My Favorite Album of 2013: Cher's Closer to the Truth

Pop music is supposed to be a young diva's game, but, then again, Cher has never played by those rules. Given that she had the biggest hit of her career (the number one international smash, "Believe") in her 50s, it only makes sense she would put out her best album in her 60s. Closer to the Truth is a success for a variety of reasons, but mostly because Cher's creative, unique vision sits front and center.

First, Closer to the Truth is her most expertly sequenced and conceptualized album, as the entire LP is organized around the concept of truth: from the "Tell the truth!" hook on the opener "Woman's World," to the claim that "we rise to face the truth/ on and on" during the bridge on "Take It Like a Man," to the title phrase arriving in the folk-tinged "I Walk Alone," and concluding with the call for a romantic interest to be gentle and deceive her on the lovely closer "Lie to Me." Perhaps because life experience complicates the idea of truths, this theme makes for a smart through-line on the album.

The LP also feels like the most quintessential Cher record to date. In part, this is because it successfully integrates multiple genres and textures from her career (house music, story-song, power ballads, and folk/Americana). It also plays to her strengths, such as her skill with campy ideas, humor, and melodrama ("Dressed to Kill," "Red," "Lovers Forever") and her ability to be vulnerable and encouraging ("My Love," "Sirens," "Favorite Scars," "I Hope You Find It.") Thus, it is not surprising that this record has three Cher co-writing credits--more than any other major studio album in her massive discography. In fact, these three songs are some of the very best on Closer to the Truth: the cheeky "Take it Like a Man," the drag-anthem "Dressed to Kill," and the vampire love-song "Lovers Forever" she wrote with Shirley Eikhard. Coupled with her clear creative control as an executive producer, this album is the most pure representation of Cher's gifts.

And so, Closer to the Truth is the model for an ideal pop record: a perfect embodiment of the artist's aesthetic, as well as a unified group of good pop songs that keep you dancing and singing along. Cher is at the top of her game, and, as she would say, "Follow this, bitches!"

(Note: The first video below, "Take it Like a Man," may be a bit too sexy for work. However, you can use the drop-down playlist menu to skip ahead, if you desire.)

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