Song of the Day, July 21: Believe by Cher

CherBelieveToday’s song is a pop superstar’s  late-career hit that broke a handful of chart records. By 1999, the woman born Cherilyn Sarkasian had reinvented herself multiple times. She’d been half of a pop duo with husband Sonny Bono, a folk-pop singer with a string of hits, a TV variety show star, a disco diva, a hard rocker, an 80s power balladeer, and an award-winning movie actor. When she entered the studio in late 1998 to record her 22nd album, no-one expected one of her most remarkable transformations.

Believe — written by Brian Higgins, Matthew Gray, Stuart McLennen, and Timothy Powell — had floated around Warner Bros. for months without finding a home. Executive producer Rob Dickins loved the chorus and thought the track might suit Cher as she put together a set of more club-oriented songs. Steve Torch and Paul Berry rewrote the track, and producers Mark Taylor and Brian Rawling decided it was ready.

Cher loved the message of strength and independence and recorded the song. She didn’t realize that Taylor was experimenting with new software — the now infamous Auto-Tune — and modulated her vocals on the chorus. Warner Bros. execs were not amused and demanded a new version. Cher said, “Over my dead body.” The track was released as Taylor had created it.

Believe entered the Billboard Hot 100 at the end of 1998. Three months later it was Cher’s fifth #1 single. She is the oldest female solo artist (52 at the time) to hit #1 on the chart. She managed to set a few other records — all of which still stand — at the same time. At 33 years, 7 months and 3 weeks, she has the longest span of years between #1 hits, from I Got You Babe (with Sonny) to Believe. She also has the longest break between #1s, nearly 25 years between Dark Lady and Believe. The song is the biggest-selling single by a female solo artist in the UK. It also came in as the #1 Hot 100 hit for 1999. Not surprisingly, it’s the biggest hit of Cher’s career.

It’s also a powerful, danceable bit of fun. It shows off a famous diva at her entertaining finest. Nice to see that pay off once in awhile. Enjoy this huge smash hit today.

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About Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
Freelance writer, researcher, online comic vendor, and project manager. Fan of a wide range of music -- especially folk and 80s pop -- vintage comics, British TV, and LGBT fiction.

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