by Cher

Album: Believe (1998)
Charted: 1 1
  • Many great songs were written and recorded very quickly in short bursts of inspiration. This wasn't one of them. About six years in the making, this song was the result of the painstaking efforts of six songwriters and at least three producers attempting to create a massive hit for Cher.

    The song began life as a demo created by four songwriters at Cher's record label, Warner Brothers. From there, it went to some top producers, including Nick Van Eede of Cutting Crew, who said in his Songfacts interview: "Kevin MacMichael and I produced the original demo with Mark Scott and Brian Higgins in 1992 I think. That shows how long the song sat around. We tweaked the melody and chords in the famous chorus... listen to the first two chords to 'I've Been in Love Before' and the first two chords to 'Believe' and you'll hear the similarity. We got paid a bottle of whisky between us for the session!"

    The song eventually made its way to Metro Productions, which is a small studio in London, where Mark Taylor and Brian Rawling worked on the track after two Metro songwriters reworked it a bit (bringing the songwriter tally to six). They used a variety of studio techniques and processors to create a very synthesized sound, trying to create an original dance track that wouldn't alienate Cher's core audience that was used to her rock ballads. In an interview with Sound On Sound magazine, Mark Taylor explained that he ended up producing the song twice: "It was just too hardcore dance - it wasn't happening. I scrapped it and started again, because I realized it needed a sound that was unusual, but not in a typical dance record sort of way. This was tricky, because dance music is very specific. To get what I was after I had to think about each sound very carefully, so that the sound itself was dance-based but not obviously so."

    The big breakthrough in the production of this song was the distinctive vocal effect, which the producers claimed was done using a vocoder device. It was later revealed that they used an Auto-Tune processor, which is a device created by Antares Audio Technologies to correct the pitch in recorded vocals.

    Vocoders had been used in music since the '70s to synthesize voices, creating a robotic effect. Auto-Tune came on the market in 1997, and producers quickly realized that putting it on an extreme setting would create a heavily distorted vocal. That's not what the software was made for, but it created a vocoder-like sound that kept some of the actual vocal, making it sound less computerized. Cher's team had reason to deny they were using Auto-Tune: the general public didn't know that musicians were now having their vocals corrected so their pitch was always perfect. "Believe" pulled back the curtain on this studio technique.
  • "Believe" was a massive hit in the UK before it was even released in America. In the UK, the single was released on October 19, 1998; it debuted at #1 on Halloween and spent seven weeks on top, becoming the biggest UK hit by a solo female artist, selling about 1.7 million copies.

    In America, it was a slow build; released as a single on November 10, the song first charted (at #99) on December 19, 1998 and climbed to #1 on March 13, 1999, where it stayed for four weeks. In the UK, it was the biggest-selling single of 1998; in America, it was the biggest-selling single of 1999.
  • Thanks to this song, intentionally distorted Auto-Tuned vocals became known as the "Cher effect." Kid Rock actually beat her to it, using Auto-Tune in this manner on his song "Only God Knows Why," released a few months earlier. In 1999, Eiffel 65 had a huge hit with "Blue (Da Ba Dee)," but that one likely used a harmonizer. The rapper/producers Kanye West and T-Pain were the ones who refined and popularized Auto-Tune as an effect with their '00s output.
  • This was a big comeback song for Cher, who was one of the biggest stars of the '60s and '70s. She revived her music career in 1989 with the MTV hits "If I Could Turn Back Time" and "Just Like Jesse James," then came storming back in 1998 with "Believe." In the '80s, she was also one of the most successful actresses in the game, winning an Oscar in 1998 for Moonstruck.
  • When this hit #1 in the US, it marked the longest period between Hot 100 chart-toppers for any act. Cher's last #1 on the chart was "Dark Lady" in 1974. At 25 years, this broke the record previously held by The Beach Boys, who went 22 years between "Good Vibrations" and "Kokomo."
  • Cher was 52 when "Believe" topped the charts in the UK and US, making her the oldest female artist to have a #1 hit in both territories. Louis Armstrong is the most senior singer to top both charts; in America he hit #1 with "Hello, Dolly!" in 1964 when he was 62; in Britain, he was 66 when "What A Wonderful World" went to #1 in 1968.
  • All of the songwriters and producers involved with this track were men, but they crafted the song so it would appeal to a female audience. The lyrics are about moving on with confidence after a failed relationship.
  • The song's vocal effect came from an unlikely source. Cher recalled to Q magazine December 2013: "While we were recording 'Believe' in the UK, I saw Roachford on a morning TV show. He was singing with a vocoder and guitar, and it sounded so great. My producer said, 'You can't do that after you've recorded the song. But I was playing around with the pitch machine and I think I can get something interesting from that...' So he played it and we just smiled at each other. It was exactly what we needed to make the really boring verse... sing."
  • Proving that there is plenty of substance to this song, the Australian group DMA's covered it on the Triple J radio show Like A Version in October 2016. Their rendition got over 3 million views on YouTube, prompting them to released the song on digital platforms in April 2017.
  • In the 2001 Friends episode "The One With Chandler's Dad," this plays as Chandler and Monica arrive in Vegas to meet Chandler's estranged father.

