Is there anything camper than Cher making an album of ABBA bangers?
Well yes, actually – cover art which shows two Chers (one blonde, one brunette) recreating a classic Agnetha and Frida pose. Truly, we do not deserve her.
But what’s great about Dancing Queen, which Cher cooked up while filming her fabulous extended cameo in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, is it’s not just camp. In a recent interview, Cher bemoaned the fact that ABBA used Agnetha Fältskog and Frida Lyngstad’s voices “like instruments” instead of letting them propel each song. No one could accuse this album’s producer, Mark Taylor, of taking the same approach; Cher’s glorious vocals – still rich and wonderfully androgynous-sounding – drive each song from beginning to end.
And surprisingly, there’s not too much of the Auto-Tune effect that’s been her signature since 1998’s Believe. Vocals aside, many of Cher’s ABBA covers aren’t massively different from the dazzling originals. Her Dancing Queen is perhaps a little ritzier; her Mamma Mia definitely a little tinier; and her Waterloo borrows the stomping beat from Amii Stewart’s disco classic Knock On Wood – honestly, it works. Elsewhere, she and Taylor turn The Winner Takes It All into a disco ballad and waft some poppers over SOS. The results are a little more glittery than the versions you know and love, but at the same time, reassuringly familiar.
But the biggest revelations are the ballads. Her rendition of One of Us is genuinely affecting and shows what an underrated singer she is (even if Cher herself has said, hilariously, “I’m just not a Cher fan”). It’s also moving to hear Cher sing lines like The Name of the Game’s “I was an impossible case” or Chiquitita’s “Try once more, like we did before” in full-on emotional mode. Anyone who’s seen Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again will know Cher can really belt out Fernando, but the version here is preferable if you find Andy Garcia’s backing vocals a little distracting.
Purists will ask why anyone needs any more versions of ABBA songs, especially after Meryl Streep and the gang have slayed them in two Mamma Mia! movies. But they’re missing the point: Dancing Queen is an instant gay classic, plenty of fun and poignant too, that adds an extra layer of gloss to both Cher’s legacy and ABBA’s.
Gay Times gives Cher’s new album Dancing Queen – ★★★★☆
Cher’s Dancing Queen is released Friday 28 September.