Barbra Streisand is a staple of the gay diet. As with Liza, Judy, Cher, Kylie et al, Streisand gets a free pass into gay Mecca. In an episode of Australian sitcom Kath and Kim, matriarch Kath suspects her new fiance of being gay, only to later rebuff her suspicions when she discovers he’s a ‘big Barbra Streisand fan’: the audience, of course, comes over all a titter, knowing that being a Streisandaphile only confirms one’s gayness.
Hurrah, then, for Streisand’s triumphant return to the studio, as she releases What Matters Most – her first new album since 2009’s Love Is The Answer – on 22 August, 2011. The album marks Streisand’s long-cherished desire to release an album of music with lyrics exclusively written by her collaborators and long-term friends, Alan and Marilyn Bergman; probably most famous for writing Streisand’s Oscar-winning song, ‘The Way We Were’.
The album will feature ten Bergman songs that Streisand has never previously recorded, including the Academy Award winning ‘The Windmills of Your Mind’ from The Thomas Crown Affair; ‘So Many Stars’, originally a hit song for Sergio Mendes and Brasil ‘66; ‘Nice ‘n’ Easy’, made popular by Frank Sinatra; and ‘That Face’, which was first recorded by Fred Astaire.
It gets gayer, too, with the album coming packaged in a jewel box, accompanied by a 24-page colour booklet (fancy) and a sexy deluxe edition, which also includes ten classic Streisand and Bergman collaborations, including the aforementioned ‘The Way We Were’ (Redford!), ‘You Don’t Bring Me Flowers’ (Diamond!) and ‘Papa Can You Hear Me?’ (Yentl!).
Yes, for all the stick she gets – Streisand is renowned for being a particularly tricky interviewee, for instance – there can be no denying her talent: not only is she the only artist to achieve Number One albums across five consecutive decades on both sides of the Atlantic, she is also one of the world’s few entertainers to have won all of the four big Awards (Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and Tony). Other artists to achieve this include Audrey Hepburn, Whoopi Goldberg, Liza Minnelli and Rita Moreno: see, Streisand’s so gay.
Talking about this new album specifically, Streisand explained how the Bergmans have a ‘remarkable gift for expressing affairs of the heart’, noting her long-held desire to devote an entire album to the couple’s ‘amazingly varied and consistently inspired music’. In fact, the affection and respect between the lyricists and the artist is quite something: ‘When we write a song, we hear Barbra,’ the Bergmans said. ‘She makes the connection from the heart to the mind, and that emerges through her voice.’
What Matters Most? Streisand’s back, that’s what.