Two statement 70s artists collide with incredible results for Cher’s ABBA tribute record, ‘Dancing Queen’. The record stemmed from her adoration for the Swedish pop quartet and her ingenious role in Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again. Working once again alongside producer Mark Taylor, who helped rekindle her international superstardom with 1998’s ‘Believe’, Cher gives us an album that will certainly stand the test of time.
This isn’t the first time Cher has paid tribute to other musicians, as ‘3614 Jackson Highway’ and ‘Stars’ go to show. But, incredibly, this is the first time she has dedicated a whole album to a single artist. It’s been a long time coming, but it has certainly been worth it.
Synths power through the opening bars of ‘Dancing Queen’, making the trademark piano sit quietly in the background. This may sound blasphemous to some, but this is just Cher unquestionably putting her stamp on the tracks from the very beginning. Featuring seamlessly gliding vocals that are extraordinary and fresh, the party has very much begun.
If you were to ask someone what a typical Cher song sounds like, they would most likely say it includes Auto-Tune. This is true once more, popping up in ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)’ and ‘SOS’. In both instances it works to add depth and dimension, transforming the now-dated production of the ABBA recordings into bright and beautiful dancefloor classics. The cosmic ending of ‘SOS’ delightfully squeezes an extra sprinkle of pizzazz in before the sultry piano signals its close.
As well as the record being a tribute to ABBA, some songs seem to honour the work of Cher herself. ‘Waterloo’ is in-your-face and unapologetic, celebrating everything about the two artists. The saxophone cuts through at just the right moments, adding a subtle 70s twist to what is obviously now a 2018 song. ‘Mamma Mia’ works in a similar way as the undertones of electronic folk in the opening verse nod to Cher’s earlier material; the keyboard that replaces the piano sounds incredibly like the melody in 1971 hit ‘Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves’.
‘The Winner Takes It All’ has been given a major facelift, but the argumentative purpose still prevails; it has become a crazily up-tempo divorce anthem. The disco beats and fascinating electronic layers attempt to overtake the vocals, but Cher keeps them firmly in check. Auto-Tune pops up for the final vocals, providing a bold ending to a powerful song.
In keeping with the ABBA theme, the record is one big party until it comes to an end. ‘One Of Us’ has had the most drastic and adventurous changes take place. It is no longer an upbeat bop but a stripped back masterpiece. Whereas ABBA used a bouncy production to mask the lyrical sadness, Cher pulls it apart and lets the emotion flow. This version finally gives the lyrics a chance to perform their true meaning.
There is a lot packed into just ten songs, and it wouldn’t come as a surprise if ‘Dancing Queen: Vol. 2’ ever happens. This record perfectly demonstrates what both Cher and ABBA can do, representing a fantastic crossover that most have never imagined.