Musicality - Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga, Tove Lo, Jennifer Knapp, Sam Smith

Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga
Cheek to Cheek
(Interscope)
Lady Gaga might have fallen a bit from the zenith of pop domination, but that doesn’t mean she has lost any talent. Tony Bennett still sees it, and that’s good news for the rest of us because this album is pure delight. Without Bennett, Gaga probably never would have attempted a full-length jazz album. The familiarity of these classic songs enhances the album, and Gaga and Bennett’s delivery does them justice. Gaga shows that she has the chops to pull off jazz, and she definitely adds zest to Bennett’s classic voice. The album as a whole really wakes me up. Some favorite tracks are “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” “Nature Boy” and “Cheek to Cheek.”
Tove Lo
Queen of the Clouds
(Universal Music AB)
My first impression of Tove Lo was wrong -- I was not a fan of the new artist’s EP (except for “Habits (Stay High)”). I’m glad I gave the full-length album a shot, though, because it’s a much different story. The pop-electronic album has some truly great tracks. Halfway through, I knew I had become a fan. Melody really saves these songs; the lyrics could use some work. I enjoy the industrial edge on several tracks. Do not skip this album. My favorite song is “The Way That I Am,” which has a simple, but powerfully sung chorus. Other favorites are “Moments,” “Got Love,” and “My Gun.”
Jennifer Knapp
Set Me Free
(Righteous Babe)
Knapp, who was born in Chanute, Kansas, is known as a popular Christian music artist. However, she is out as a lesbian now. Those two aspects of her life are sometimes at odds, but Knapp remains committed to her beliefs. This album’s lyrics are not overtly Christian, so everyone can interpret and enjoy the album differently. Many of the tracks remind me a bit of ’90s folk and alternative. It’s pleasant, and Knapp’s vocals are gentle on the ears. One of my favorite songs, “Neosho,” has a slight country feel to it that fits with the somewhat somber, but hopeful mood of the album. It’s perfect for fall. Other favorites are “Sweet Love,” “Remedy” and “Set Me Free.”
Sam Smith
In the Lonely Hour
(Capitol Records Ltd.)
I first heard Sam Smith’s amazing voice on the song “Latch” from Disclosure’s album Settle, and I thought it truly stood out. I’m happy to see this full-length studio debut album from that soulful voice. The music is largely R&B and soul, laced with pop, and it often uses piano over an addictive, heart-thumping beat. Though the music alone is worthy of praise, Smith’s unforgettable vocals drive the album home. He’s like a one-man chorus, reaching those high notes well and making the low ones perfectly smooth and deep. I’m a sucker for a good breakdown, so the song “Lay Me Down” was an obvious favorite with its marching-band style drums. Other good ones are “La La La,” and “I’m Not the Only One.”

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