Believe (Cher song)

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"Believe"
Cher-believe-cover.JPG
Single by Cher
from the album Believe
B-side"Believe" (Xenomania Mix)
ReleasedOctober 19, 1998 (1998-10-19)[1]
Recorded1998
StudioDreamhouse (West London)
Genre
Length3:59
LabelWarner Bros.
Songwriter(s)
[3]
Producer(s)
Cher singles chronology
"Paradise Is Here"
(1996)
"Believe"
(1998)
"Strong Enough"
(1999)
Music video
"Believe" on YouTube

"Believe" is a song by American singer and actress Cher from her 22nd studio album of the same name. Preceding the album release by three days, "Believe" debuted as the lead single on October 19, 1998. "Believe" was written by Brian Higgins, Stuart McLennen, Paul Barry, Steven Torch, Matthew Gray, Timothy Powell and Cher, and was produced by Mark Taylor and Brian Rawling. "Believe" departed from Cher's pop rock style of the time, adopting an upbeat dance-pop style. It featured a pioneering use of the audio processing software Auto-Tune to distort Cher's vocals, which was widely imitated and became known as the "Cher effect". The lyrics describe empowerment and self-sufficiency after a painful breakup.

"Believe" topped numerous charts around the world. It earned Cher a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest female solo artist to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart and became the highest-selling single by a solo female artist in the United Kingdom. "Believe" is one of the best-selling singles, with sales of over 11 million copies worldwide.[4] Reviewers praised its production and catchiness and named it one of Cher's most important releases. It was nominated for the Grammy Award for Record of the Year and won Best Dance Recording.

The music video, directed by Nigel Dick, has Cher performing in a nightclub. Cher has performed the song a number of times, including four of her concert tours, most recently the Here We Go Again Tour in 2018. It has been covered by a number of artists, and has been featured in several elements of popular culture. Scholars and academics noted the way in which Cher was able to re-invent herself and remain fresh and contemporary amidst the more teen pop-based music of the period. They also credited "Believe" for restoring Cher's popularity and cementing her position as a pop culture icon.

"Believe" was placed on the 2021 revised list of Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[5]

Writing[edit]

A demo of "Believe", written by Brian Higgins, Matthew Gray, Stuart McLennen and Timothy Powell, circulated at Warner Records for months. According to producer Mark Taylor, "everyone loved the chorus but not the rest of the song".[6] Warner chairman Rob Dickins asked the production house Dreamhouse to work on it; their goal was to make a dance record that would not alienate Cher fans.[6] Two more writers, Steve Torch and Paul Barry, joined and completed a version that Dickens and Cher were happy with."[6]

Though she is not credited as a songwriter,[7] Cher said she contributed the lines 'I need time to move on, I need love to be strong / I've had time to think it through and maybe I'm too good for you". According to Cher, "I was singing [the song] in the bathtub, and it seemed to me the second verse was too whiny. It kind of pissed me off, so I changed it. I toughened it up a bit."[8]

Recording[edit]

"Believe" was recorded in mid-1998 in Kingston upon Thames, London, at the Dreamhouse studio operated by Metro Productions. It was assembled with Cubase VST on an early model Power Macintosh G3, with synthesizers including a Clavia Nord Rack and an Oberheim Matrix 1000. Cher's vocals were recorded on three TASCAM DA-88 digital audio recorders with a Neumann U67 microphone.[6][9]

The effects on Cher's vocals were achieved using the pitch correction software Auto-Tune. Auto-Tune was designed to be used subtly to correct sharp or flat notes in vocal performances; however, Taylor used extreme settings to create unnaturally rapid corrections, thereby removing portamento, the natural slide between pitches in singing.[10] Taylor said it was "the most nerve-wracking part of the project", as he was not sure how Cher would react.[6] She approved and insisted the effect remain when Warner wanted it removed.[9] In an attempt to protect their method, the producers initially claimed it was achieved using a vocoder.[10] The effect was widely imitated and became known as the "Cher effect".[10]

Composition[edit]

