The undisputed Goddess of Pop culture, Cher has a devoted following spanning six generations and is one of the most influential pop singers ever.
Cher is a hard act to beat in the entertainment industry, from her folk-pop days as part of Sonny & Cher to her dance-pop comeback in the late 1990s.
We've chosen only ten of Cher's best hits to serve as an introduction to her music:
10. "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down" (1966)
"Bang Bang" is an early indication of Cher's abilities as a solo performer, with a melodrama-laden composition that includes flamenco guitars, a crying Gypsy violin, and a Russian-sounding interlude.
9. "Dark Lady" (1974)
Cher's final US number-one hit during her TV star days in the 1970s was this moody song—it was followed by "Believe" 25 years later.
Written by Johnny Durrill, the song depicts the story of a lady who goes to see an esteemed fortune-teller who warns her to leave the relationship with her partner. After a night with her lover, though, it was in her bed that she remembered smelling the fortune teller's scent earlier. A bad situation has arisen, and Cher's husky, demanding vocal performance makes it even more sinister.
8. "A Woman's Story" (1974)
"A Woman's Story," a one-off single produced by Phil Spector, is a unique, depressing tune. Cher's sighing voice contrasts sharply with the upbeat lyrics of the chorus, making the heroine appear doomed.
7. "Just Like Jesse James" (1989)
Another top 10 success for Cher in 1989 was this classic rock ballad. Jesse James, the infamous Wild West outlaw, is referenced in the song.
Despite the song's success, Cher has frequently stated that she was never a fan of it. As a dyslexic person, she often found it challenging to remember all the words in this song. However, one would never realize that as she spits out the words with such conviction and bravery. That's how skilled of a singer Cher really is.
6. "I Found Someone" (1987)
With her self-titled 1987 album, Cher established herself as a true rock and roller, a crown that she thrived hard to earn for so many years. Jon Bon Jovi, Michael Bolton, Richie Sambora, and Desmond Child are some of the big names from the glam metal days who collaborated on the album.
Platinum certification from the RIAA proves that the record was a commercial success, despite substantial retail and radio airplay resistance upon its release. The lead single "I Found Someone," a Laura Branigan cover, was Cher's first US top 10 hit in more than eight years. Once again, the world was in love with the raven-haired beauty from the Sonny & Cher days.
5. "Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves" (1971)
Cher's decline into obscurity in the late 1960s may have been the best thing that could have happened to her. While in 1965, she and Sonny Bono were exotic-looking harbingers of California's hippie subculture, by 1968 they had become hopelessly square, a monogamous couple that was anti-drugs. It was fantastic news for Cher, whose voice was better suited to belting out show-stoppers than tackling Dylan's "Masters of War."
Cher's biggest show-stopper was "Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves": a colossal chorus paired with a fantastic example of a dying art—the pop song as a short narrative. Throughout the miniplay-like song, she portrays various emotions, including anger, seduction, terror, and resignation. Cher was already a skilled actress, although no one realized it yet.
4. "I Got You Babe" (1965)
Cher was barely 19 years old when her first number-one song made her a household name. Recorded with her then-husband, Sonny Bono, the song perfectly encapsulated the 1960s flower power movement. However, anytime we hear it, we can't help but picture Bill Murray from Groundhog Day stuck in time!
3. "With or Without You" (2000)
"With or Without You" comfortably lands on the third spot in Cher's musical journey. A rock ballad penned and composed solely by Cher herself, it showcases an intimate look into her emotions. Her voice, raw and vulnerable, breaks beautifully at one point, climbing to a staggering high note that leaves listeners in awe. Cher's vocal performance carries the weight of heartbreak and longing, often teetering on the edge of despair, creating a connection with anyone who has ever loved and lost.
The song, crafted in 1994, saw the light of day in 2000, included in her Not Commercial album. This internet-exclusive album, filled with previously rejected "not commercial" tracks, signified Cher's willingness to challenge norms, using the nascent digital platform to connect with her fans.
Lyrically, "With or Without You" weaves a poignant story of heartbreak, derived from Cher's personal experiences. This combination of honest storytelling and emotionally-charged rock balladry makes for a moving listening experience. This piece of music, in its essence, affirms Cher's artistic resilience and her ability to touch hearts through song. Cher's own quote about the song encapsulates it beautifully: "Never let it be said that I let a broken heart go to waste. This is just one of the songs inspired by the 'breaker', written by me, the 'breakee'. I still love the song, but possibly not the man. there's a certain poetry in that, I think".
2. "If I Could Turn Back Time" (1989)
Cher made an unforgettable musical comeback in 1989 with the release of the Diane Warren-written power ballad anthem "If I Could Turn Back Time."
Ironically, Cher initially refused to record it and had to be persuaded to do so. "I got on my knees and pleaded," Warren recounted. "I told her I wasn't going to leave the room until she said yes, and finally, just to get rid of me, she did."
Due to Cher's performance on the battleship USS Missouri, riding a cannon, with her tattooed buttocks exposed, the music video for "If I Could Turn Back Time" generated much controversy. It set the ground for an entire generation of female artists, such as Miley Cyrus (remember that infamous, tongue-sticking VMA performance?) and Lady Gaga, to own and show their bodies with confidence while performing onstage. In the wise words of Cher, "Follow this, you b*****s!"
1. "Believe" (1998)
Just when you thought Cher's chart career had peaked, she unexpectedly resurrected herself by delivering the most significant global success of 1998-99.
In "Believe," Cher's voice is robotic, almost other-worldly. It is thanks to the use of Auto-Tune—an audio processor initially designed to hide or correct off-key mistakes in vocal music recordings—as an artistic effect. The producers employed the pitch-correction software as an aesthetic tool rather than to rectify errors in Cher's legendary voice (as if!).
Auto-Tune became known first as the "Cher effect" following the song's breakthrough and is now commonly utilized in mainstream music. One could even argue that with "Believe," Cher singlehandedly made hundreds of musical careers possible. How sympathetic of the queen.