Welcome back to TGJ Replay!
Designed much like our ‘Retro Rewind’ and ‘From the Vault’ features, ‘Replay’ is That Grape Juice‘s newest reflective segment to act as a written quest to re-spin the gems and jams of yesterday. Unlike its TGJ retrospective predecessors, ‘Replay’ looks to showcase entire albums (and eras) from a library of pop and Urban pop music hits.
This week we believe it’s about time we revisit ‘Believe’ – the 22nd album of pop icon Cher.
Simply put, Cher is and always has been a premier pop force. A multi-faceted talent whose extensive resume reads of television, movies, music, and countless awards to celebrate her achievements for each of the aforementioned, by the mid-90s there was no amount of commercial failure that could undermine that.
Unfortunately, in 1997, Warner Bros. Records didn’t exactly share this enthusiasm. For, while “sonic eclecticism” was the name of her game for nearly 30 years at that point (visiting genres of rock, pop, soul, jazz/swing, and more), a series of musical missteps in the 90s led her label to encourage she tread to new sonic territory.
Calling on help from English producers Brian Rawling and Mark Taylor (with assistance from Junior Vasquez, Todd Terry, and more), the legendary diva would respond to her label home’s challenge with a body of polished, progressive europop and dance tracks. Once housed, the collection of tunes were assembled to lined her 22nd album christened ‘Believe.’
A risky move for the then 52-year old, the album was kicked off by its title track (seen above). Coming as the public’s first taste of her departure from rock’ier 90’s offerings, buzz around the techno tune was heightened as fans were keen to see and hear the diva-at-work following the death of ex-husband/mentor Sonny Bono.
Said to be lifted as an homage the fallen singer/politician, ‘Believe’ – once feared by its songwriters as something “sure to alienate the singer’s existing fans” – actually did the complete opposite. Hailed as an updated ‘I Will Survive’-esque anthem, the tune was warmly received by critics. The sentiment, as Billboard charts would later evidence, was shared by fans.
In fact, “warmly received” is an understatement. Zooming to #1 on the Hot 100 in March 1999, ‘Believe’ went on to top the charts of over 20 other countries and gave her several distinct honors, including:
- Oldest artist to occupy #1 spot on Hot 100 (age 52)
- Longest span between #1 singles (1974-1999)
- Longest gap between first #1 single and last #1 single (1965-1999)
In the UK, the song was the first ever by a solo female to reach triple platinum status. As of time reporting, it remains the biggest selling single by a female artist on our side of the pond.
Leading its parent album to a #4 peak on the Billboard 200, the unexpected out of the box success of the project kept it in mention with the year’s top sellers even into the new millennium (a feat all the more impressive given the chart’s affinity for teen pop, Latin pop, and hip hop at the time).
With restored popularity, Cher charged on with ‘Strong Enough,’ the set’s official second single. While dressed in similar thematic style as ‘Believe’ (the song), the tune sonically leaned more on a 70’s disco angle than its predecessor. This, alongside its forerunner’s continued success on charts, would (arguably) lead ‘Strong’ to have a weak showing on the Hot 100.
Peaking at #57 Stateside, it did have a better showing in international markets. Similar commercial responses followed for the set’s last two singles ‘All or Nothing’ and “Dov’è l’amore.”
When it was all said and done, the album was not only her most commercially successful, but also earned rank among those listed on ‘best-selling of all time’ tally. Beyond its quadruple platinum status in the U.S., ‘Believe’ boogied its way to 20 million sold worldwide.
On the critical front, the album was greeted with a host of award nominations including 3 Grammy nods – ‘Record of the Year,’ ‘Best Pop Album,’ and ‘Best Dance Recording’ (winning the latter).
‘Believe’ is one of the 90’s must have albums. Panned by some critics around the time of its debut for being a ‘watered down’ version of Madonna‘s ‘Ray of Light,’ from where we stand Cher’s work is simply an extension of the lane ‘ROL’ was building. Rejuvenating both careers by attracting younger audiences, traipsing into techno allowed aging artists to access said targets without losing the credibility afforded to their catalogs.
In addition, what makes ‘Believe’ so unique – besides introducing the world to autotune on a grand scale – was its conceptual accessibility to said audiences (as it tackled significantly less serious themes than ‘Ray of Light).
So, while we press play on our jam ‘All Or Nothing,’ you tell us: