When you think back on Cher’s musical career, she will likely be best remembered for her campy dance-fueled hits. Her songs often tell a story. The melodies are infectious. Decade after decade, Cher has reinvented herself to keep her sound fresh and relevant. My favourite fact about her is that she is the only artist to have a number one single in six consecutive decades. So who better to cover the classic songs of ABBA than Cher - someone who had her own disco hits back in the day. Someone, who like ABBA, helped define the music of a generation. In this case, we have a legend covering the songbook of a legendary band.
After watching ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ starring Cher, I was pleasantly surprised how great Cher sounded singing ‘Fernando.’ Cher has a unique voice - and therefore, when she covers another well known song, it could either be sensational or tragic. In the case of ABBA, it works. Apparently Cher felt it worked so well, that she went back into the studio and recorded a fair section of the ABBA catalogue for her most recent album. While filming the movie, she recalled how happy the music made her, and she decided then and there to record the record right after she was finished filming. It’s true - there is something intrinsically uplifting to the music of ABBA which is why they became an international phenomenon.
‘Dancing Queen’ has been a commercial success for Cher - selling more units in a single week than any other album she has released. I think the familiarity of the songs and the upbeat nature of the music helped sales. ABBA has the Midas-touch - not only by selling over 300 million albums, but by producing wildly successful musicals and movies based on their music. The world has a love for ABBA and it’s no surprise that Cher’s album did so well. It fills a void in current pop culture - where we have seen a recent shift towards expletive-laced R&B, politically fuelled songwriters and more melancholy angsty pop.
One of the challenges with a cover album is making the songs your own. Cher has an incomparable sound. In more recent years, her signature use of autotune has transformed her distinct style. ‘Dancing Queen’ has a very healthy dose of auto-tune and digitization while still keeping a recognizable feel. Although I feel like there is too much synthesizer used throughout the entire album, at least it keeps with the 70/80s feel of the original.
The only disappointment for me is that I expected Cher to do more with the individual songs. To me it sounds like a remastered version of the Broadway ‘Mamma Mia’ soundtrack. I would have loved to hear ‘One of Us’ be recorded as a duet - or maybe with only piano accompaniment. Why not do a mashup of ‘Dancing Queen’ and ‘Believe’ or ‘Waterloo’ and ‘Take Me Home.’ Where is an awesome club remix of ‘The Winner Take it All?’ I think some of the orchestrations border on sounding tired - when covering songs that are 40+ years old, is hard to avoid. While I know it’s meant to have a dance feel, I think it could have benefited from a less digital sound. I love ABBA’s cannon of work, but between the originals, the Broadway show (which I adore) and the movies, the songs can get a bit stale. It would have been nice to see Cher breath some new life into them.
At the age of 72, it’s impressive that Cher can still turn out a quality album like this. She even has plans to release another ABBA cover album within the next couple years due to the tremendous success of this one. Her Here We Go Again world tour has continued to pack arenas around the globe - while still maintaining her residency in Las Vegas. Several years ago, ABBA themselves made a press release that they were going to go on tour with the use of holograms. To date, that plan has yet to actually materialize - which is crushing to a fan such as myself. If I look back at all the artists that I wish I had seen live (and haven’t), my list is pretty short: Elvis, Frank Sinatra and ABBA. Elvis was gone before I was born, Frank passed when I was a teenager and ABBA’s last public performance was when I was a toddler. I have my fingers crossed that they reunite for a farewell tour but it’s pretty doubtful. So in the meantime, we have Cher to help us relive the music and the memories.