Warner Brothers Records, 1998
REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/06/2009
Consider this the resurrection of Cher. After her former husband, mentor, and duet partner Sonny Bono died, Cher was left totally alone. If anyone doubted the role Sonny played in Cher’s life, they only had to listen to Cher’s gut-wrenching eulogy at his funeral. In many ways, he was her rock and her anchor. They may not have been as close in the few years preceding his death, but the connection that linked them together in the minds and hearts of their fans made his untimely death an even greater loss. Subconsciously, they both must have known that they were the love of each other’s lives.
What is so remarkable is how Cher was able to overcome her grief from this unexpected turn of events and channel all of that heavy energy in an uplifting way on her 1998 comeback record entitled Believe. After three albums of largely forgettable power ballad pop in the ‘80s, Cher was ready to get her dance shoes back on for the new millennium that was fast approaching. “Well I know that I’ll get through this,” she declares at the end of the #1 hit title track, “Because I know that I am strong.” That, in a nutshell, is the powerful message of the whole album. For her part, Cher has had her share of ups and downs, and she has proven in the public eye just how resilient she is.
There is a loose spiritual element that is so refreshing to hear coming from this newly invigorated one-name wonder. Much in the way that Madonna shifted her career into techno-overdrive with her own 1998 release, Ray Of Light, Cher also opted to ramp up the energy while simultaneously showing a more personal side to herself. It’s almost as if this was the Cher the public has been waiting years to see and hear. The artifice has been stripped away and she is courageously bearing her soul for the first time. With song titles like “Strong Enough,” “The Power,” and “Love Is The Groove,” we immediately get the impression that she is in a good space. This is the most comfortable and relaxed she has ever sounded musically. Just by letting go and surrendering to the flow, Cher was able to find and accept herself. Even Madonna was envious when she heard the Latin-infused track “Dové L’Amoré” for the first time.
What makes this record such a career touchstone for Cher is the fact that it is such a departure artistically for her. Yes, she’s done dance music before for Casablanca back in the ‘70s, but aside from “Take Me Home,” hardly anyone remembers that chapter of Cher’s journey. We’re more likely to remember the outrageous outfits on the red carpet or her penchant for dating men much younger than her. Unfortunately, up until now, it was the image and wisecracking attitude that overshadowed anything she did musically.
Even her film career brought her more recognition than her music career ever did, even winning her the ultimate prize of Oscar for Best Actress in Moonstruck in 1988. Perhaps the best thing about Believe is the fact that Cher no longer has to act to get our attention.