Miley Cyrus, serious? Lady Gaga, legit? Twice in one week, TV specials have given us surprisingly impressive straight-ahead performances from music stars known for outrageous or bad-girl stage antics.
The biggest surprise on NBC’s Saturday Night Live 40th anniversary special was Miley Cyrus’s soulful, honest performance of Paul Simon’s classic “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.”
While Simon himself wisely chose a very low-stress number (“Still Crazy After All These Years”) to close the show with, and his contemporary Paul McCartney made the unfortunate decision to try to put across his titanic hit “Maybe I’m Amazed” with a weak, apparently un-warmed-up voice, Cyrus hit it out of the ballpark in several (if not 50) ways, rumbling through the early verses in a heated low register, then leaping up the octave to belt out the second half with the command of a seasoned soul singer.
View the performance here.
Just a week later at the Academy Awards, Lady Gaga took the stage with a surprise tribute to The Sound of Music. Wearing a classy but rather big and puffy dress that looked like it could easily have been hiding some sort of outrageous get-up underneath, the shock specialist delivered a totally straight and sparklingly sung medley of ageless hits from the classic show.
Expecting something nutty to happen at any moment, I couldn’t look away for a second, but she did the whole number in perfectly legit, tasteful style. When Julie Andrews herself appeared afterwards to give Gaga a big hug, it too looked entirely genuine.
Lady Gaga’s recent duets with Tony Bennett had already revealed her legit side, a sensible effort to grow past her flamboyant, sometimes (intentionally) offensive stage-show excess, which can’t sustain a career over the long haul. Her Academy Awards number seemed to put a stamp of sincerity, if not permanence, on her transformation.
What a shock it’ll be if it’s shock-performers like Cyrus and Gaga who engineer revivals of classic soul and musical-theater stylings.
[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00TGZPTGK][amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00EMAGCJM][amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00MU79IL8][amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00P4IMXE4][amazon template=iframe image&asin=B0041GWWUK]