Introduction

“Believe” is the title track of Cher’s twenty-second studio album released in 1998. Throughout her career, Cher has experimented with several music genres to remain relevant as musical tastes shifted. Believe is a dance-pop, disco-esque album that was intended to expand Cher’s audience base while not eliminating her existing fans. Moreover, “Believe” is an important record in music history because it is the first commercial recording to feature audible effects of Antares Auto-tune as a deliberate, creative effect. 

History

At the time of the record’s release, Cher’s career had spanned over three decades; below are some highlights from her almost six decade long career. While Cher began her career as a singer, she has also worked on Broadway, in films, and as a headliner for a Las Vegas show.

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Her career began in 1962 when she met Sonny Bono. At the time, Sonny was working for record producer Phil Spector, who then produced Cher’s first single “Ringo, I Love You” that year.

In 1964, Cher signed with Liberty Records’ Imperial with Sonny as her producer.

Sonny and Cher formed the folk-rock husband-wife duo of the same name in 1965. They released “I Got You Babe,” which reached number one on the Billboard  Hot 100. Their first album Look At Us was released by Atco Records’ division of Atlantic Records. The album spent eight weeks at number two on the Billboard 200. In addition, Cher released a cover of Bob Dylan’s “All I Really Want To Do,” which peaked at number 15 on US Billboard Hot 100.

Between 1965 and 1972 Sonny and Cher had 10 Billboard top 40 singles, and they were known as rocks it couple. However, their monogamous lifestyle and anti-drug stance made them lose their appeal among youths.

In 1966, Cher’s solo career took off; she had her first million-seller song “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down).”

However, in 1969, Cher was dropped from Imperial and Sonny and Cher were dropped from Atco.

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In the 1970s, Cher became a television personality on The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour and Cher.

Cher had her first musical comeback in 1971 with the song “Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves,” which was produced by Snuff Garrett with the Kapp Records division of MCA Records. This record was Cher’s first US solo number-one single, and it was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

She won her first Golden Globe for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy for The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour in 1974.

1979 marked Cher’s second musical comeback. She signed with Casablanca Records, and released Take Me Home, which capitalized on the disco craze. It remained a bestseller for more than half of the year, and was certified gold by the RIAA.

Cher made her Broadway debut in 1982 in Come Back to the Five and Dime.

In 1983, she transitioned to films, and won an Academy Award for Best Actress and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Comedy or Musical for her performance in Moonstruck.

Cher revived her music career for the third time in 1987 with the rock album Cher produced by Geffen Records. The album was certified platinum by the RIAA, and the album’s “I Found Someone” was her first US top-ten single in over eight years.

Cher’s twenty-second studio album, Believe, was released in 1998.

2000 marked the release of her first album written mostly by herself, Not.com.mercial.

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Her Living Proof: The Farewell Tour from 2002-2005 is one of the highest-grossing concert tours of all time earning $250 million.

Cher signed a $180 million contract to headline at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas from 2008-2011.

In 2013, Cher released her twenty-fifth studio album, Closer to the Truth.

Musical Transitions

Cher has been regarded as “Queen of the Comeback” and “the ultimate pop chameleon” because she has successfully reinvented herself numerous times, responding to transitions in popular music taste. She began her career as a member of a folk-rock duo; she experimented with Brazilian jazz in her 1968 album Backstage; she incorporated soul music in 3614 Jackson Highway; and she released Stars, a rock album, in 1975. 1977 marked her first pop album, Cherished; Take Me Home is disco-oriented; and Believe is a dance-pop album. Cher’s ability to overcome scores of changes throughout her career not only as a singer but also as an actor has allowed her to evade obsolescence.

“Believe”

“Believe” is Cher’s best selling single; it has sold over eleven million copies, and was nominated for two Grammys: Record of the Year and Best Dance Recording, and won the latter. The record reached number one in almost every of the two hundred countries it was released. In addition, it landed Cher a spot in The Guinness Book of World Records for oldest female solo artist to top the Billboard Hot 100. The record is the title track of her twenty-second studio album, and was released under Warner Bros. Records.

The record ultimately had six writers, two producers, and an executive producer. Brian Higgins, Matt Gray, Stuart McLennen, and Tim Powell originally wrote the song. The track was passed around Warner Bros. until chairman and executive producer Rob Dickins asked producers Mark Taylor and Brian Rawling, who were already working on another record for Cher’s album, to make the track for Cher. Two more writers, Steve Torch and Paul Barry, got involved, and completed writing the song to Cher and Dickins’ liking.

