Perhaps the most anticipated collaboration from the now chart-topping(!) Duets II was Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga‘s rendition of “The Lady Is A Tramp.” To begin with, Gaga is as monocultural as they come these days. Plus, as Bennett told us, “she has the same gift as Ella Fitzgerald.” Then none other than Gay Talese profiled the duet for The New Yorker.
With the album in stores, naturally a video for the lead-off track has followed. Gaga is no less showy?that’s her nature?but her performance is in sync, not in competition, with Bennett’s. The duo riff on the lyrics, very much in a vocal jazz pop tradition. The least surprising change: a shout-out to songwriters Rodgers & Hart replaces one to Walter Winchell. Even if the redoubtable columnist had a 2011 equivalent (Nicki Finke plus Perez Hilton?) we doubt committed anti-bullying campaigner Gaga would sing his praises.
She’s also a smart fit for a vocal partner in this musical-theater tradition?so much so that the song seems well-chosen, until you realize how many others would have worked just as well (except perhaps for the titular pun). For all her outré accoutrements, Gaga fits snugly into this tradition, as someone seriously committed to her art yet mercifully unconcerned with Baby Boomer-born ideas of pop “authenticity.” It’s no wonder that Tony Bennett “gets” her.