CHER: CLOSER TO THE TRUTH (2013)
1) Woman's World; 2) Take It Like A Man; 3) My Love; 4) Dressed To Kill; 5) Red; 6) Lovers Forever; 7) I Walk Alone; 8) Sirens; 9) Favorite Scars; 10) I Hope You Find It; 11) Lie To Me.
In 2002-2003, Cher conducted the highly successful Living Proof: The Farewell Tour, setting a record for the highest-grossing concert tour by a female performer ever — and even capped off with a live album, recorded in Las Vegas (where else?), but even in the face of the many embarrassing and dishonorable things that Only Solitaire Reviews have stooped to over the past few years, setting up a special review for a live album by Cher would be too much (I might as well be reviewing a Crazy Frog live album, I guess).
Upon concluding the tour, Cher did indeed retire from live performance and making new studio records — and since, as we all know too well, pop stars never ever lie and treasure their artistic integrity far more than they value their personal fortunes, the fact that somebody went ahead and assumed the identity of «Cher» in 2013 with a brand new CD release should be regarded as an act of musical fraud and identity theft. Indeed, whoever it was — and with Autotune masking half of the vocals, who can really tell these days? — left us some hints: Closer To The Truth implies a lack of truth, and the album cover features a blonde-haired Cher look-alike with so much symbolical white around her that you'd think she's really died and gone to Heaven... hey, wait a minute. Is the real Cher really dead? Have the cockroaches had the upper hand? Is this Christina Aguilera masking as Cher (we know she can do a mean Cher impression)?..
Thank God, though, Only Solitaire is all about the music rather than the people behind it, and so we can legitimately separate the good old conspiracy theories from the plain fact of how crappy the music is, no matter who in particular is standing behind it. Actually, if you really love formulaic techno-pop, it might not sound all that crappy — whether there is an actual human being called Cherilyn Sarkisian here or not, the «Cher business machine» is still churning like crazy, and the numerous corporate writers and producers ensure a certain standard. The vocal hooks are there alright — just a few listens, and without a proper antidote you'll be jerking spasmodically and singing "This is a woman's world!" and "You gotta take it like a man!" and "Baby I am dressed to kill!" and "For now I've gotta walk alone!" like there was no tomorrow. And we gotta give this «past-farewell Cher» what's due — even without the special production effects, she can still belt these hooks out like she means it, in tune and with sufficient power.
Unfortunately, the «business machine» is not designed for any sorts of creativity, though: other than the vocal hooks, everything else is reduced to the most pedestrian types of techno beats and acid-drenched synth patterns. Well, almost everything: every once in a while, they pull some ridiculous retro-trick, like countrifying ʽI Walk Aloneʼ with a banjo rhythm pattern — it is very quickly drowned out by the beats and electronics, but still battles on bravely until the end of the song, because this is, like, the only thread that still ties this innovative artist to her roots in the old folk tradition. She came from California with a banjo on her knee, after all.
Towards the middle of the album, the endless stream of techno dance numbers begins to alternate with slower balladry, even including one or two tracks with potential (I think that with a better arrangement, ʽSirensʼ could turn out to be a really pretty and uplifting statement — and there's actually a first-rate shoegaze-style guitar solo in the middle, too!), but never really detracting from the «core value» of the record, which is to send you mindlessly spinning through the crammed confines of the local nightclub while at the same time empowering you (if you're a woman) or disempowering you (if you're somebody else).
Naturally, I give the album a thumbs down, although, strange enough, I feel no specific «hatred» for it or anything. Maybe there's some subconscious feel of respect, after all, lurking somewhere very, very deep — after all, it's not every day that you come face to face with a 67-year old reigning queen of mainstream techno, as ridiculous as that might look in theory, and witness her singing like a fresh 30-year old (yes, I understand that the mind-blowing prolonged notes of "surrender to me now" on ʽLovers Foreverʼ are most likely artificially extended, but they still had to have their roots in a natural strong voice). Essentially, at this point, it no longer matters what she is singing — it is only a matter of setting a personal record. Will she still be able to do it when she is 70? 80? 90? Will the business machine still hold? You probably won't live to witness it yourself, but maybe your grandchildren will — on the other hand, what with all the recent successes in tissue regeneration and genetic engineering, you never can tell...