Thursday, 21 March 2013

Cher - Love Hurts (1991)

But baby even so...

US #48, UK #1, AUT #1, IRE #1, NOR #1

Whilst for some, Cher's three stellar Geffen records were more scrap metal than authentic rock, on Love Hurts her pop definitions were more pronounced than ever. Despite swamping the songs (of a much the same nature) in lushly orchestrated rock arrangements, the style saw the singer fall slightly out of favour with her American audience and yet European music lovers couldn't get enough, boosted immeasurably by the success of The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss). 

Whereas the Turn Back Time video (cavorting wantonly in front of sex-starved seamen in a next to nothing Bob Mackie ensemble) was a stroke of genius, for the Love Hurts campaign, the singer tried to do one better in the fabulously embarrassing promotional clip for Save Up All Your Tears (imagine a transgendered Siouxsie Sioux impersonator with a recon profile), but sadly the kids just weren't into the whole grumpy S&M granny thing. However, the goodwill towards Cher in the UK was tremendous: Love Hurts spent 6 weeks at the summit of the charts, a further 5 weeks inside the top 3 and became the biggest-selling female album of the year, perhaps owing much of its success due to the decision to include the previous year's It's In His Kiss on European pressings of the album, which also warranted an alternative front cover. The song was her first and only UK solo chart topper at the time (25 years after I Got You Babe), staying put for 5 weeks and selling over 500,000 copies.

Whilst promoting the album, Cher famously stopped by Terry Wogan's TV show, and in between dabbing sweat off her face with the back of her hand, and dodging incisive plastic surgery questions, went on to mention something about how she had called some newcomer on the scene the C-word. Pay close attention to screen-cap #3 where Cher clearly invents the passive aggressive beverage sip that Madonna would steal 20 years later to throw some 'shade' on Lady Gaga.

Do you go jogging like Madonna?

"Well... You mean like my best friend Madonna?"

I thought it was a subtle way of dragging her in.

"Why don't we drag her in by her hair?"

You're not that keen?

"Well. you know, what it's really got to be blown out of proportion. The newspapers here have been having a field day."

"When I was in America someone ASKED me. I mean, it's not like I go about saying "this is how I feel." Someone said to me 'what do you think of Madonna' and I said 'she's unbelievably creative', because I'm amazed at the amount... I mean in my day I did a pretty good job at doing the same thing she's doing, but she does it so much better."

"Shes's not unbelievably talented. She's NOT beautiful. She's rude. She's creative, but rude."

"And then I used another word, and they bleeped me."

"I do respect that she goes much further than anyone should go, and I think that's interesting about her, that she does whatever she wants to do."

Well, you've done what you pretty much wanted to do and been very successful.

"Yeah, I'm happy with that."

With sweeping disco strings and piano aplenty, Love & Understanding is at first an alert departure from her barrage of rock baggage entanglements. The song is seamlessly uplifting with a surge of dance energy that steers her back to her beloved discotheque (further exploited on the Jr Vasquez remix). Although lyrically weak, "hearts never can wi-hi-in, OH!" never fails to put a smile on my face. Even if she looks amazing (let's ignore the middle-parting of the wig and denim-leather ensemble that would make Gloria Estefan swim BACK to Cuba for), the video is the unfortunate daughter of Blue Pearl's Naked In The Rain with a clumsy sense of rhythm. Cher does her best to look as if she's dancing whilst not (she's clearing just on the look out for another agile young boyfriend to get over what's his face), and the ultimate cringe comes when she waves like a grandmother playing peek-a-boo over her grandchild's cot.

My favourite L&U-related moment is Cher kindly shushing the backing dancers in her CherFitness: A New Attitude VHS (Gothic tutu sold separately) when she wants to hear her own song and plug the album. Ironically, not long after she wrapped up her 1992 tour, she passed on a number of high profile scripts (among them Thelma & Louise) when she became afflicted by the Epstein-Barr virus, meaning she no longer had the CherFitness or new attitude for major projects. The solution to earn (LOTS of) money through advertising somewhat backfired at the time, or at least inspired many parodies such as Late Night With David Letterman and Saturday Night Live, which sadly gave her a temporary complex of sorts. As she told the influential Ladies Home Journal: "Suddenly I became the Infomercial Queen and it didn't occur to me that people would focus on that and strip me of all my other things". Back to the song, the repeated bursts of piano sit well with me, but it doesn't endure as a standout to warren(t) much of a frenzy beyond sporadic plays. It would be nice if the song suited her natural range as well.