    It was also used on these TV series:

    Splitting Up Together ("Go Out The Lights" – 2019)
    Mr. Sunshine ("Hostile Workplace" – 2011)
    Will & Grace ("Whose Mom Is It, Anyway?" – 1999)
    Buffy The Vampire Slayer ("Living Conditions" – 1999)
    Sex And The City ("Evolution" – 1999)

    It was also featured in the movie Land Of The Lost (2009).

Comments: 20

  • Ekristheh from HalathOne of the most successful (and funny) mashups I have ever heard combines this with "Like a Virgin" and "I Wanna Dance With Somebody". Created by DJ Earworm, it's easy to find on YouTube.
  • Guy from Montreal, QcElla Henderson, one very young singer on X Factor 2012, performed an absolutely amazing slow version of this song with only a piano accompaniment and no stupid autotune nor disco rhythm. Then, all of a sudden, the lyrics made sense and everyone could see how great that song really was. If the composers had been wiser, they would have thought of the slow version first.
  • Austin from Smallsville,new England, --I believe I read that she was the oldest singer to ever get a number one hit. I admire her for her ability to change her style every year.
  • Nady from Adelaide, AustraliaHmmm...Cher really doesnt look like a lady does she?? Really reminds me of a bloke. I wish she would hurry up and get over herself. Her and Madonna *shudders* wayy too old
  • 5cats from Winnipeg, MbSay what you like about Cher (and several folks have) she has:
    #1 guts! to try new things and #2 talent! because her long career proves she's git "it" in abundance, eh?
  • Savannah from Eastpoint, Flif you belive in your self and anything is possible
    and if you belive in love that can make you strong
    and you have faith in your self it is not just about love it is also about faith that you can be
    strong in love and that love dose give you strength
    and that strength will keep you as stong as you feel if you truely belive in your self you can
    acomplish anything and that is the most powerful
    thing of all. So this song is about strength and power to belive in something as strong as your self you got to have some since to be strong.
  • Bertrand from Paris, FranceNo one really doubted Cher would eventually make another comeback, but this time it was with the biggest hit of her entire career. "Believe" is a perfect piece of dance-pop, and it took the entire world by storm. More dance hits followed in its wake and a farewell concert tour that lasted more than 3 years. Cher is certainly someone who believes in "life after love."
  • Meredith from Wauwatosa, WiI'm not a very big Cher fan, but this song is very cool!
  • Matt from Harlan, KyI love this song so much! So cool, great vocals, peppy tune, and powerful background keyboard and guitar. Great sound.
  • Darren from Hull, EnglandTo correct Edward above. With this song Cher became the oldest SOLO female artist to have a number 1. Debbie Harry was older when Maria topped the UK charts.
  • Paul from Detroit, MiLove her or hate her, Cher is one of those rare performers who endures decade after decade, and Believe just proves that.
  • Jorge from Mexicali, MexicoAn excellent come back from a top-notch singer, that's all I've got to say.
  • Papa Burgundy from Bridlington, Englandin the video she looks not only reminiscent of a man, but also a penis model
  • Sarah Floyd from Bloomingdale, Ilwell this song means for believe in what you believe in. and whatever it is believe in it. and love. this song means love also. and i noticed that everyone needs love to live. and i notice that i know what the songs mean.
  • Chas from Webster, NyCher's older stuff was much better... this is barely listenable
  • Robert from Puyallup, WaWhatever this song did for Cher's career, it does prove one thing: Her cheesy overripe voice does NOT improve with electronic enhancement.
  • Aj from Cleveland, GaThis song reminds me of Star Wars. '
  • Pete from Nowra, AustraliaNatasha.... she has a good surgeon
  • Dave from Marieta, GaTrue, there was a vocoder used on Cher's voice, however, there was also MUCH use (or abuse?!) of Antares Auto-Tune for the trance-like vocals on the chorus. I produce and record professionally for a living. Antares Auto-Tune is an audio software plug-in (must often used with DigiDesign ProTools) which can be used to fix out-of-tune vocals or other pitch problems from solo tracks. When Auto-Tune is set "normally", the pitch can be controlled and smoothly corrected, sounding very natural. But when set to extreme settings, Auto-Tune can be used to produce a un-natural "stair-stepping" or "robotic" effect as is heard thoughout this hit song. Interestingly, Auto-Tune has been WIDELY used in most professional recordings since 1996 as an immense time saver for engineers, producesrs and performers. In the studio, time is money! Nearly 80% of every recording from Nashville (simply listen to any CD by Shania Twain, Faith Hill, or LeAnn Rimes as an example) is using Antares Auto-Tune to make the vocals sound "perfect", from non-perfect vocalists.
  • Natasha from Chico, CaRock on CHER! Even though my dad may hate you, you're still awesome :) Do she ever get old?
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