Released February 3, 2009
8 min, 48 sec
I know that the first two posts I made about Lady Gaga amounted to, basically, “I am disappointed by this woman who has so much talent but refuses to use it the way I want her to,” but I promise that I’m speaking from the perspective of something more than some armchair critic piece of shit. I enjoy Gaga as an artist quite a bit, and she really is a fantastic musician.
Where it really shines through, for me, is in releases like The Cherrytree Sessions. Recorded in the office of Cherrytree Records head Martin Kierszenbaum, the three tracks that comprise the EP are all augmented and reinterpreted in some way that strips back the excessive pop production that characterizes Gaga’s music, leaving behind her gorgeous voice and fun, creative music underneath her vocals. The EP is a showcase of what Gaga can do when she focuses entirely on her music, without the need to add an extravagant visual element to the equation.
The EP opens with a piano-driven version of “Poker Face,” the track’s pace dictated entirely by Gaga, slowing down and speeding up the song as she pleases, working her way through it with a wide range of vocal style, frequently leaning into the microphone with a husky tone of voice, and then bouncing back in her usual bright vocal style. The rendition is heavy with charisma and enthusiasm, and is undoubtedly my favorite rendition of the track, much like how Gaga reinterpreted “Hair” for A Very Gaga Thanksgiving. (That special was pretty weird, though; maybe we’ll talk about it.)
Next up is a stripped-back, synth-only version of “Just Dance,” with Gaga aided by producer Space Cowboy, who accompanied her to the office of Kierszenbaum for this performance. It doesn’t do anything particularly mind-blowing, and a lot of the fun audio tricks the studio version has are stripped out for the sake of the performance, but the sheer amount of sounds coming from the duo’s synths makes this a fun listen. I definitely miss Colby O’Donis’s verse, though. Necessary sacrifices.
Closing out the EP is a beatbox/synth rendition of “Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say),” retaining the bouncy, upbeat feel of the original, while also including the novelty of Space Cowboy’s beatboxing that drives the track forward. The synth in this one is particularly trippy – it bounces across the left and right channels in a spastic manner, and it can be really hard to tell what side a particular note is coming from if you’re not listening intently. It gives the track a fresh and unusual feel, and makes for a strong rendition of the track as a result.
I always appreciate short releases like this, because I can put them on for short tasks, like writing a quick article, or working on homework, or anything else that doesn’t take too much time. They add another dimension to an artist’s work, a lot like NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, where an artist is forced to work within the confines of a small office, and make their music work in the environment. The Cherrytree Sessions is a brief but strong demonstration of Gaga’s ability to adapt her music to most situations, something that her fans would come to see demonstrated in a variety of contexts over the next several years of Gaga’s career.
(On an unrelated note, whoever cited my post on “Breakout” on the Wikipedia page for the song is literally a hero. I mean that – I got a view today from that very page. Whoever did it is great. Thank you.)