Dancing Queen Improves ABBA In The Only Conceivable Way – By Adding Cher To The Mix

camjameson
Written by camjameson
/ 12 mins read

Would you ever stare at the beautiful masterpiece Italian visionary Michelangelo painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel & say to yourself “meh, interesting but it could really use some improvement around the edges”? Do you spend your days excavating entire mountainsides in the Swiss Alps under the misguided belief your puny human hands could ever reshape them into something as breathtaking as the natural splendor the Earth created over hundreds upon thousands of millennia? The simple answer to these questions, of course, is a hard & well-defined ‘no,’ as modern culture has instilled a deep reverence within human beings for things of true beauty, the collective consciousness of all living creatures agreeing that there are certain things you just can’t touch, their sacred properties as valuable as life itself – Naturally, then, if I were to ask you if any of the myriad hits Swedish Disco legends ABBA have released in their career needed any sort of improvements, you’d likely tell me to shut my mouth & take a seat, as their compositions are pure perfection & require nothing more than a working pair of ears to appreciate; Then again, if you’re someone as prolific as Pop diva Cher, the mere addition of your voice to any musical arrangement is proof enough that miracles truly do exist, as evidenced by her fantastic cover-album of ABBA’s works aptly named Dancing Queen – Yes, Our Lady Of The Immaculate Dancefloor has returned once again to achieve the impossible, determined to halt the progress of modern hatred by utilizing her powerful vocal prowess & larger-than-life persona to bring back some of the world’s most impressive jams with a sleek new coat of paint, taking care to stay true to the source material wherever possible whilst injecting that tantalizing dance energy only she has the moxie to wield, showing that age is nothing but a number when you’re absolutely brimming with latent musical ability. I went into this record thinking it was just going to be another run-of-the-mill cash-grab like the lifeless cover albums you typically get from acts like Mariah Carey & Josh Groban, but the minor changes in tone & narrative rearrangement she provides really do change this experience into something unique enough for even the most die-hard ABBA fan to enjoy, unable to be scrutinized in the same way as her inferior contemporaries – Let’s break down some of its finer moments, shall we?

A Fresh Look For A Long-Gone Disco Scene

The first track Cher produced & released as promotional material for Dancing Queen is her rendition of an oft-overlooked but surprisingly still-engaging Disco staple called “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight),” an intense track known for its heart-pounding oompa-loompa dance beats, spectacularly booming female vocalizations & – more importantly – a wonderfully expressive symphonic riff boasting high flying flutes playing alongside dynamic string melodies, this particular chorus hook famously adopted for Madonna’s exhilarating 2005 bop “Hung Up” which helped her reemerge in modern times as an undeniable Pop goddess even though such a legacy isn’t necessarily continued today – For the most part, all of these sonic themes are left untouched, the basic instrumentation of the track played in the same tempo with virtually every distinctive element of the original present, so there’s an instant nostalgic connection in the listener’s mind that puts a smile on your face as the jubilant rhythms begin to play, though in typical Cher fashion there’re all manner of electronic effects added in to promote a more club-like House music aesthetic, serving to appropriately re-brand the tune with her signature charm; Daisy-chained synth basslines play in satiating repetition throughout the mix, noise-gates muffle areas of the mix to intensify her vocals & various electronic washes are used to pump up the precision & edge of each instrumental melody, making for a soundscape that feels the way you remember it in your soul rather than just being identical to the original. The narrative of the track focuses on the unmet desires of a woman wasting her night away watching television & trying to find something – or someone – to keep her mind from racing around, hoping through her straight-forward exclamations that she’ll be gifted with the warmth of human interaction she so desperately needs, such bold claims packed with not-so-subtle sexual tension & an underlying message of surprisingly feministic ideals that tries to show audiences women are more repressed sexually than mainstream society would lead you to believe; This not only works as a perfect match for the established characteristics of Cher’s public persona, aligning with her outspoken stance on sexual empowerment & the need to knock boots when the moment calls for it, but it also beautifully sums up many of the same issues we’re still somehow dealing with in today’s day & age, breaking through social barriers to once again liberate women & their sexual desires whilst plainly laying out the information in clear terms for the general public to consume at their leisure over a groovy beat – Now, just because the message is poignant & the classic rhythm makes you want to get busy doesn’t particularly mean this mix is without its flaws, the most glaring example being the excessive use of pitch-correction in its vocals that’re even a little much for Cher; Sure, she’s always been a big fan of vocoder effects, but seeing as that’s not the primary focus of this track – i.e. it’s not designed as a high-energy club hit with a Techno vibe – it’s a little difficult to just let it slide, especially since she’s still got enough vocal power in her old age to deliver each note without necessitating help in the form of digital manipulation. Still, the LGBTQ+ community have regained in this single mix a shining star who had long since fallen from the limelight, helping the overall exposure of their culture as well as driving more bodies of all demographics back to the dancefloor for one more go.

