Unlikely friendships are hard to resist. Had it not been for a charity gala nearly a decade ago, it’s difficult to imagine Tony Bennett (legendary crooner of the big band era) and Lady Gaga (songwriter, actress, and modern pop music aficionado) crossing paths, let alone deciding to collaborate.
Fate had other plans: Not only did that charity pairing yield a lovely friendship and collaborative album, 2014’s Cheek to Cheek, but Gaga and Bennett had such fun together that they decided to return for twelve more tracks. Love for Sale is Tony Bennett’s sixty-first (!) album, and presumably his last; the 95-year old singer recently announced his retirement, and is currently living with Alzheimer’s. The album is a lovely swan song, and the collection of tracks, already inherently soaked in nostalgia, feels all the more poignant with the end of Bennett’s career in mind.
While their initial meetup might have come as a surprise, Bennett and Gaga’s chemistry makes a great amount of sense in the context of their respective careers. There was plenty of doubt around the Mother Monster in her earlier days, but the classically trained vocalist has spent the seven years between the previous collaboration and this endeavor winning over a huge amount of the general public with more introspective albums like 2016’s Joanne and her massive turn in 2018’s A Star Is Born. To be sure, Gaga has always had the versatility to bounce between genres, along with the talent necessary to go toe-to-toe with legends, but if there is anyone who still feels inclined to write her off, this album is the perfect link to drop.
A tribute to Cole Porter, Love for Sale consists of jazz standards from the legendary composer and joins the ranks of dynamic jazz duos of old. There is a sixty-year age difference between Bennett and Lady Gaga, but the two slide together as easily as Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, at home in the tracks and clearly having fun.
Where Cheek to Cheek was a charming foray into standards for the duo, there’s an extra level of emotionality behind this latest collection. Gaga has always been an emotional performer, and she does quite a bit of heavy lifting on Love for Sale, but Bennett’s vocals remain crystal clear. The album (unsurprisingly) is at its best when the two are together.