5 months later Cher was a gal in trouble when Save Up All Your Tears (US #37, UK #37) failed to replicate the success of her previous hot n' bothered power-ballads, but has endured as a fan favourite. From the instant those trembling piano keys spiral down with all the grace of Chaz descending a fireman's pole, it is clear we're onto a winner here. The chorus is a huge one, paraded with sardonic pride and a glint of rueful caution and other emotions chipping away at her like some of her favourite surgeons. The weight gives way when her hefty rage subsides for the aching middle-8: "you don't know it now, you don't know it now, you don't know it now" echoes louder and louder as Cher reaches bursting point agony, and on the side-spliting final choruses the immense vocals quite literally take the rough with the smooth.

As if protesting that the only scars she has are ones of the heart, Cher re-records the Nazareth number Love Hurts, which was originally performed by The Everly Brothers and now becomes the title of the new project. Gone is the enchanting, meditative and entrancing ripples of the acoustic version found on 1975's seminal Stars, and instead the loud thuds here paint a more grandiose picture: the choir are on fire and Cher punches the sofa. Like some of her fans: initially fragile and bewildering, time has resulted in a bulked up framework eager to throw its weight around to make itself feel wanted in a fickle environment. 

The singer's vocals shoot at full-pelt on Fires of Eden, which is another emotional fire of sorts. With Cher's finger on the pulse as usual, David Cassidy co-write I'll Never Stop Loving You was originally recorded by Heart. Although it wasn't like her to sing a cover, she gave it a go and the problematic subject provoked one of the clumsiest songs she ever committed herself to. Teaming up with singer-songwriter Richard Page, One Small Step is a soft-rock clatter of dance rhythms, and her husky timbre is a good match for Page. It sounds like the Baywatch theme tune. 

The album was dedicated to all the men who had made her cry, and the smoldering A World Without Heroes was a cover originally written and recorded by former flame Gene Simmons' band Kiss. Cher's softer vocal inhabits the expansive texture of the production, and it's one of the standouts on offer.

Don't you think I need a man here?

Showing no ex in particular what he's missing on the perky reading of Bob Halligan's Could've Been You (if those outfits didn't already), this vibrant power-pop rock slog has a sleek tough girl swagger to the strutting verses ("oh baby baby") and jaunty enough chorus ("just remember baby"). Of course she gets herself into a tizz about it all, but the sensations of Cher bellowing flagrantly beyond definition are exactly what make this album so enjoyable. That it bombed (UK #31 with no lift-off in the States) meant the singer fired her new manager at the time  Overlooked as a single, the plaintive When Love Calls Your Name is a flighty surge of romantic urges of familiar persuasion. 

Belatedly released to US radio, the somber When Lovers Become Strangers (adult contemporary #15) became a minor success at the very end of the era's promotion. Despite taking the opposite stance to 90% of her fan-base, it's been touch and go again for tragedy queen Cher and the floaty atmospherics work well with her inescapable expressions. Should have definitely have been a European single. Not taking those surgery rumours lightly, the sugary guitar pop of Who You Gonna Believe targets more scintillating synths, and Cher's bait-biting delivery is particularly flavoursome: "now TELL me". With an opening acapella that practically kicks you up the backside as Cher blurts out "does he love me? I wanna know / how can I tell if he loves me so?The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss) is uninhibited camp escapist nostalgia and good cheer, with a gutsy campaign to find out what body part throbs with the most genuine feelings. 

Squeeze him tight to find out what you wanna know.

