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Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Cher: Dancing Queen

CHER: DANCING QUEEN (2018)

1) Dancing Queen; 2) Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight); 3) The Name Of The Game; 4) SOS; 5) Waterloo; 6) Mamma Mia; 7) Chiquitita; 8) Fernando; 9) The Winner Takes It All; 10) One Of Us.

General verdict: Yes, it is an album of ABBA covers by Cher. Yes, that which hath been done is that which shall be done, and there is no new thing under the sun.


It is so heartwarming to see ABBA, after all these decades of critical despisal, stand loud and proud on the pop pedestal as icons of melody and emotion to the new generations of the 21st century, and to hear their songs constantly rediscovered and reinvented by fresh, young artists bursting with talent and energy... oh wait a minute.

Yes, just like you, dear reader, I do not have the slightest idea as to why this album came into actual existence in this particular universe — some sort of quantum aberration, no doubt. Cher did appear in the sequel to Mamma Mia!, where she performed a couple of songs, but the distance between a brief role in a musical and a full album of cover tunes is substantial, and the only incentive to cover it that I can think of is financial: since, apparently, these days anything ABBA-related is almost bound to turn to gold, Cher and her producers must have jumped at this oppor­tunity to make a Cher album sell. Not that Closer To The Truth didnʼt sell, but it had been five years since that one made the grade, and in 2018 an old pop diva is not expected to succeed unless she gets a duet with Nicki Minaj, and apparently Cher does not get along with Nicki Minaj, so whatʼs the alternative? Get along with Benny and Björn.

The recipé for the record is fairly simple and consistent. First, assemble a good bunch of solid ABBA hits — God forbid you grab a song that is somehow not on ABBA Gold, each tune must be a single with a solidly established commercial reputation. Second, re-record them as close as possible to the original versions, but modernize the production a bit: replace some of the guitars with keyboards, put more emphasis on the harsh bass for extra danceability, replace the old-fashioned drums with electronic percussion... strangely enough, though, this «modernization» does not give the impression of being particularly «modern», but rather reflects the sophisti-level of Cherʼs own work around the age of Believe. I mean, do modern kids really continue to dig the umts-umts techno beats that were all the rage twenty years ago? Somebody got stuck in a time loop, and it ainʼt the ABBA time loop.

Anyway, third and last and rather predictable part of the recipé is that it all gets to be sung by Cher — who herself is following the rules of the game and trying to very faithfully reproduce all of Agnethaʼs and Anni-Fridʼs lines and intonations, sometimes with a little help from the trusty old Autotune, but more often not. With powerhouse anthems like ʽDancing Queenʼ it kind of works; with stuff that requires more subtlety, like ʽS.O.S.ʼ and ʽThe Winner Takes It Allʼ, it most definitely does not. It hardly matters, though: successful or not, this is all about reproduction rather than reinterpretation. And why anybody in this whole wide world should care about a 70-year old Cher reproducing a bunch of hits from the 1970s is beyond my understanding. (Minor correction: ʽOne Of Usʼ at the very end is reinterpreted as a piano and orchestral synth ballad, subtracting the rhythm section of the original — not a suitable change, in my opinion, since the rhythm was one of the songʼs strongest attractions).

Surprisingly, the album not only sold really well, but also found favor from the critics, a fact that I can blame neither on political correctness nor on the old Cher voodoo. More likely the people just do not give a damn any more — like, hey, this is a new record, and it has some great songs on it, and the singer isnʼt too bad. Who cares if there are all those old originals still lying around? Who cares about comparing? Who gives a damn about anything when you can just dance, you can jive, having the time of your life?

It makes me a little sad that, apparently, Benny and Björn themselves were involved in the project and are listed as co-producers. But they are the same age as Cher, and it is likely that they, too, do not give much of a damn anymore. It is much more instructive, however, to realize that, as of 2018, we live in a world where a random record of ABBA covers, as long as it is carefully marketed as «brand new», can make it all the way to #3 on the Billboard charts. From now on, I shall be impatiently waiting for The Osmonds to release Strange Magic, an album of cover versions of ELO hit singles; and for Sha Na Na to produce Weʼve Only Just Begun, finally giving The Carpenters their long-awaited dues. But in reality, the possibilities are endless here.

5 comments:

  1. The good thing here is that one of the 60s artists is still working. Of course, we have other 60s artists still around that belongs to another tier: Paul Mccartney, The Stones, Neil Young, Brian Wilson. Not sure if The Who and Bob Dylan are doing something.

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  2. Please no, do not bring back Bowser from the dead...

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  3. There is no possible way that this can be anything but a festering pile of shit.

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  4. If anything could be worse than ABBA it's Cher covering ABBA :D

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