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Lady Gaga's Version of Bang Bang and Crossing Genres

GagabennetbbLady Gaga last week released a version of "Bang Bang." It's a bonus track on her new Cheek to Cheek album. The version sounds New Orleans jazzy version.

Lady Gaga tweeted: 

It's @cher a supreme honor to sing Bang Bang, that song time traveled & continues to inspire, I wish to honor your legacy w/ every breath.

More stories:

Cher's tweet:

So f*cking proud of you Gaga. I heard (and saw) amazing CD collaboration 'Cheek To Cheek' with the forever hip Tony Bennett. Babe, you're channelling jazz greats and killin' me.

Was Cher ever slated to do a duet with Tony Bennett:

Tried. I love him. I was desolate. The song didn't work for both of our ranges. It's OK. Gaga and Tony Bennett knocked it out of the park...No-one could make me say anything that I don't believe, when it comes to art. Gaga sang her ass off! Pure heaven talent. F*ck haters.

Gaga of Cher:

You know Cher, that level of support coming from you means more than you will ever know. Your confidence is the mark of a true legend. Love you.

and

Trend it Monsters. Let's show Cher how much we appreciate her #MonstersLoveCher Now that's what I call class!

I have not listened to the track yet. I've had in-laws visiting for a week and they took Mr. Cher Scholar and I ghost-hunting at the famous St. James Hotel in Cimarron, New Mexico.

But since I'm not a Gaga fan, I'll turn to my friend Christopher's thoughts about her duet with Tony Bennett. As a Gaga fan, he felt her vocals there were anemic.

He says,

"I am quite surprised that her vocals are not more impressive, as she has a really strong and compelling singing voice and has comfortably tackled dance, R&B and rock styles with equal skill. Here she just seems way out her element. Again, quite a surprise; she's so highly stylized in her approach to everything, and very insightful, it would seem that she would have the skill and vision to tackle this type of material. Guess not."

He goes on to talk about genre-hopping success by other artists he likes:

"Everyone has always ragged on Madonna about how she's "not a great singer" and this ultra-bland performance by Gaga reminds me of how effective and nuanced Madonna's vocals are on I'm Breathless (the Dick Tracy album) in which she very naturally nails the period feel of the material. Gaga, on the other hand, doesn't seem to have any feel whatsoever in this instance. She barely makes an impression of any kind.

I am all for musicians expanding their musical wheelhouse, but often the results are very misguided. It reminds me of Pat Benatar's blues album from 1991, Paying the Cost to Be the Boss, which is a noisy mess.  Pat is one of my favorite artists of all time, but despite the extraordinary range of her voice, the blues idiom is just not a suitable fit for her (it didn't help that the songs themselves weren't very good either).

Another example is Sinead O'Connor's Am I Not Your Girl which is a covers album of mostly torch songs. It's okay, but overall rather lackluster (and terribly sleepy). The feral brilliance of her singing is almost completely muted here and she's just not that memorable as a balladeer; the "style" takes away all the interesting edges and peaks of her voice. To make matters worse, Am I Not Your Girl? was the follow-up to her globally dominating album I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got (with it's inescapable #1 song "Nothing Compares 2 U"), so general fans were perplexed/disappointed by the abrupt shift in gears and less than impressive results, while committed fans were probably more tolerant of the misadventure but still left scratching their heads. I would argue that this album definitely had a negative impact on her career, as it quashed her forward momentum creatively and commercially, a position she most definitely couldn't afford to be in given that the album followed so closely on her scandalous Pope-shredding stint on SNL.
 
I think perhaps the most versatile singer in rock is Linda Ronstadt. There is literally no genre I can think of in which she hasn't made numerous recordings of the very highest order. She's fluent, assured and commanding in pop, country, AC, full-out rock, torch, 50s/60s Brill, New Wave, not to mention a full range of Mexican music styles in Spanish (She's half-Mexican. Shout out to Cher Scholar, who like Linda, was born in New Mexico!).

Sheena Easton is another great example too. In fact, she is the only artist in music history to achieve Top Ten songs on the pop, R&B, Adult Contemporary, Country and Dance charts (in fact, in practically all these genres she's had multiple Top Ten songs). Not even genre-hopping, hit-maker par excellence Cher has accomplished this chart feat.

Celene: I can honestly say that she can persuasively sing across any number of genres, including rock, dance, Motown, even reggae! She's pretty fearless in terms of taking on different genres; it's just that her label, Sony, is like all record companies, always choosing singles in the same narrow lane once an artist has a hit--it's the don't rock the boat, baby mindset. It's too bad labels are not more courageous in this respect, although Sony did release her epic, fantastic rendition of Jim Steinman "It's All Coming Back to Me Now," which was a deservedly massive hit.  Karen

My friend Terry weighed in:

"Individually I thought Gaga was "okay" and Tony was really good. But, their "harmonies" did not harmonize at all. That part was awkward. Overall, blah...I saw Tony Bennett on Letterman 2 or 3 years ago and he absolutely sizzled. Smooth jazzy cool. He still has it in him. I just don't think this particular piece has much to offer. Lazy cool is great. Lazy been-there done-that not so much (and that was the vibe I got from this)."

Are these Cher's "f*ckin haters?" Possibly. I call Mr. Cher Scholar a f*ckin hater every time he disparages Karen Carpenter with the term "milktoast."

Here is a cool Skylar Grey lyric video for "Bang Bang": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3x2ABSAMVno

  

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