It's somewhat baffling that Love Hurts would be Cher's final Geffen studio album. It managed a respectable 600,000 copies domestically (some way short of Heart of Stone's 3 million of course) and sold more globally than Cher (1987), having became her 2nd biggest ever seller internationally. Her Greatest Hits: 1965-1992 spent 7 non-consecutive weeks at the top of the UK album charts, proving she was still a hot commodity. Discounting her Shoop Shoop, the album lacks the haunting bursts of soft-rock fury that proved so vital to the success of its predecessors, but the sensual warmth simmers with more accessible hooks than before by way of compensation. After Shoop Shoop stalled just outside of the top 30 in America, Cher simply had no more tricks up her leather/lace/PVC/leather-nets sleeves and yet the set finds the singer in relaxed and confident form, and the lavish and opulent arrangements (although sounding dated now, lacking the Gothic grit of Cher and overall rock resolve of HOS) are more clear and crisp than before. Arguably, her most accessible schlock rock, but time has been surprisingly kind to this era in terms of the songs all packing a melodic punch. The theatrical complexities of her climate-changing 70s journey are swapped for a one-size-fits-all approach, but the vocal strength has hit its peak and all three albums capture the singer in ravishing form, whether its literally looking a million bucks or sounding louder and more Cher than ever before. The Love Hurts tour remains unreleased, but despite the production being scaled down from the Heart of Stone trek, the Bob Mackie gowns were to die for. A major prize for 'rock Cher' fans, and one of her most lavishly packaged outtings.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Cher - Heart of Stone (1989)

Caress my soul and set it right

Heart of Stone (1989)

US #10, UK #7

The 2nd of her imperial blockbuster/balls-busting schlock rock comeback phase, Cher was selling for millions now. Recording the album was a swift affair once she got started, having became ill in the beginning of the year and being unable to start filming Mermaids earlier as planned. Once the album was out, she was dedicated to promoting it and undertook an extensive world tour. The LP yielded 4 US top 20 hits (a feat well beyond her reach before), and remained in the charts over a year after release. Initially, the cover art was a fabulously 'ugly' painting of Cher positioning her body in front of a cracked stone, using the lines of her limbs and blackness of her wig, to complete the illusion of a broken skull (perhaps a metaphor for her loudly furious rock vocal). It sold 11 million copies, becoming the best-selling LP at that point. It was her first US top ten and first international number one (Australia). 

With her 1980's first foray into rock on the Black Rose project, Cher was quite literally barking up the wrong tree in some people's mnds. Her 2nd signature tune If I Could Turn Back Time (AUS #1, US #3, UK #6, IRE #6) may have had its impact diluted over the years by obvious punchlines about the ageing process (which is of course something Cher continues to defy at all costs, etc), but from the instantly recognizable guitar chords and sultry verses, it is clear the song is a gleaming treasure before even the galvanizing glory of the chorus. Her stubborn ambition to come a rock diva of sorts finally paid off. Thriving on the presumption and possibility that someone out there feels the same (despite Cher's pot mouth saying a bunch of stuff she probably DID mean), and sheer crackling energy, her aggravated/exaggerated reflection stumbles through Warren's cliche's like a blind and drunk drag queen in a china shop.

Far from sounding sad, the sentiment might have appealed to Cher's stubbornness (she was famously reluctant to even record the song), with the uplifting refrain updating every cliched pop lyric going. The endless chorus was one of Cher's most easiest songs to package, complete with an iconic video that sparked a renewal in Cher's image and status. The Bob Mackie ensemble had long been part of Cher's act (for almost a decade), but here it is refined and even tamed down by a leather jacket keeping things elegant, although the video was still banned bt MTV. As the song builds, her teeth-shattering grit creates a genuinely anthemic and triumphant single. Perhaps the biggest achievement of Turn Back Time is that it stands out from the Diane Warren assembly line predictability that arguably dominated half the material on Heart of Stone. The song's brisk velocity shows off Cher in full-on, clothes-off, wanton rock goddess mode. and the stormy intensity of I Found Someone is given a smoother vehicle to shine. It doesn't so much offer you a melody as it hits you over the head with it - walking out at the VMAs almost 20 years later in the same ensemble, the world is still stunned by Cher being Cher. The chaotic soft-rock dissolve of brutal heartache, self-preservation and rueful endurance could have been sung by anyone, but no one else could have made it more than just another generic power-ballad. Cher stands outside of time.