Altering The Emotional Depth Of Less-Charismatic Tunes

“SOS” is an undeniably groovy tune, arguably one of ABBA’s most powerful compositions as it manages to take the somber sensation of heartbreak & put an upbeat spin on it, the end result being an emotionally-heavy yet uplifting tune which listeners could find themselves reinvigorated by, its soothing tones & focus on sensitive subject matter allowing them to work through their problems with a sense of forward progression that would help them find the strength to carry on despite being burdened by loneliness. Its lyrics see vocalist Agnetha Fältskog confronting her darling about their relationship, asserting they’ve lost themselves amidst raging waters & sailed from the course they’d intended, sending out an S.O.S. in hopes of salvaging what little remains of the happiness & love they used to share together; It’s a beautifully poetic way of illustrating how tumultuous relations had become amongst ABBA’s intimately-involved members, although for all the pain & suffering we hear in the lyrics there’s a somewhat lackluster representation of said turmoil expressed in their actual vocalizations, salvaged only by the fantastic sounds of booming percussion sequences, strong piano lines, captivatingly whimsical Mini-Moog melodies & bright choral harmonies peppered throughout the mix – So, how does Cher spice up the recipe this time around? For starters, rather than sticking to the basics like she has on the majority of the covers you find on Dancing Queen, she goes full-on showman for this feisty rendition, leaving the wig on the cutting-room floor & pulling out all the stops to make this the most theatrical performance she can. Her vocals are far more dramatic, beefed up with wild new dynamic accentuation & decidedly more bravado than the song’s original vocal arrangement, her voice cracking oh-so-pitifully as she croons for her despondent lover; This is then supported by an increase in overall Rock’N’Roll energy from the source material, each guitar strumming harder than it had before whilst the mesmerizing allure of retro synthesizers get elevated to their most flamboyant levels, the whimsy of electronic arpeggiators & laser-like sonic resonance creating an admittedly-fantastical aesthetic packed with equal parts joy & sadness. Aside from that, things are pretty much the same as ABBA’s original; Hell, even the accompanying music video borrows some aesthetic choices from its predecessor, utilizing downward-staged camera angles from atop cranes to create a sense of weakness in its all-female characters as if they’re pleading for help from absolute rock bottom in an attempt to salvage what little they have left, made more period-accurate through authentically-seventies wardrobe choices like conservative plaid dresses & dark-coloured full-body unitards which inspire more expressive body language, even going so far as to evoke vintage cinematography techniques with shallow lenses & green colour-grading with low luminosity that gives everything a nostalgic feel, as if peering into one’s memories – If you can’t tell by how much detail I just gave on seemingly-banal things like textiles & lenses, I adore this entire production. As one of the few tracks Cher has released with an actual music video, “SOS” is a clear frontrunner in terms of a complete sonic & visual experience, preserving this spectacular piece of music history & giving audiences yet another stellar performance from the aging but still-amazing Cher. Whether you’ve been a fan forever or are just discovering it through her modern interpretation, it’s really no wonder why this track is highly regarded by listeners & even Elton John as one of the most perfect songwriting executions in Pop music history despite being relatively panned by critics when it was initially released.

