High tempo dance tune 'Believe' gave the legendary Cher her biggest hit in the UK to date.. It became the biggest selling and longest running No1 single of 1998, and has also qualifed as the biggest selling single by a female artist in the UK... ever!
OK, we don't have the biggest hit of early 1999 on here, but we do have the biggest one of late 1998 (and a bigger seller in total, in fact). 'Believe' is a track that has several claims to a place in history: it was Number One in the first ever Top 5 to consist entirely of new entries, it made her the oldest woman to top the singles chart in the UK or the US and as the sleevenote mentions, it remains to this day the biggest selling single by a female solo artist, admittedly favoured by its release in a very strong sales climate. It was particularly important as a comeback hit for her in the US, where her releases in the middle of the decade hadn't seen the same success they did in Europe. Not bad going for a single that was rush-released in the UK even before the video had been finished.
The track's biggest influence though is of course musical. 'Believe' was surely not the first hit single to use AutoTune, but it was the first to make a feature of it, with it turned up to overdriven levels to create an odd semi-robotic sound, most obviously on the "can't break through"/"can't do that" lines in each verse. Of course, this is really just an extension of the usual studio effects producers have been trying out on vocals since double-tracking became possible, but it's also the obvious antecedent of the sound of radio in 2013, with pitch correction used as an end in itself and applied liberally whether the singer needs it or not. I have to admit that it's not a sound I'm keen on: unlike some people I have no moral objection to the use of Autotune and more than I have to varispeed or reverb, but I find long exposure to this sort of vocal too wearing on the ear. Even in the four minutes of 'Believe' itself it's tiring to listen closely to. Whether it was intended to emphasise any part of the song's sentiment or simply to be a gimmick for its own sake isn't clear: you could fashion some sort of theory that the protagonist might have sacrificed some of her humanity in order to become a survivor, but I suspect it's coincidental. Mind you, in all these years I've never totally figured out what the chorus is supposed to mean anyway; when she sings "I can something inside me say, I really don't think you're strong enough", is "you" the singer herself or the ex she's addressing (and dismissing) in the verses? Either way, it doesn't seem to matter that much, it's just a vehicle for a big chorus and in that sense it works.
Also appearing on: Now 30 (with Chrissie Hynde and Neneh Cherry), 32, 33
Available on: Believe