song about the public execution of Benito Mussolini and his girlfriend sound vivid.
Together in the sonic world of drone metal: Scott Walker (second from right) and Sunno))). Image: promo
For his new work "Soused" the 71-year-old teamed up with the US drone metal band Sunn O))). Metal ultras, who for some time have been devoted exclusively to the alchemy of deep bass tones and heavy metal guitar riffs. Both sides pull out the most uncomfortable from their respective evidence rooms and still end up beyond the sonic cliches.
Synthesizers crack like whips, feedback loops boom, to which Walker sings about a broken America, as surreal as it seems to him from the distance of his adopted British home. His voice rattles like a skeleton through this forensic collection of sounds and memories. "Maximum volume leads to the most blatant result," is proclaimed on the album’s back cover. It should be taken as a warning.
Lady Gaga & Tony Bennett: "Cheek to Cheek" (Streamline/Interscope/Universal); Scott Walker & Sunn O))): "Soused" (4 AD/Beggars Group/Indigo).
The lyrics are about Stasi tailing, necklaces made of fire ants, and mothers killing their children. To open, Walker sings for nearly nine minutes about the beating actor Marlon Brando received from his father during his childhood in the U.S. state of Nebraska ("Brando, Dweller on the Bluff"). His voice virtually revels in the suffering of others. You should listen to the music in the brightest light.