Cher’s influence on pop music has never been as quantifiable as it has been in the last 15 years—a fact that’s especially remarkable when you consider that the 67-year-old hasn’t even put out an album in over a decade. The pervasive (mis)use of Auto-Tune to create a robotic, Vocorder-style vocal effect over the last several years can be directly attributed to the massive success of Cher’s late-’90s hit “Believe,” the sound of which was emulated by Madonna and Kanye West, and even formed the signature styles of artists like T-Pain and Ke$ha. So it’s with some disappointment, but not much surprise, to discover that the singer’s 26th studio album, Closer to the Truth, not only perpetuates this exhausted (and exhausting) formula, but fails to attempt to reinvent it in even the most minute ways.
Living Proof, the follow-up to Believe, played as a sort of pisstake of what had become known as “the Cher effect,” with the singer’s voice rendered nearly unrecognizable on tracks like “The Music’s No Good Without You,” and the rest of the album unabashedly stocked with club fare that, even if it failed to reprise the pop success of “Believe,” further bolstered her late-career bona fides among many in the gay community. Closer to the Truth similarly eschews attempts to tweak the template, and the result is a collection of dance songs that sound incredibly dated—particularly the lead single, “Woman’s World,” which was produced by Paul Oakenfold, who apparently hasn’t updated his gear since the turn of the millennium. There’s admittedly an allure to the ’80s synths and swirling disco strings of “Lovers Forever,” which was reportedly intended for the 1994 film Interview with the Vampire, and the banjo-infused stomper “I Walk Alone” feels somewhat modern, but with EDM all the rage now, the album is largely a wasted opportunity to once again update the icon’s sound.
It’s the ballad-heavy back half of Closer to the Truth, however, that prevents the album from even reaching guilty-pleasure status. The soundtrack to Burlesque aside, Cher hasn’t indulged in this kind of MOR pap since the mid ’90s (smartly, the closest thing to a slow jam on her last album was the brisk, drum n’ bass-inflected “You Take It All”). If there’s any redeeming element to be found among this series of not-very-powerful power ballads, which includes a cover of a Miley Cyrus song, it’s the intriguing choice to end an album titled Closer to the Truth with the Pink-penned “Lie to Me,” an acoustic, string-laden track in which Cher proclaims that “truth is overrated.”