Sunday, 5 June 2011

Cher - Believe (1998)

After a career spike in the late 80s, Cher had turned down various movie roles and her music career had once again dimmed commercially. In 1995, It's A Man's World was certainly an artistic success and was arguably her very best since 1975's Stars, but failed to ignite much interest outside of the UK where it was moderately successful. As confirmed recently by Gina G in an exclusive interview with Diva Incarnate, Cher heard the dance album Fresh! and told the head of her UK record label that she wanted her album to sound the same. It had been decided Cher needed to go back to disco (something she said would never happen) as she was giving her core fanbase (let's just say 'the gays') rock ballads that had little chance of crossing over onto radio. This was obviously a good decision as Believe would become the biggest selling album, and single, of her entire career. However, she had released an Rn'B version of her last album in America, which makes it an unfair assessment of the adult-contemporary sheen of the UK version which performed respectably enough.

However, since Cher expressed an interest to work with the dance producers Metro (Gina G's Ti Amo), there was a song lyring around that had been co-written by these guys along with Brian Higgins of Xeonomania. First offered to Australian dance and TV icon Dannii Minogue, in the hands of Mark Taylor of Metro, Believe the song soon transformed into something very different: incorporating the use of auto-tune (often mistakenly referred to as the vocoder, which Cher has joked would have made it a lot easier), it became a worldwide best seller. The Believe album campaign had well and truly kicked off. Although its follow-up singles did not equal the success of the title track, and some have argued were the wrong choices, they ensured the record went on to sell 20 million copies.

Although the album has an unequivocal dance-pop sheen, The Power is the kind of number that could have featured on any of Cher's 70s albums such as Dark Lady and Gypsies, Tramps & Theieves. It's bridge is gorgeous, one of parental disdain and caution - when Cher barks that "every bad dad needs it" it's one hell of a shudder. Exotic and mysterious, it could only be Cher's distinctive approach. The female Elvis sounds sensual on the sturdy hell-no anthem Strong Enough. Far from being my favourite, it went top 5 in the UK, but this is throwaway stuff.

Part of why I love the Believe album so much is how last-minute it all feels, as if it were put together without much focus or prediction. The pulsating elegance of Love Is The Groove and mesmerizing poetry of Taxi Taxi are floaty and sublime, and I just love their dreamy lyrics. The euro-pop voltage of All Or Nothing is incredibly cheesey (and wonderfully so), but she injects so much euphoria into it, as do those tremoring guitars. A song we recently found out that Gina G was offered first, Runaway is a bit faceless and generic, is not essential, but she does sound distressed enough to make you wonder what on earth is the matter in Cher world this time. Some people think it's makeshift and tacky, but I can't get enough of the We All Sleep Alone remix - I live for that clenched-fist-waving-in-the-air "yeah!" moment. Filler flood, Takin' Back My Heart is weak (Diane Warren has a lot to answer for), and Cher's game enough on Dove l'amour, but it's not my favourite (although I do love the story of Madonna fake gesturing that she wanted to direct its music video).


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