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.


dishy said...

Oh Dishy! Those were delicious, thank you! Dead right one baby - especially that Kiss to Kiss - what a clunker that is!

Diva Incarnate said...

Thanks! So what is your own opinion on Love Hurts?

Dann said...

I think LOVE HURTS is her best Geffen album, and I love all the songs on it. And, of course, the limited-edition Wooden Box version is to die for! I wish it had been a bigger hit here in the US, but I'm glad it was pretty huge everywhere else... While including "Shoop Shoop" on the non-US versions was a very smart decision, I am glad they didn't put it on the US one because it just does not "fit" with the rest of the album at all. (Just like how "After All" didn't really fit on HOS, but even worse...)

You wrote that the Euro pressings had an "alternative" cover. The original "gothic" cover was used on first pressings worldwide; however, in most countries besides the US, the album sold so well right away, they all got the second pressing pretty quickly. Here in the US, it was the opposite and it took forever to find a "red wig" cover.

Major kudos for three great reviews of her Geffen era albums, and I will now forever always think of "Baywatch" whenever I hear "One Small Step".

Diva Incarnate said...

Love this comment.

Thanks for the correction on the cover. I actually forgot to include some personal information with regards to the album: it was the very first album I ever bought! So, when I got to buy it perhaps this was some time after the initial release.

I'm impressed with such a tactic from a marketing point of view - way ahead of the re-release craze of today as usual (although she'd better not do this with the new disc).

With Shoop Shoop, to me it just sounds like a straight-forward pop rock song with the obvious pastiche quality (that she'd done on all her solo 80s albums) from being a 60s cover, so I don't find it jarring, but can totally see where you are coming from.

Dann said...

So cool that LOVE HURTS was the first album you ever bought! Mine was STARS. I guess it technically was a gift since I bought it with money that my Grandmother sent me for my 9th birthday, but I still remember how happy I was to buy my very first Cher album without having to ask/beg my Mom to buy it for me...

Diva Incarnate said...

I was allowed to choose one album, and I must have heard of Cher, but focusing on the album covers it stood out. I think the European cover presents Cher looking uber glam of course, but the pose is both passive and androgynous. I think she was hugely intriguing to me in this regard. Loved the album right away, it's very tuneful and more pop than the previous two that's for sure (maybe it was a European sensibility after all? who knows...).

I've not been Cherring of late, but I'll get back on track soon. It's A Man's World next, then The Dance Years including a small interruption of sorts.