The country-tinged Just Like Jesse James (US #8, UK #11, IRE #10) was the third single and third US top ten in a row from the Heart of Stone album, helping the record shift 3 million copies in America alone. Cher brazenly admitted that she initially thought "this song is kinda crap" and that after going away on tour and other promotional duties, much to her facially-detectable surprise, it became a huge hit. Perhaps due to her dislike for the song, or even her busy schedule (Mermaids had finished shooting late in '89 and she was on an extensive tour), there was no official video for the single apart from a montage of recent promotional footage and some silly scenes shot involving cowboys shooting at each other. On her Farewell tour DVD, she prepares herself to sing the number by warning her fans the track "is not my favourite" in a manner that only she could ever get away with. Nothing like taking people's money and then telling them they have no taste! The shower of Cher dollar bills that then fell onto every audience was probably more ironic than what first met the eye. The track itself connects her 80s rock to her vintage 70s commercial peak of similar narrative pop tracks via a plethora of country-flavoured and sturdy "come on baby" heckles, and an ample ammunition of not so subtle double entendres. "Come on baby show me what that loaded gun is for ... I'm ready baby aim and fire" is the last chance saloon of a different kind.

Her wounded pride takes aim at someone who it seems must have an ego almost as big as her own. She antagonizes and challenges some youthful gun-slinging outlaw lover to take her on as his biggest challenge yet since she's not like the other "women folk" driven wild by his wanton ways. However, she would have a more convincing argument if she didn't sound as if she was simply angry at clearly being last in the queue for criminal cock. Cher's world is never anything less than absurd, and although I'm not a fan of Diane Warren, I'm prepared to bite the bullet with this one. Both Warren and Desmond Child appear to have had a lot of fun penning the song especially for Cher and her uniquely engaging way with a gun-related pop song. "If you can give it, I can take it" she snarls in what is starting to sound like a one-sided mating ritual where some poor guy probably just walked into the bar with a banana in his pocket and doesn't have a clue what's hit him as soon as Cher, with a drink in her, sniffs a bit of fresh meat. Who says love is dead?

The title track (US #20, GER #23, UK #43, IRE #24) was a change in tempo somewhat from her other hit singles from the era. Some might say she was literally a new woman, but it should be obvious by now I am above recycling such cheap plastic surgery jokes. The biggest anomaly of the whole LP this acoustic-driven number showcased a softer tone with some stunning lyrics imbued with hauntingly stark tenderness and might.

Look at the headlines:


Do you lose and win, or win and lose?

This hefty sore-point section must have struck a chord for her, since she was rarely out of the headlines. Clearly relishing every last syllable, the sarcastic seizure is one of grimacing empowerment. The raw and ravaging howl of "how long is love supposed to shine?" sounds like it must have been an outer body experience for her. The song itself was somewhat spruced up a bit for its release, adding some poignant guitar steel during the pre-chorus. These sleek additions are brought to life wonderfully in the touching promotional video where Cher sways back and forth as if she's bursting for the toilet all the while in front of a backdrop of projected home movies featuring a very young Chastity and Elija, and even some vintage Sonny & Cher clips, which increases the pathos tenfold. This is a wonderful spark between visual and sound: Cher has claimed this period was the happiest in her life, and it must have been a proud moment for her to look back and feel content. On a side-note, she never looked more effortlessly beautiful and NATURAL than in her magnificence close-ups here. By the time she is singing at her loudest, the quivering vibrato is used to stylized effect, shuddering and quaking with intense testifying that sounds both like hippy mumbo jumbo and genuine gospel soaring. As the song settles into a sturdy rhythm, a strong line of backing vocals separate to Cher's parts offer yet more push and pull to the thrill and the heartache. Whether this is bad technique or not (ie the loudness), she certainly is grappling with what she has got and using it to full capacity. Yes, there are growls and shouting, but she sure knows exactly how to do this to maximizing effect.