"Believe" is a dance-pop song.[11][12] It contains uncredited samples of "Prologue" & "Epilogue" performed by the Electric Light Orchestra.[13] The track was recorded in the key of F major with a tempo of 133 beats per minute. The song follows a chord progression of F–C–Gm–B–F–Am7–Gm–Dm, and Cher's vocal range spans from the low note of F3 to the high note of C5.[14]

Critical reception[edit]

Bill Lamb from About.com said that the song is a "perfect piece of dance-pop".[12] AllMusic editor Joe Viglione called "Believe" a "pop masterpiece, one of the few songs to be able to break through the impenetrable wall of late 1990s fragmented radio to permeate the consciousness of the world at large."[15] Michael Gallucci gave a lukewarm review, writing that the Believe album is an "endless, and personality-free, thump session".[16] Chuck Taylor from Billboard said that it is "the best darn thing that Cher has recorded in years". He added, "Some songs are so natural, so comfortably sung, that you wonder that somebody didn't think them up decades before. With this, you'll be whirling around the floor, tapping hard on the accelerator to "Believe," a simple ode to those feelings that we all search out and cling to. Cher is just a prize here; even her hardy detractors will be fighting the beat on this one."[17] Matt Stopera and Brian Galindo from BuzzFeed noted it as "iconic".[18] Damon Albarn, frontman of the bands Blur and Gorillaz, called the song "brilliant".[19] Entertainment Weekly described the song as "poptronica glaze, the soon-to-be club fave..." and noted Cher's voice as "unmistakable".[20] Tom Ewing from Freaky Trigger wrote that "Believe" "is a record in the "I Will Survive" mode of embattled romantic defiance – a song to make people who've lost out in love feel like they're the winners." He added that "it's remarkable that it took someone until 1998 to come up with "do you believe in life after love?", and perhaps even more remarkable that it wasn't Jim Steinman, but the genius of the song is how aggressive and righteous Cher makes it sound."[21]

Deborah Wilker from Knight Ridder said that "her electronically altered vocal" on "Believe" "is like nothing she's ever done."[22] Knight Ridder also described the song as "present-tense disco, with Cher an anthemic, Madonna manqué."[23] New York Daily News described the song as a "club track so caffeinated, it not only microwaved her cold career to scorching-hot but gave dance music its biggest hit since the days of disco."[24] They also noted the song's "killer hook and amazing beat."[25] Neil Strauss from The New York Times wrote that "the verses are rich and bittersweet, with the added gimmick of breaking up Cher's voice through an effect that makes her sound robotic. And the choruses are catchy and uplifting, with Cher wailing, "Do you believe in life after love?" All of it bounces over a bed of 80s-style electronic pop. It is a song with a universal theme—a woman trying to convince herself that she can survive a breakup".[26] Another editor, Jim Sullivan noted the track as a "hooky, defiant, beat-fest of a song".[27] Bob Waliszewski of Plugged In said that Cher "musters self-confidence to deal with a failed romance".[28] Robert Christgau highlighted "Believe" as the best song on the album.[29] Dave Fawbert from ShortList described "Believe" as a "really great pop song with, as ever, an absolute powerhouse vocal performance from Cher".[30]

Chart performance[edit]

Cher performing "Believe" on the WKTU's "Miracle on 34th Street" show in New York City on December 11, 1998.

The song, recorded and released in 1998, peaked at number one in 21 countries worldwide.[31] On January 23, 1999, it reached the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 and reached number one on the chart on March 13, making Cher the oldest female artist (at the age of 52) to perform this feat.[32] Cher also set the record for the longest gap between number-one singles on the Hot 100; there was a gap of 33 years and 7 months between her singles "I Got You Babe" and "Believe" reaching number one.[33] "Believe" was ranked as the number-one song of 1999 by "Billboard" on both the "Billboard" Hot 100 and Hot Dance Club Play charts and became the biggest single in her entire career.

