I know what you’ve been doing for the last two days. You’ve been acting casual — going to work, doing laundry, eating meals, pretending everything is normal — and all the while, just under the surface, you’ve been desperately jonesing for another Cher cover. Don’t try to deny it. It’s been eating you alive inside. I can tell.
Don’t worry. I got you covered.
Today’s comes courtesy of the great Etta James, and unlike the “Believe” cover I shared on Tuesday, this take on “I Got You Babe” is almost as old as the original, having been released just 3 years after Sonny Bono wrote and recorded his 1965 version (with the help of his boo, Cher, of course).
There are some really good reasons to hate Cher’s “Believe.”
For starters, it’s everywhere. It’s about as “pop” as pop music gets, nestled just a few spots above the “Macarena” and a few below “Y.M.C.A.” on the list of best selling singles of all time. These are songs that people living in the mountainous provinces of Kyrgyzstan probably know (hate) just as well (passionately) as the rest of us. You simply can’t escape them. I heard “Believe” at Kroger this past Sunday after having already decided to write this post. I’m not kidding.
There’s also the whole “ringing in the era of autotune” thing. To those who consider the effect to be a plague upon the musical landscape, “Believe” is patient zero. The parent of pitch correction. The regent of robotic singing. The viceroy of the vocoder. (Sorry, I couldn’t stop myself.) As the first popular song to autotune the life out of a human voice, it’s not unreasonable to pin a degree of responsibility for the broader phenomenon on “Believe.” In fact, Cher fought her record company to keep the effect in the final version of her song. I wonder if she had any clue how sweeping the effects of that decision would be.
So it’s ubiquitous and notorious… are you ready for one last swig of Haterade? Just look at how the song came into existence. Six people contributed to the writing of “Believe.” A half dozen people. And that doesn’t even count the song’s two producers, the executive producer, the executive cat herder and the partridge in a pear tree. OK, so those last two were made up but the first 9 weren’t. Nothing kills an aural appetite faster than writing credits that are nearly as long as the lyrics of the song itself. Gross.
Alright. Now that we’ve established that “Believe” is thoroughly detestable, I have an important question to ask you…
Do you believe in life after hate?
Did you know that Cher’s record company wanted to remove the now-famous auto-tuning that producer Mark Taylor added to the vocals of her 1998 hit, “Believe“? Crazy, right? What do you think the world would be like nowadays if Warner Brothers had gotten their way? Would we have flying cars? Would Lehman Brothers still have collapsed? Would there be an independent Palestinian state? What would T-Pain be doing at this very moment? We’ll never know, because Cher responded to her label’s request by saying that the digital effect on her voice would be removed “over [her] dead body.” Well then. But with all due respect to “Believe,” it stands to reason that, much like a synthesized disease that squirms its way out of a top-secret government lab, setting in motion a zombie apocalypse that sweeps the entire planet, leaving nothing but horror, violence and destruction in its wake: auto-tune was bound to get out at some point. OK, maybe that’s a hyperbolic analogy. And in truth, I’m not campaigning against auto-tune at all. On the contrary, auto-tune is a fascinating phenomenon to think about, especially when you’re dealing with a group like Fun. and a singer like Nate Ruess.