Believe


Band: Cher
Album: Believe
Best song: “Believe” is the best song, of course.
Worst song: The rest of the album is garbage.

One of the great pleasures of Spotify is that I can assemble playlists that include a bunch of single songs I don’t own. I’ve got a covers playlist, but more importantly, I’ve got a 1990s music playlist. It’s got a lot of garbage from my high school years — Our Lady Peace, Ginuwine, “Bailamos,” etc. — but it’s also got “Believe.”

Really, I don’t care much about the rest of this record. I’m sure someone out there likes it, as Cher has a huge international following. I care about the title track, the thing that did more for autotune than nearly anything else.

Let’s first talk about the autotune, as a concept. It’s a pretty cool software that has since been used for dopey jokes and unfunny running YouTube gags. The concept of pitch modulation, of course, dates back to the early synthesizers
of Kraftwerk — perfect example “Trans-Europe Express” — and the add-on that was the vocoder. For the most part, pitch-shifting was used in live shows for singers that suck (Britney Spears is rumored to use it) or are over the hill (Mick Jagger, famously, uses it).

It’s an easy gimmick, of course, for YouTube and jokes. Everyone’s done it now; even T-Pain has a smartphone app that lets you easily autotune your own voice. It’s ridiculous.

Cher, however, messed around with this in the song “Believe.” Using autotune better than anyone since Deil DeGrasse Tyson, Cher belts out the song so well. This isn’t T-Pain or Lil Wayne or even Snoop Dogg’s “Sensual Eruption”; Cher simply uses the technology to accent parts of the verses.

It’s also the song that has produced my favorite cover ever recorded (certainly in the top two or three). While I love Cat Power’s version of “Satisfaction,” as well as Look Right Penny’s version of “” itself, nothing beats the Macha and Bedhead collaboration that not only utilizes autotune, but also a phone to echo the melody:

For a song that is a melancholy song, the slowcore version is sparsely perfect for the lyrics. Taken from the Cher (or Look Right Penny) version, “Believe” takes an “I Will Survive” tone. But from the Macha Loved Bedhead version, it’s decidedly resigned. A sad love song of a dejected person.

I tend to think that’s a better track.

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