The one bad thing about Cher’s new album, Dancing Queen (out now), is that it’s only 10 songs. Over the span of 40 minutes, the pop legend takes a trip down memory lane and covers a small selection of ABBA’s many, many seminal hits. And she does it with ease.
The Swedish group’s catalog has stood the test of time since they first hit the music scene in 1972, so it’s only right that Cher, 72, makes sure not to mess up a good thing. She sticks to the original melodies without over-modernizing them. Sure, “Waterloo” has more disco flare than before, and yes, “Chiquitita” adds a smidgen of flamenco guitar for extra oomph. But for the most part, she respects ABBA’s legacy in her own way.
The record opens with the title track’s iconic glissando before the catchy, euphoric chorus hits. Somewhat surprisingly, Cher largely forgoes the use of Auto-Tune, which has become her staple sound since her 1998 masterpiece “Believe.” Instead, she showcases her rich contralto voice, which fans have grown to adore over the past five decades. There is still a bit of vocal processing on “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)” and “SOS,” the first two singles released from the project, and it’s certainly off-putting. Otherwise, this is the first time in years that Cher has sounded less like Daft Punk and more like, well, Cher.
The arrangement on the Grammy winner’s cover of “Fernando” is nearly identical to the version she recorded for the soundtrack to Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, in which she made a cameo earlier this year and credits as the reason she chose to make a full-length ABBA covers album. This time around, however, she is totally solo. (On the big screen, she performed the tune with backing vocals from her onscreen love, played by Andy García.)
Cher’s longtime collaborator Mark Taylor produced nearly every song on Dancing Queen, and his work is simply immaculate. He subtly transforms “Mamma Mia” with the addition of electric guitars, crafting the perfect crossover between Europop and stadium rock. “The Name of the Game,” meanwhile, is nothing short of a total groove.
The disc’s shining moment comes at the very end in the form of a ballad. Cher’s rendition of “One of Us” is beautifully unforgettable and powerful, but still refreshingly familiar. It leaves no doubt that Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad are beaming with pride.
Dance on, queen.
3.5 stars (out of 4)
For access to all our exclusive celebrity videos and interviews – Subscribe on Youtube!