Well now, who'd have thunk it? Cher - yes, THAT Cher - of Sonny & Cher fame, wig-donning, half-dressed goddess of pop kitsch, going all grungy on us with "The Fall (Kurt's Blues)," a raw-edged requiem for Kurt Cobain, the tragic hero of Seattle's grunge scene. And let's be clear, she's not just trying on a grunge flannel for size here; she's positively inhabiting the anguished soul of Cobain and doing a damn fine job of it, too.
Back in '94, when Cobain checked out of this heartless, godless world, it stirred something in Cher. Now, let's get this straight - she didn't even know the guy's music, but hearing Courtney Love read his suicide note on MTV just rubbed her the wrong way. It was like an intruder riffling through someone's diary, right there on national television. An intensely private moment of pain and torment laid bare for the world's morbid fascination.
So what does our diva do? She pens a poem, as you do when your heart's in your boots and you need to make sense of a senseless world. She packs it off to a songwriting workshop in a French castle (because why the hell not?), and out comes "The Fall (Kurt's Blues)" - a grunge-pop ballad that'll shatter your illusions faster than you can say "Smells Like Teen Spirit."
The lyrics are stark, stinging in their condemnation of a society that feeds off its heroes, then discards them when the going gets tough: "We're a heartless, godless culture / We'd walk nowhere in your shoes." The whole shebang is cloaked in a moody guitar riff that's a straight-up nod to Nirvana's iconic "Come as You Are."
In a delicious twist of fate, it turns out our grunge god had sampled Cher's "Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves" in his '88 collage "Montage of Heck." So, in a way, Cobain was echoing in Cher's world long before she took a step into his.
After penning this ode to despair, Cher had to wait six long years to release it, thanks to her label's snooty dismissal. Apparently, self-written songs lamenting the fallen heroes of rock 'n' roll weren't commercial enough. But after smashing it with "Believe" in '98, Cher got the last laugh, releasing "The Fall" alongside several other of her self-written tracks on the internet-exclusive album Not Commercial (2000), scoring a sweet victory for her artistic expression.
"The Fall (Kurt's Blues)" ain't your average Cher fare - it's a gut-punch of raw emotion, a heartfelt tribute to a tormented genius, and an unfiltered indictment of our celebrity-obsessed culture. It's Cher, only not as we know her - and, 23 years later, it's still a revelation.