“Some of the most enduring hit songs I heard growing up were by Cher.”
Those aren’t just my words, it is also a direct quote from my grandmother. There’s probably only one singer alive at whose concert both you and grandma could easily sing along, and now comes forth the latest incarnation of the woman long ago titled “Goddess of Pop.”
Fans and experts of music and show business are fond of giving out titles to their most outstanding favorites, like some democratic version of knighthood. We’ve had the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll (Elvis Presley), king of reggae (Bob Marley), queen of soul (Aretha Franklin), king and queen of country (George Strait and Loretta Lynn), and king and queen of pop (Michael Jackson and Madonna or Katy Perry, depending on what generation you’re from).
Here’s the thing about royalty, though: they’re mortal. They die. Their reigns eventually come to an end. What title, then, could anyone give an artist-entertainer whose knack for perpetual popularity defies the longevity of mere humans?
Rolling Stone apparently had that dilemma in mind when they crowned Cher the “Goddess of Pop.” It fits, evoking the Greek myth of Persephone daughter of Zeus springing back to life at every winter’s end. Cher has been making comebacks as dramatic as Lazarus for longer than many millennials have been alive.
The former wife of Republican congressman Sonny Bono, who once called out Donald Trump for his past dislike of Ronald Reagan, is best known as the only singer in American music history to score a Billboard #1 hit in six different decades (1963 to 2013). She also knocked The Beatles off their #1 spot on the U.K. music chart, snagged an Oscar trophy for Best Actress, and threw the all-time highest-grossing concert tour by a female artist just for good measure.
If a one-hit wonder announced they were preparing to put on their greatest concert yet, it might not make the evening news. However, with Cher teasing the surprise Classic Cher tour beginning early 2017 as what will be her “best show ever,” the entertainment industry has reason to take notice.
The comeback trail began in January with the release of her new single “Prayers for this World,” the feature track of award-winning director Evgeny Afineevsky’s upcoming documentary Cries from Syria. The song was written with Diane Warren, who’s previously partnered with Cher to produce the iconic pop-rock anthem “If I Could Turn Back Time” and other #1 hits, “Love and Understanding” and “Just Like Jesse James.”
Do you like Auto Tune? Unless you exclusively listen to live acoustic recordings and a capella music, the answer is “yes,” whether you realize it or not. Don’t mistake its current universal use as an indication that the music scene has always embraced it, though. Less than two decades ago, auto-tune was not only considered tacky and a musical crutch, but artists who experimented with its use were shunned by producers and recording labels. That changed in 1998, when Warner Bros. chairman Rob Dickins decided to experiment with the lead track vocals from Cher’s groundbreaking dance-pop album, Believe.
Perhaps that is another sense in which Cher has earned the title “Goddess of Pop.”
In every religion or mythical tradition, gods and goddesses are not just immortal; they also create the world humans experience around themselves. In the world of music where practically every artist now uses auto-tune, once called “the Cher effect,” the goddess’ promised best reincarnation yet gives music and entertainment lovers everywhere reason to take notice. After all, music is Cher’s world, and we’re just living in it.