It Ain’t A Diva Party ‘Til We Get A Symphonic Ballad

Tidying up the track-list of Dancing Queen in majestic fashion is the last song on Cher’s brilliant ABBA cover record “One Of Us,” a decidedly fitting position for the tune as it marked the last time ABBA would ever find themselves at number one on the charts during the height of their career, truly the bittersweet end of an era & a touching way to remind listeners how impactful the group’s music was & still is today. Not only was this number somber in melodic tone but its narrative substance was also incredibly disparaging, ABBA’s usual chipper, upbeat attitudes fading into nothingness as they dealt with the repercussions of their real-life divorces, no longer fit to sing about love & happiness like they had done so many times before when they could barely adhere to something as simple as ‘don’t sleep with people who aren’t your spouse’ – Perhaps this is what makes “One Of Us” so devastatingly emotional, the sincerity of the group’s heartbreak leeching into every line as they perform with a genuinely-intimate sadness matched only by fellow extramarital-affair experts Fleetwood Mac, allowing audiences to project their own experiences upon the melodies & grieve vicariously as ABBA fell apart by the seams right in front of their very eyes, thus plunging listeners deeper into the emotional substance of the song than they otherwise would have been. Of course, ABBA wouldn’t dare show weakness to their listeners without at least giving them a groovy beat to dance along to, what with the whole Disco royalty thing & all, so this glum story is accompanied by a bouncy, almost-textbook funky rhythm that seems to frolic about with a happy-go-lucky energy, presenting this tale of a lover’s quarrel with more of a disregarding tone than a depressing one, thereby giving audiences another way to interpret the tune that can be fun for some & cathartic for others – Now, with most of the covers on Dancing Queen, Cher doesn’t stray too far from the source material, typically just injecting a healthy dose of her high-energy Diva House aesthetic & leaving it at that with little more than a bit of reverb or additional synth instrumentation differentiating her mixes from the originals; On “One Of Us” though, she takes things in a much different direction, dropping the upbeat romp vibe of the original altogether & changing the overall mood to that of a mellow piano ballad, though thankfully for consistency’s sake she goes one step further by portraying this ballad in the style it would’ve been back in the eighties, jam-packed with airy, karaoke-like reverb & symphonic accompaniment that’d make the likes of Bonnie Tyler or even Terri Nunn blush. With the added emotional weight of ABBA’s eventual breakup weighing down on you & the true feelings behind their lyrics acting to exacerbate any personal attachments you have to the song, this reduction of sonic brilliance ends up gaining much more heft & meaning, transforming what was a fairly blasé account of differing viewpoints into a rich soundscape of regrets & misgivings, presenting listeners with the somber tale they’ve been owed for so many years in glorious form – Obviously, Cher’s vocals themselves are impressive in their own right, sung with plenty of dynamic range & theatricality like she is known to do, but she holds back from over-singing & simply presents the lyrics as they are, sad & lonely with the creeping feeling that she’ll burst into tears at any moment, reestablishing her status as a true performer who knows how to milk every last drop of an audience’s attention for delightfully dramatic effect. The best part of all is that these were just three songs out of the ten astounding covers Cher gives us on Dancing Queen, so if you enjoyed any one part of my Narrative review, I guarantee you’ll find a whole new world of sonic excellence elsewhere throughout the album, hopefully leading you to venture deeper into the realms of Disco & Pop Rock in search of more undiscovered gems you’ve previously shied away from; After all, the music of yesteryear captivated our predecessors for a reason, so we might as well consume as much of it as possible, right?

2. Track List (10)

3. Official (10)

4. Live (1)

SOS

Cher

5. Featuring Remixes (8)

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9. Album Info

About

Dancing Queen is the twenty-sixth studio album by American singer and actress Cher, released by Warner Bros. Records on September 28, 2018. It is Cher's first album in five years, following Closer to the Truth (2013). The album contains cover versions of songs recorded by Swedish pop group ABBA, with the title referencing their 1976 song "Dancing Queen". The album follows Cher's appearance in the 2018 musical film Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, based on the music of ABBA.
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Songwriter

  • Cher

Label

  • Warner Bros.

Producer

  • Cher (exec.)
  • Benny Andersson (also exec.)
  • Björn Ulvaeus (exec.)
  • Judy Craymer (exec.)
  • Mark Taylor