Sunday, March 15, 2009

Back In The Day: Believe

This third installment of 'Back In the Day' is one for the record books.

Oh yeah, I'm talking Cher, people.

On March 13, 1999, her arguably best known and biggest single to our generation, the synthy pop gem "Believe", hit #1 on the US Hot 100, despite being released the previous November. The song revived Cher's already three decade long career (then!), and was a staple on just about every radio station in the US until long after it had worn its welcome. Cher was 52 years old when "Believe" hit the top spot on the charts, making her the oldest woman to have that distinction. The song was from her twenty-third album, also titled Believe.

We may not have understood it's significance then. We might have even wanted to bash that inescapable hook and synthy "Be-leee-ve in life after love (after love, after love, after love)" out of skulls back, in 1999, but now, ten years later, we can full appreciate that its effect has completely changed the pop game thanks to its resounding and unabashed use of Auto-Tuned vocoded vocals for the first time in a mainstream way, which has now ten years later become as common as a swishy backbeat. So if you are one of those infuriating people who believe T-Pain invented this trend, think again.

Even if you are not a Cher fan, you still have to awe in respect at her long and winding career. She began her career (unsuccessfully) at age 16 back in 1962 as a solo artist, working with future husband Sonny Bono and Phil Spector. However, she would become a household name three years later as a part of the duo Sonny & Cher, with the release of their debut album Look at Us, which contained their best known hit, "I've Got You Babe". That song also went to #1 on the Hot 100 that August, and has been sung in kareoke bars ever since.

A string of solo hits followed, and she continued to perform with Sonny, and in the 1970's she appeared in the Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, a television slapstick variety show in the vein of the Jackson 5, The Brady Bunch, and later...rather unsuccessfully by Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey.

Her career is full of poptastic tracks that are often underrated outside the discotecque, including the #1 "Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves" in 1971, the anthematic "If I Could Turn Back Time" in 1989 (whose music video was one of the first banned by MTV for being dubbed too sexy) and the UK #1 "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss)" in 1991.

"Believe" was released in late 1998, almost a year after the tragic and unexpected death of her former husband Sonny Bono following a skiing accident. Prior to the song's success, Cher and the late Sonny were honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

However, "Believe" reminded the world just how undeniable Cher really is. The song hit #1 in the US after a steady incline since November during the week of March 13th, 1999, and stayed there for four weeks. The song was produced by Mark Taylor, who went on to produce songs for Britney, Nelly Furtado, James Morrison, and Kylie Minogue (among others), and was written by a smattering of people, including Brian Higgins, just prior to his creation of the esteemed pop writing group, Xenomania. Xeno's credits are exhaustive in quantity and include the majority of superpop out of the UK (Sugababes' "Red Dress", "Round Round" & "Hole In the Head", Abs Breen's "Miss Perfect", the entire Gabrielle Cilmi album, Alesha Dixon's "The Boy Does Nothing", and just about every incredible Girls Aloud song ever, just to name a few).

"Believe" was rightfully named the #1 song of 1999 by the biblical Billboard Magazine, and also was #1 for seven weeks over in the UK. It sold over 20 million copies worldwide, and topped the charts in 20 different countries. It's impact is indisputable, and was a big part of what made 1999's pop music so great.

So, young grasshoppers of the new millennium -- watch, listen and learn. Do you believe in life after love?

1 comment:

John said...

Another brilliant flashback. I was living in Miami at the time this came out. Virgin opened a store there, and they brought her in for the grand opening. Funny how all of these stories start to collide after a while.

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