In the United Kingdom, "Believe" debuted atop the UK Singles Chart on October 25, 1998 – for the week ending date October 31, 1998[34] – during a week in which the top five singles were all new entries, a first for the chart.[35] It became Cher's fourth number one in the UK and remained at the top of the chart for seven consecutive weeks. "Believe" become Britain's biggest-selling song of 1998, and won its writers three Ivor Novello Awards (for Best Selling UK Single, for Best Song Musically and Lyrically, and for International Hit of the Year) at the 1999 ceremony.[36] On July 30, 2021, "Believe" was certified Quadruple Platinum by the British Phonographic Industry. As of October 2017, the song has sold 1,830,000 copies in Britain, making it the biggest-selling song by a woman on the UK Singles Chart.[37] At 52 years old Cher was the oldest female artist to top the UK charts, a record that has since been broken by Kate Bush who was 63 when "Running Up That Hill" reached number one.[38]

The success of the song not only expanded through each country's singles chart, but also most countries' dance charts. In the United States "Believe" spent 15 weeks on the U.S. Hot Dance Club Play chart, five of those weeks at number one, and 22 weeks on the European Hot Dance Charts. "Believe" also set a record in 1999 after spending 21 weeks in the top spot of the Billboard Hot Dance Singles Sales chart, it was still in the top ten even one year after its entry on the chart.[39] On October 13, 2008, the song was voted number 10 on Australian VH1's Top 10 Number One Pop Songs countdown. "Believe" was nominated for Record of the Year and Best Dance Recording at 42nd Grammy Awards, the latter of which it won.[40][41] Peter Rauhofer (Club 69) won the Grammy Award in 2000 for Best Remixer of the Year for his remix of Cher's "Believe".

Music video[edit]

The official music video for "Believe", directed by Nigel Dick, features Cher in a nightclub in a double role as a singer on stage while wearing a glowing headdress and as a supernatural being in a cage (with auto-tuned voice) surrounded by many people to whom she is giving advice. The video largely revolves around a woman who is in the club looking for her boyfriend and is heartbroken when she sees him with another woman. The version on The Very Best of Cher: The Video Hits Collection is slightly different from the previous version (the version that is also included on the Mallay Believe Bonus VCD) with additional scenes towards the end that were not in the original video. There are also two 'rough' versions of the video as the song was released in Europe before a video was completed. The first is a compilation of scenes from the videos of Cher's previous singles "One by One" and "Walking in Memphis" and the second includes a brief scene of the "Believe" video where Cher sings the chorus while the rest of the video is composed of scenes from "One by One".

Three official remix videos exist for this song. Two of the remix videos were created by Dan-O-Rama in 1999. Both follow different concepts from the original unmixed video. Instead of showing the significance of the lyrics the videos mostly show Cher with different colored backgrounds and people dancing. The two remixes used for these videos were the Almighty Definitive Mix and the Club 69 Phunk Club Mix. The third video entitled Wayne G. Remix was released by Warner Bros. and the concept is similar to the Club 69 Phunk Club Mix video.

Billboard music critic Chuck Taylor in March 1999 graded the video a "C", praising Cher's appearance and hairstyle but criticizing "an unnecessary subplot about a few kids stalking each other."[42]

Live performances[edit]

Cher performed the song during the Do You Believe?, The Farewell Tour, Cher at the Colosseum and the Dressed to Kill Tour. While she would lip-sync the entire song on various television programs, she would only lip-sync the synthesized verses when performing on her Believe and Farewell tours, the Colosseum shows and on the 2002 edition of VH1 Divas Live. Since 1999, the song has been the encore to all of Cher's concerts until her 2014 Dressed to Kill Tour, where the encore is the ballad "I Hope You Find It", a second single from her 25th studio album Closer to the Truth.[43] It returned as the encore at her Classic Cher (2017-2020) shows and stayed in that place for the Here We Go Again Tour (2018-2020) as well.

Legacy[edit]

Cher performing "Believe" on the Dressed to Kill Tour in 2014.