As all fans of the TV show Record Breakers can attest, Bucks Fizz sang the song first. I'm not overly familiar with them, but they have more substance to their work than usually given credit for. It wouldn't surprise me if anyone said this version was their favourite, even if they would be more wrong than Chaz in a dress.

The wistful girl-group goo of the Love On A Rooftop was a faithful cover of fellow 60s pop queen survivor Ronnie Spector. Sadly Ronnie's voice is more shot than some of her love rivals, so Cher's full-bodied bellowing delivers a bolder outline than, well, some of Ronnie's love rivals. The thin rasp of the iconic 'bad girl' of the Ronettes is worth looking up because she obviously knows how to deliver her idiosyncratic magic, but the drama Cher conveys deepens the effect. The slightly dark, stylized romanticism of the production isn't really matched by the lyrics, of which are pure pastiche and little else. Though it's some way below her reading of The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore, the 'wall of sound' production echos her 90s tribute, and provides the album with some much needed variety. As a stepping stone between her schlock rock sway and 60s symphonies gone by, she gives it enough muscle to not be trite and the marvelous "whoooooa-whooooah" gasps are as convincing as any vintage 60s pop jewel Diane Warren and Desmond Child clearly had their sights set on. An interesting comparison would be Cher's single Rudy from the I Paralyze album. The cheesy sax finishes me off completely.

Slickly persuasive European single You Wouldn't Know Love (IRE #29, POL #16, UK #55) doesn't know when too much is too much. It certainly boasts an alert rhythm and structure, and Cher's vocals are a smooth glide in between the sky high choruses, but this is song doctor Diane Warren conveyor-belt power-balladry at its most frustrating - it sounds rushed, as if it's dying to burst at the seams to prove what a bad ass rock rogue she is on the relentless kitchen-sink overkill of the chorus, rather than be tweaked into something less deranged for no apparent reason. It deservedly missed the UK top 40, but isn't a complete write-off for fans of this sort of fodder. 

Bunsen burners would have trouble matching the volcanic ferocity of the overblown Emotional Fire, an outtake from Michael Bolton's 1987 album The Hunger. It's completely ridiculous and I wouldn't have it any other way. It would have been a hoot hearing this live, for her backing vocalists scream the house down, but sadly on the Heart of Stone tour Cher skimmed her Geffen album's hits only and did MOR covers instead of ploughing for non-singles highlights such as this. The epic and menacing chorus might require paracetamol, but you get what you ask for. 

Familiar agonies hit their ongoing stride on Still In Love With You, another unsurprising defensive assault, but one of the better ones. Finally a chance to catch your breath, Cher's smooth quiver ripples over some shiny soft-rock surfaces on All Because of You, and the chugging guitars give her verses some added grip. It's not long before things get aggravated, but it's comparatively graceful. Does Anybody Really Fall In Love Anymore? Who Knew Dating A Buff Bagel Boy Could Be So Damned Hard? Sadly only one of these questions is a genuine song title. I say hey. Hey-hey-hey is a Cher-ism I can't ever get enough of.

Although completely faceless, the semi-fast semi-funk of Starting Over is uptempo and light enough to make it easy to sink your ears into. I never thought a song could make the salsa rash of Body To Body sound like a classic, but Kiss To Kiss is one big raspberry. Going gushy at the end (who'd have guessed?), the metal-pop preening is put aside for corny passionless pleasantness.

Renowned player Peter Cetera found an opening in his busy schedule to record with Cher on the tender movie soundtrack country ballad After All (US #6, CAN #5), which was another million-selling top 10 US smash for her. A rather syrupy love song, the gentle intro has became iconic in the tradition of Cher showing montages of her Hollywood movies whilst she changes costumes on tour, or else just nips out for a quick fag, before re-emerging as Dolly Parton's younger transsexual brother in daytime drag. Not getting to perform the song at the Academy Awards (it was nominated for best song) was the second biggest Oscars-related injustice for Cher after not being recognized for Faithful, where she played a woman tied to a chair instead of an operating table for a change, when nominees did not perform at the ceremony that year. Modern Talking singer Thomas Anders was originally set to record it with the US vamp (which perhaps would have increased its chances of a European release), but ultimately the song was a commercial success albeit one limited to the US and Canada. It seems odd that a song that was a hit had no video or proper release outside of these territories. Personally, I'm just gutted it wasn't a duet with Cybill Shepherd (the star of Chances Are). Cher clearly must hate the song, having performed it on the Heart of Stone, Love Hurts and Farewell tours, as well as the low budget sideshow Cher at the Colosseum.

