By Jillian Mapes
In a release week dominated by a quintessentially millennial rapper, the ageless pop icon slips back into the fold with her first album in 12 years, Closer to the Truth. We could pile on a few statement pointing out the obvious regarding the changes in the musical landscape since 2001, when Cher released Living Proof, but we’ll spare you the navel-gazing and just say this: everything’s changed, but Cher does not have to.
As Cher reiterated a few times throughout our sit-down conversation (watch the video interview below), she doesn’t overthink her career. Hell, she said she forgot to make an album — that’s why it took her so long. She follows her heart and puts total faith in her collaborators, which this time around included fellow outspoken pop force Pink, Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears (on the campy-as-hell “Take It Like a Man”) and house music mainstay Paul Oakenfold (on lead single “Woman’s World”). Pink co-wrote two of the album’s most dramatic tracks, which is really saying something considering this is Cher we’re talking about. The first, “I Walk Alone,” is the album’s so-called “country song,” thanks to its banjitar and foot-stomping beat. The second Pink track, “Lie To Me,” is the kind of sweeping-strings ballad that could live on adult contemporary radio for years to come, should Cher choose to release it as a single.
“These songs, I just loved from five seconds into them,” Cher said of Pink’s contributions. “She’s just a great singer and she’s great songwriter – she’s the total package. I understood them, and when you hear them, you’ll understand why I understood them. They’re so personal, but they work for both of us.”
One song, however, that did not work for both parties involved was Cher’s Lady Gaga duet from 2011, “The Greatest Thing,” which leaked online in recent months after Gaga declined to use the track. When asked if she was disappointed by Gaga’s decision, Cher replied, “Oh God yeah!” ”
“Because I like it,” she continued. “As an artist, you make the decision that you feel, and she doesn’t feel it. I totally understand. It’s not my choice. Music is here [points to her heart], and if she doesn’t feel it, she doesn’t feel it. But I have it to listen to!”
“The Greatest Thing” apparently needed updating musically, and that’s part of why it wasn’t released.
“That’s a weird one, but also it’s the first one I actually recorded [getting back into the studio to make Closer to the Truth],” Cher said. “I was very excited about it, and I think the music needed to be updated because we did it two years ago. I think maybe that was a problem too, but she sounds great on it.”
As for what did make the cut, Closer to the Truth alternates between over-the-top ballads and dance-floor bangers, with Cher oftentimes combining the two production-heavy pop forms. One example is “Lovers Forever,” a song Cher originally co-wrote with Shirley Eikhard for the 1994 film adaptation of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire. “I thought it was cool that it didn’t work but now it does,” she explained.
On the polar-opposite end sits “Sirens,” the tearjerker among tearjerkers on Closer to the Truth. She described the Nell Bryden cover, penned about 9/11, as “Cher does U2” and it’s undeniable; that guitar solo four minutes in sounds straight off All That You Can’t Leave Behind. It may very well be the least feel-good song Cher’s ever recorded.
But Cher being Cher, she can soundtrack good times just as well as she can dramatic misdeeds. Name me a gay dance club that hasn’t banged “Believe,” “Real Love” and “Strong Enough” late into the morning hours, patrons shimmying atop vodka-soaked banquettes. So naturally, we had to ask Cher for her thoughts on the Supreme Court’s overruling of DOMA earlier this year, which came just a few weeks before she served as the belle of NYC Pride Week.
“The problem I have is that I cannot understand how it could have happened in the first place, it doesn’t make any sense to me,” she said. “I’m thrilled and delighted, but I’m so pissed that it happened in the first place. It doesn’t make sense in our country that one group of people get to do whatever they want to do, and then they make it impossible for another group in the same country — the same people — to do what they want to do, what they feel in their hearts.”
And for Cher, remember, it’s all about the heart.