Killacky: Cher’s new world

Editor’s note: This op-ed is by John R. Killacky, executive director of the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts. It first aired on Vermont Public Radio.

Fifty years ago an overly mascaraed teenybopper waif was a backup singer for Phil Spector studio sessions with boyfriend Sonny Bono. In 1965 the duo had their own No, 1 hit, “I Got You Babe.” Since then, Cher has persevered with talent and forthrightness: living life on her terms, morphing herself unabashedly in public, while tantalizing us with her bad boy romances, tattooed body parts, fashion faux pas, and plastic surgeries.

Pop careers usually last only a few years. Not so with Cher. Every time the zeitgeist passed her by, she reinvented herself and came back stronger – collagened lips, tri-color wigs, airbrushed photos, and all. Hippie folk rocker, television comedian, Vegas shtick, award winning actress, and infomercial queen, she kept singing in every incarnation. She’s the only artist to score a No. 1 single on the Billboard charts in each of the last six decades with her story songs, pop ditties, love duets, power ballads and disco hits.

With Cher we were always guaranteed spectacle: over-the-top fabulous bejeweled Bob Mackie costumes, bugle beads for miles, Goth headpieces, sparkly fishnets, and mink capes. And those of us who saw it, will never forget the infamous X-rated underwear as she skipped around on a Navy battleship while singing “If I Could Turn Back Time?”

In the late ’90s, the Lazarus of pop returned once more with the techno-smash “Believe.” There should have been something ridiculous about a middle-aged superstar playing the role of a lovesick, love-lost, love-starved club diva, as she trip-hopped her way through this surprising delight. Instead, she made herself matter to yet another new generation of music fans. “Believe” became her best-selling song.

Well, pop culture’s uber-goddess is at it again. Our priestess of glam is getting ready to release her first new album in 12 years. The lead single is just out. “Woman’s World” is a massive uplifting anthem, so full of resurgent hooks I can’t get it out of my head. Verses and choruses cascade and are synthesized together resulting in a feel good glissando of empowerment and joy. Other enticing cuts promised on the new CD include a divalicious duet with the mega-star of the moment Lady Gaga and two songs written by Pink.

I’m too old to be on the dance floor much these days, but I’m once again thrilled by Cher, emboldened by her dogged determination. Now 66 years old, with yet another comeback hit, she’s going on the road next year. While she probably won’t tour in our Green Mountain State, Boston, Montreal and New York will be close enough for me.

(Fade in chorus from “Woman’s World”)

Tell the truth

This is a woman’s world

Tell the truth

This is a woman’s world

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