Overall, Heart of Stone packs much the same power-ballad density as Cher (1987), with the mass-pop mode stretched even tighter than her face. The singer herself mildly complained that the record wasn't guitar-orientated enough, and there is indeed an added pop sparkle. It was her biggest commercial step yet, and a fascinating final entry in a decade where her music career had more gaps than some of her favourite outfits.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Cher - Cher (1987)

But baby don't ya lose that thunder

Cher (1987)
US #32, UK #26

By 1987, it was almost a decade since Cher had enjoyed any considerable solo musical success, but having "conquered Hollywood" she was propelled by a huge surge in popularity and a critical acclaim that had previously alluded her, which meant the time was ripe to make a so-called comeback stab at that singing hobby she had. An album soundtracking a bold new beginning, some of these torrid anthems are meltdown power-ballads at their finest, and some other songs are even a bit over the top. In a nutshell, the singer was packaged as a glamorous star with a biker fetish and a lot of expense surrounded the project where she was in the safe hands of Diane Warren, Desmond Child, Bon Jovi and Michael Bolton.

The lead single I Found Someone is one of Cher's most compelling performances, and is a striking synthesis of joy and discord. The Michael Bolton production is lush, haunting and dramatic, but it is Cher's tour de force vocals going at full pelt that steal the show, dripping with regretful and vitriolic emotions that are so intense there aren't any words invented yet to even describe them. She sings as someone who has been on the verge of defeat, and does it so loudly that you had best duck for cover. The excessive execution is grandiose and yet harnessed with enormous control. Her titanic vocal inhabits a flamboyant setting of a melancholic and aggressively jaded nature, which provides the opportunity to grapple with the theatrical lyrics (which are in turns wounded and confrontational), whilst parading her pride with a fatalistic tint.

Beginning as an orchestrated ballad, "don't you know, so many things they come and go" is haunting and soft, before stronger guitar steel kicks in, which recalls the structure of the global number 1 Black Rose track Never Should Have Started, which gets played on the radio somewhere in the world every 5 seconds apparently. The angst-riddled song is something of a duel: Cher's past verses her future, her new bit of buff rough verses her old inadequate flame, as well as her own sonic impact verses her expansive emotional force. Such blistering conflict is most evident on the shuddering passion of "And I remember the thunder. Talkin' 'bout that fire in your eyes", which unleashes just one of the song's many dramatic outbursts. The flurry of fury is contrasted with the palpable fatigue of such resignation as "but you walked away when I needed you most" - the push and pull of slap-you or kiss-you. The song may have originally belonged to Laura Branigan, but Cher's version was quite literally brought to life on the David Letterman show where she performed this single, her big comeback track, with ex husband Sonny sitting meekly just mere meters away (singing about finding someone new whilst making sure an old lover has this situation rubbed in his face was rather on the nose to say the least). Cukolding her ex on national television aside, it was a monumental showcase of the star at her vocal peak. She was arguably deliberately trying to craft a new persona of the raw rowdy rawk mama she had been longing to unleash for well over a decade, but her scolding defiance and exquisite delivery was authentic. The vastness of the vocal histrionics put her growing/growling pains to good use, with Cher's quaking scrawl sounding as abrasive as it is breathtaking, bracing and unexpected.

The moody luxury of the sensual power ballad We All Sleep Alone is one of the singer's most stunning vocal journeys. Cher takes it from a cool and contained glide through a series of observations and taunts, which are sung in a casually expressive manner, to the inflamed lust and desperation of shouting ferociously "into the night I'm gone". A vocal showcase on many levels, the extravagance of her singing has rarely been so pronounced and so easily exerted, whether softly gasping or firing from all cylinders. The cackling soars as her backing vocalists spur her on are an essential requirement for any Cher fan. "Yeah!" indeed. She was clearly feeling this one. As Sheena Easton might chip in on a Prince track: it's impossibly to hide.

