Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Closer to the Truth | Cher


★★★☆☆

A decade after her last release, Cher decided to rise from her on-again, off-again retirement plans to release her twenty-fifth studio album. She had prepped her fans on Twitter for this album for nearly two years before finally releasing the full-length album under the name Closer to the Truth.

I have actually had this album sitting in my collection for a little while now, but I just haven't gotten around to writing up a review for it. However, with a few snow days off of school, I decided to sit down and listen to the album closer than I originally did to find the truth about Cher's latest attempt. (I know, I'm really punny.)

"Woman's World" was released two separate times as the lead single to the album, and I didn't like it either time it was released. It's a cheap jab at a female-empowerment album with a repetitive, back-washed sound and a lack of... well, a spark, really. There's just nothing that sets it apart. The song unfortunately gave me a bad forecast on the album, but luckily Closer to the Truth did improve from the sound of "Woman's World."

Ironically, "Woman's World" was penned by a group composed entirely of men. Closer to the Truth was penned in collaboration with multiple people like pop heavyweight P!nk, Mark Taylor, and Paul Oakenfold. Only one track was written with the help of Cher, as many of her albums have been. However, she did explain herself in an interview last year with David Letterman: "Also, before that, an A&R person would pick your songs, pick the band; you would go in and you would just sing on the track and then it would be done and that was it."


So, I guess given the time period she started in the industry, I can let her slide in the writing credits. And of course, the last time that Cher wrote an album herself, her record label turned her down and she was forced to give the album a limited release on her website under the title not.com.mercial. And we also saw what happened when Britney Spears tried to write a whole album, so I guess it's good that Cher just kept herself to working on the vocals.

Strangely enough, the best song on the album is also somehow the shortest, reaching only the 2:51 mark. "Dressed to Kill" is a slightly-aged dance bit, similar to the sounds found on Believe, but it's so lovable that I forget how much it sounds like an early 2000s track. It's quite an explosive track, and the lyrics are clever, if nothing else. "I'm dressed to kill and you know that I will," warns Cher. "We're dancing in the dark with my hands around your heart." People who don't love this song obviously aren't going to have fun in any sort of club.

"Take It Like a Man" is another throwback-to-Believe track that has often been noted as a highlight from the album. Parts of the song are so heavy in auto tune that Cher sounds like she's singing underwater, but it's catchy regardless. It is a bit strange to hear Cher sing "Boy if you want my heart, you gotta take it like a man" at 67 years old, but it's a hell of a lot better than watching Madonna strut her stuff in a bra and underwear on stage during the MDNA Tour.

The album takes a quick and unexpected turn with a song that was worked on with P!nk called "I Walk Alone." A banjo makes an appearance throughout the song, and is layered underneath a pile of synths in the chorus to create a foot-stamping beat inspired by country music. The title to the album is also drawn from this song, as Cher sings "There's a sadness in my confessions / There's a hyena howling at the moon / And there's a gypsy in me that keeps on roaming / And there's a an anger as I get closer to the truth."



The album is distinctively cut in half; the first half brings a load of pop songs like "Dressed to Kill" and "Take It Like a Man" that are sure to fill the dance floor at any given club, while the second half brings Cher into a slower, ballad setting. Of the ballads on the album, the gleaming stars in the bunch are definitely "Hope You Find It," which was originally recorded by Miley Cyrus for the film The Last Song, and "Sirens," which is dedicated to the families of the victims of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States. Both songs show Cher's voice at its strongest; no auto-tune, no shiny sound effects... Just Cher's voice. That's it. In "Hope You Find It" and "Sirens," her voice is the purest that I have heard in the past fifteen years. 

The songs off of Believe and Living Proof are good, but they're not a true test of Cher's vocal capacity. The same can be said about the first part of Closer to the Truth. I love "Dressed To Kill" and "Red," but they're full of the auto tune effects that Cher made popular with "Believe." Her pure vocal talent comes through on her ballads, which Closer to the Truth contains plenty of. She's still got the voice that made her famous; it's just usually buried underneath heavy dance production nowadays, so it's nice to hear it shine through on these ballads.

What I truly love about Closer to the Truth is that Cher hasn't tried to beef herself up any; she's just making some more music and that's it. Nothing more and nothing less; she's just being Cher. Her closest contemporary, Madonna, has tried to fit in with the cool kids by creating a pun off of ecstasy for the title of her latest name and creating really cliché, sexed-up pop bits. But as for Cher? She has just created some fun pop bits and few touching ballads. 

Closer to the Truth wasn't the super-revolutionary album that some fans were hoping for, but thankfully most of the material on the album was better than "Woman's World" that proceeded its release. It's got some great material on it, and although not super inventive, it serves the purpose. I bought a Target exclusive version on sale, which comes with a handful of extra tracks that only compliment the rest of the track listing, and I don't regret the purchase, so it's definitely something to check out if you're a fan of dance bits.

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