While she has not always garnered the most critical acclaim, the general music-business wisdom about Cher claims that she is a chameleon and a survivor. The performer celebrated her 67th birthday this week, while also announcing the release of a new single next month and new album in September; it seems like the general wisdom will continue to prove true. I have long been a Cher fan--Believe was one of three albums I was given with my first CD player-- and I have always been the biggest fan of "rocker Cher," especially her 1987 release, Cher.
As with most self-titled records, this collection marked a rebirth for the singer--an aesthetic shift to an electric-guitar-heavy sound that still played to her strengths with story-songs about love and breakups. In the 70s, Cher was known for delivering a vibrato-heavy alto, and that deep melodramatic style works especially well in an 80s rock context. She can rise above the wall of guitars, as she does so well on the single, "I Found Someone." The diva also delivers compelling gritty turns on fan favorites, "We All Sleep Alone" and the reworking of her classic, "Bang Bang."
What is most interesting about these tracks is that they reveal Cher's under-appreciated vocal gifts that allow her to work comfortably with a variety of aesthetics. She can provide a roughness to the polished pop-rock productions on the previously discussed songs, deliver a classic ballad like "Main Man," and play it coy, as she does on the dance track, "Skin Deep." However, her delightfully dramatic delivery meshes these varying sounds to create a unified album that is all black leather jackets, hairspray, and female-empowerment.
Though she would continue to work with her "rocker" sound on the even-more successful follow-up, Heart of Stone (which features the pop juggernaut, "If I Could Turn Back Time"), Cher best captures the diva at the peak of her powers. The ten tracks on the album create a cohesive musical world that is part camp, part feminist rock-fest, and part pop-confection. I would claim it is her best album because every track works so well and reveals the qualities that make Cher such a likable persona: her ability to work hard, fall in love, and face disappointment, making it through it all with a wink, a laugh, and some good chorus-belting.