Taylor and Rawling produced the record over a ten-day period in their own studio, Metro Productions, a production company that operates from Dreamhouse, outside of London. Dickins instructed Taylor and Rawling to make Cher a dance record without alienating her existing fans. Taylor “realized it needed a sound that was unusual, but in a typical dance record sort of way” (Sillitoe and Bell). For instance, instead of using “a typical TR909 kick drum”, Taylor utilized “all kinds of sounds mixed together. The drums are all samples, but samples that have been mutated, EQ’d, and compressed” (Sillitoe and Bell).

Taylor and Rawling assembled the entire track using Cubase VST software on a Mac G3 because they did not believe fancy technology was necessary to make hit records. Cher’s vocals were recorded on three TASCAM D88 digital audio recorders with a Neumann U-67 vacuum tube-amplified microphone, and the producers utilized several synthesizers including the Clavia Nord Rack, the Oberheim Matrix 1000, and the Moog Progidy. In addition, Taylor used sample CDs and samples he had collected, and he compressed, squashed, and crunched the samples, so “the track didn’t sound like any old dance hit” (Sillitoe and Bell).

Nonetheless, the most memorable part of this song is the vocals. Taylor originally reported that he used a DigiTalker to produce the vocal effects heard on the track; however, it was later revealed that he had used Auto-Tune to alter the vocals.

Auto-Tune

Andy Hildebrand was an engineer working at Exxon who developed methods for interpreting seismic data in 1979. In 1990, Hildebrand created Antares Audio Technologies, and in 1995 he realized he could use the technology he created in 1979 to detect, analyze, and modify the pitch in audio files. Hildebrand built the Auto-Tune program in 1996, and it was an instant hit, as studios could finish work faster and cheaper. Nevertheless, Auto-Tune remained somewhat of a secret of the recording industry when it was first released; recording studios did not want the public to view their music as “fake” because they used Auto-Tune, which corrects off-key inaccuracies in music recordings.

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However, Auto-Tune can also be used to distort the human voice, like in Cher’s “Believe.” The speed it takes the program to move the pitch can be selected: the slower the speed, the more natural the jump sounds, whereas faster speeds make the move sudden and sound inhuman. Producers Taylor and Rawling set the Auto-Tune processor at the fastest speed, so the pitch changed the exact moment it received the signal, which created the “Auto-Tune effect.” Once it became publicly known that the producers had utilized Auto-Tune, not the DigiTalker, the effect became known as the “Cher effect.”

Nonetheless, there are mixed views on the use of Auto-Tune to not only fix pitch but also to alter one’s voice to sound robotic. On the one hand, some believe it allows new possibilities in music as artists, composers, producers, etc. can utilize Auto-Tune intentionally. For instance, those creating music can mediate and augment their artistic expression with Auto-Tune. Moreover, people attributed the track’s success to Cher’s use of Auto-Tune; thus, others wanted to replicate it. On the other hand, people think Auto-Tune is overused, has a negative effect on society’s perception and consumption of music, and indicates an inability to sing on key. For example, the Indie rock producer Steve Albini thought “Believe” was cliché and mind-numbingly awful because of the Auto-Tune.

Cher’s Legacy

Despite the mixed reception of Auto-Tune, “Believe” garnered great results, and is the thirtieth best-selling single of all time. Likewise, Cher’s use of Auto-Tune undoubtedly added to her successful career. Cher is regarded as the “Goddess of Pop,” as she has worked several popular music genres. In addition, Cher is seen as a feminist hero, as she forged an immensely prosperous career in a male-dominated entertainment industry, and she advanced feminine rebellion in the rock world. Moreover, Cher is considered the prototype of the female rock star. Likewise, her influential career has impacted those of other noteworthy artists including Cyndi Lauper, Christina Aguilera, Lady Gaga, and Madonna. Lastly, biographer Mark Bego describes Cher’s career as incomparable: “no one in the history of show business has had a career of the magnitude and scope of Cher’s.”

Works Cited

Anderson, Lessley. “Seduced by ‘Perfect’ Pitch: Howe Auto-Tune Conquered Pop Music.” (n.d.): n. pag. The Verge. 27 Feb. 2013. Web. 12 Apr. 2016.

Bego, Mark. Cher: If You Believe. New York: Cooper Square, 2001. 2004. Web. 12 Apr. 2016.

“Believe (Cher Song).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2016.

“Cher Biography.” Biography.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2016.

Crockett, Zachary. “The Inventor of Auto-Tune.” (n.d.): n. pag. Priceonomics. 14 Dec. 2015. Web. 12 Apr. 2016.

Sillitoe, Sue, and Matt Bell. “Recording Cher’s ‘Believe'” (1999): n.p. Sound on Sound. Feb. 1999. Web. 12 Apr. 2016.