After her 60s and 70s killing spree (Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down), Dark Lady was dead on the floor, and Gypsy's "papa would've shot him if he knew what he'd done", etc), she certainly served her time with long periods of flops and Vegas incarceration. Now that she was back in business, it was fitting that she would re-offend by recalling her origins as a solo star with the full on rampage of the updated Bang Bang, which is now cranked up by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora. It's far more aggressive than before to say the least, and the screamed backing vocals are stunning. It's also anything but tasteful, but the sense of gruesome mutilation (no, not her face) more than lives up to the excessive promise of her now more androgynous and aggressive than ever vocal strength. Cher in fact altered the original lyrics to "we both found that we'd be one" to really push the morbid imagery of Sonny's original to the absolute limit, and was clearly having a ball as this version has been one of her most permanent fixtures other than her face. She sings it with such force that the original feels like natural causes, which is something Cher has clearly been against for a number of years.

Main Man is at the tamer end of the scale and drips from the same tap as many of her slick 70s ballads during the soft syrup of the verses. The outpouring of the reliably aggravated chorus kicks the door down and the song into a higher gear (it's surprising it wasn't a bigger hit). The voluminousness sentiment is endearingly naff and old fashioned, particularly so if one imagines she spoke to her 80s toy boys in such a manner. There is the faint whiff of grunge on the murky Dangerous Times, where Cher seems both spooked and strangely aroused about this predicament ("what would you do to me?" indeed - she sounds like someone who has been rolled in carpet and stuck in the back of a white van a few times, and paid for the privilege, if you ask me). The chorus is a lot to stomach, but everything else is seductive and bruised with smoldering guitar edges - it starts out as if it will avoid the power-rock formula, but it's almost as if its writers suddenly remembered the brief and deliver more of the same for the rather dumb chorus that I reluctantly tolerate. 

Despite the stellar cast of Darlene Love and Bonnie fucking Tyler, Perfection is another botched-up rowdy rock anthem. The 3 of them together possess a certain charisma that makes the song enjoyable as a novelty item, and there is an undeniable gaudy charm, but this isn't quite an equal-duty three-way affair, which would have been a camp classic for sure if it was. Cher sang back-up vocals on Love's gale-force Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), and Love would go on to tour as a back-up singer on the Heart of Stone tour. Beating herself up about a situation so boring only Diane Warren could be responsible for, Give Our Love A Fightin' Chance is every bit as predictably melodramatic as the title suggests, but the corrosion of guitars and a slamming piano onslaught are gripping if you like that sort of tawdry thing. The chorus makes no sense - the point is Cher is singing loudly and the music is frantic (and that's what the kids were into those days). If you make it that far, the key change is wonderfully ridiculous. 

The jittery shimmy of Skin Deep (US #79) won't have given the Pointer Sisters anything to worry about, but this foray into electronic dance music was a soothing breather from the rash of schlock rock. It lacks a major sky-bound chorus, but there are enough blemishes of playful attitude whether she's bothering to sing along to her own chorus or not. A bizarre choice for the third US single, but a refreshing deviation, shedding away from the template of the rest of the record. The outdated feminism of Working Girl isn't quite the missing anthem from the Melanie Griffith movie that came a few years later. Enjoyable on a campy aesthetic of some incredibly clumsy statements that make Geri Halliwell's Feels Like Sex sound like Enya. The sharper singes of synths are appealing on the intro to Hard Enough Getting Over You, but they quickly fade to allow a piano ballad to seep out and the chorus is another power-ballad slog. Laura Branigan returned the favour and recorded it on her final album. 

Despite the power-ballad formula being difficult to take in the one sitting, Cher (the album) was an immense showcase for the singer's now hugely powerful voice. The emotive fragrance of We All Sleep Alone, the howling fury of I Found Someone and remarkably deranged re-working of Bang Bang gave the singer her strongest ammunition in years. It arguably wasn't a better record than I Paralyze, but the commitment to the material paid off and the album was her biggest seller since 1971's Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves.