Cher brings back the ABBA classics on cover album
It all started with a small role, more like a cameo actually, that Cher played in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. She performed the song ‘Fernando’ and received a lot of praise for her rendition. Cher must have thought to herself: why not record an album with just ABBA covers!? And here we are! After ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)’ was dropped as first single, we now get to enjoy all ten covers in their full glory. On paper, Cher doing an album of ABBA cover is every pop loving gay man’s wet dream and I am pretty sure it is in reality too.
Although the Swedish four piece has not released any new music since the early 80s, their music lives on and is still constantly featured or referenced in popular culture (and played in pretty much every single pop minded gay bar yours truly has ever visited). While Cher was already around long before ABBA broke through, she is still going strong. Her most recent album Closer To The Truth came out in 2013, she went on an North-American tour in 2014 and had a residency show in Las Vegas, while remaining the queen of Twitter when not on stage.
For Dancing Queen Cher had both male ABBA members, Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, overlooking the project as executive producers, while she once more worked with producer Mark Taylor, who was responsible for the majority of the Believe album too. Although his take on the ABBA tunes sounds slightly updated, he does stay extremely close to the originals, which gives the album a bit of a karaoke feel at times. Especially on tracks like ‘Dancing Queen’ and ‘Mamma Mia’, there is not a lot to discover, apart from some random use of autotune (the Cher effect is back!). Now the thought of hearing Cher sing karaoke is still exciting and entertaining of course, but in terms of production Taylor could have pushed the arrangements further into fresh territory.
At the same time, Cher’s delivery is flawless and with her distinctive and still oh so powerful vocals, she breathes new life in the already timeless ABBA tracks. Her rendition of ‘The Name of the Game’ is punchy and full of life, while she exploits the singalong chorus of ‘SOS’ into a larger than life belt fest. She does the same with ‘The Winner Takes It All’, that sounds like it was produced with the sound of ‘Believe’ in mind, including excessive use of vocoder towards the end. The result takes you straight to pop dance heaven.
Other than ‘The Winner Takes It All’, ‘Waterloo’ and ‘One Of Us’ seem the two tracks that have received a new identity through production changes. Eurovision winning ‘Waterloo’ received a more electronic, almost New Wave production that makes it sound like this is Blondie covering ABBA. ‘One Of Us’ on the contrary is stripped back to a string and synths only big ballad. With excellent renditions of ‘Fernando’ and ‘Chiquitita’ too, Cher’s midtempo and ballad covers are at least as enjoyable as the uptempo ones if not more!
Dancing Queen is a totally unnecessary cover album that at its worst sounds like karaoke and at best only makes minor sound changes to the original ABBA tracks, but at the same time is thoroughly enjoyable. Cher proves at 72 she still has got what it takes and she easily makes the timeless ABBA classics her own with that still unbeatable voice.
The fact that Cher recorded an ABBA cover record has been dizzying since its announcement, but I definitely agree with your review: It is great fun. She sounds reinvigorated, which isn’t something I could say about Closer to the Truth. It’s great to see she’s just enjoying her life and career right now.