VH1 placed "Believe" at number 60 in their list of 100 Greatest Dance Songs in 2000[44] and at number 74 in their list of 100 Greatest Songs of the 90s in 2007.[45] In 2007, Rolling Stone placed "Believe" at No. 10 in their list of the "20 Most Annoying Songs"[46] In 2020, British national newspaper The Guardian ranked "Believe" as the 83rd greatest UK number one.[47] "Believe" was placed on the 2021 revised list of Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[48]

In July 2020 a digital publication The Pudding carried out a study on the most iconic songs from the '90s and songs that are most known by Millennials and the people of Generation Z. "Believe" was the sixth song with the highest recognisability rate.[49]

Accolades[edit]

Year Publisher Country Accolade Rank
1999 The Village Voice United States "Top Singles Of The 90's"[1] 96
2000 VH1 United States "100 Greatest Dance Songs"[50] 60
2005 Blender United States "The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born"[51] 134
2005 Bruce Pollock United States "The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000"[52] *
2007 VH1 United States "100 Greatest Songs of the 90s"[53] 74
2007 Rolling Stone United States "20 Most Annoying Songs"[46] 10
2012 Max Australia "1000 Greatest Songs of All Time"[54] 252
2012 NME United Kingdom "50 Best-selling Tracks of the ’90s"[55] 5
2015 Robert Dimery United States "1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2015 Update)"[56] 1002
2017 BuzzFeed United States "The 101 Greatest Dance Songs Of the '90s"[18] 15
2019 Billboard United States "Billboard's Top Songs of the '90s"[57] 64
2019 Elle United States "52 Best 1990s Pop Songs"[58] 51
2019 Insider United States "100 of the Best Songs From the '90s"[59] *
2019 Insider United States "102 Songs Everyone Should Listen to in Their Lifetime"[60] *
2019 Max Australia "1000 Greatest Songs of All Time"[61] 892
2019 Paste Magazine United States "The Best Songs of 1999"[62] 9
2020 Glamour United States "53 Best ’90s Songs That Are All That and a Bag of Chips"[63] 14
2020 The Guardian United Kingdom "The 100 Greatest UK No 1s"[47] 83
2020 Cleveland.com United States "Best Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 Song of the 1990s"[64] 25
2021 Rolling Stone United States "500 Greatest Songs of All Time"[65] 337
2022 Time Out United Kingdom "The 50 Best Gay Songs to Celebrate Pride All Year Long"[66] 18

(*) indicates the list is unordered.

Other versions[edit]

In December 2018 Adam Lambert performed a ballad version of "Believe" in honor of Cher during the 41st annual Kennedy Center Honors; the performance was highly acclaimed, with Cher stating that she was "at a loss for words" and was moved to tears.[67][68] On December 6, 2019, Lambert released a studio version of his version of "Believe" which reached number 23 on the Billboard Digital Song Sales chart on December 21, 2019.[69][70]

Track listings[edit]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from Believe album liner notes.

Charts[edit]

Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[154] 3× Platinum 210,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[155] Platinum 50,000*
Belgium (BEA)[156] 3× Platinum 150,000*
Denmark (IFPI Danmark)[157] Gold 45,000double-dagger
France (SNEP)[159] Diamond 764,000[158]
Germany (BVMI)[160] 5× Gold 1,250,000^
Italy (FIMI)[161] Gold 25,000double-dagger
Netherlands (NVPI)[162] Platinum 75,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[163] Gold 5,000*
Norway (IFPI Norway)[164] 2× Platinum  
Sweden (GLF)[165] 3× Platinum 90,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[166] Platinum 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[167] 4× Platinum 2,400,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[170] Platinum 1,800,000 (physical)[168]
375,000 (digital)[169]

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format(s) Label(s) Ref.
United Kingdom October 19, 1998 (1998-10-19)
  • CD
  • cassette
Warner Bros. [1]
United States November 10, 1998 (1998-11-10) [171]
1998 (1998) Maxi-CD
January 1999 (1999-01)
  • 7-inch vinyl
  • CD
  • cassette
[172]
Canada January 19, 1999 CD [173]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

  • About Cher on the official Cher site (mentions "Believe")