CHER

ABBA-PE­RIOD CHER HAS A NEW ARMY OF DEVO­TEES, WRITES FRANKIE TAG­GART. HER 26TH AL­BUM, A COL­LEC­TION OF ABBA COV­ERS CALLED ‘DANC­ING QUEEN’ PROVES IT

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Cher has a stately air as she re­ceives a steady line of jour­nal­istsi­naWestHol­ly­wood ho­tel room with the stud­ied equa­nim­ity of Cather­ine the Great ad­dress­ing her sub­jects at the Win­ter Palace. If Madonna is the Queen of Pop then Cher is surely the Em­press of En­ter­tain­ment, sur­vey­ing the spoils of a show­biz ca­reer that has reaped a best ac­tress Os­car, three Golden Globes, an Emmy, a Grammy and a num­ber one record in each of the last ive decades.

And with an ac­claimed movie role this sum­mer, a new al­bum of Abba cov­ers on the way and a Broad­way mu­si­cal about her life on the hori­zon, the 72-year-old icon shows no signs of ab­di­cat­ing any­time soon.

“It seems I have a bunch of new fans, young ones, lit­tle ones. It’s great. I hon­estly didn’t ex­pect it,” she en­thuses, a play­ful grin leet­ingly snap­ping the aris­to­cratic aura.

A post-war baby boomer of Ar­me­nian, Euro­pean and Chero­kee her­itage, the per­former was born Cher­i­lyn Sark­isian in south­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

To a cer­tain gen­er­a­tion she will al­ways be an icon of Six­ties coun­ter­cul­ture and the unique con­tralto voice who, along with late former hus­band Sonny Bono, gave the world “I Got You Babe.”

But she has been shock­ing and de­light­ing since ditch­ing her folksy girl-next-door Sonny and Cher-era im­age to emerge as the siren in a hardly-there body suit and leather jacket in the 1989 “Turn Back Time” video — a quar­ter-cen­tury be­fore “twerk­ing” had en­tered the lex­i­con.

“Be­lieve” brought Cher to a new gen­er­a­tion of fans in 1998, with its in­no­va­tive de­ploy­ment of the ro­botic, dig­i­tally-en­hanced “vocoder” vo­cal for which she is now fa­mous.

Cher holds the record for the long­est gap be­tween num­ber one songs on the US chart at nearly 25 years but re­cently has mostly con­cen­trated on a res­i­dency show in Las Ve­gas.

She has been in more than a dozen movies, Os­car-nom­i­nated for her turn as a nu­clear safety ac­tivist in “Silk­wood,” and ac­claimed for roles as a tough, no-non­sense mother in “Mask” and a young Ital­ian Amer­i­can widow in “Moon­struck,” for which she won her Acad­emy Award.

This sum­mer, she re­u­nited with long­time friend and “Silk­wood” co-star Meryl Streep to sing two of the sig­na­ture tunes on “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” the se­quel to Abba-in­spired 2008 juke­box mu­si­cal “Mamma Mia!”

She is scorn­ful of the term “starred” for what amounted to a rel­a­tively short stretch of screen time but the fact is she stole the show af­ter turn­ing up in the inal act.

The movie in­spired her 26th al­bum, a col­lec­tion of Abba cov­ers called “Danc­ing Queen” that is a mix of rev­er­ent re­treads and club ver­sions that are un­mis­tak­ably Cher.

“’Mamma Mia’ and ‘Water­loo,’ — those are the most like the orig­i­nal. I didn’t want to change them in any way,” she told AFP ahead of the al­bum’s Septem­ber 28 re­lease.

“And the other ones, there’s no way I’m go­ing to ever sound like the girls. So best to just do what I do and hope for the best.”

With only 10 tracks to choose from, Cher says she went for a blend of the all-time clas­sics with some of her own per­sonal favourites, such as “Chiq­ui­tita,” “One of Us” and “Name of the Game.”

“Singing is dif­fer­ent than lis­ten­ing, and I think the im­por­tant thing for me was to try to keep the essence of Abba and try to blend my­self in with them,” the singer added.

Early pre­views of songs have gone down well with crit­ics and fans but it has not been en­tirely plain sail­ing.

AFP caught up with the pop le­gend on the day she was in­ish­ing the record — and just hours af­ter one of her favourite tracks, “One of Us,” had briefly gone miss­ing, prompt­ing no small amount of mid­dleof-the-night panic.

“I was up­set,” she says, a study in un­der­state­ment.

A plat­inum blonde these days, the star has al­ways been fa­mous for her ou­tra­geous, re­veal­ing stage at­tire.

The feath­ers and ish­nets will be get­ting a work­out again with the singer at the start of a gru­elling tour that takes her from Aus­tralia and New Zealand in the fall to just about ev­ery cor­ner of North Amer­ica next year.

One day she’ll slow down — per­haps if “The Cher Show,” a mu­si­cal due to hit Broad­way in De­cem­ber — earns her a pro­ducer’s Tony Award to com­plete the cov­eted “EGOT” awards grand slam along­side her Emmy, Grammy and Os­car.

For now, each suc­cess is “(Just Enough to Keep Me) Han­gin’ On,” in the words of one of her early sin­gles.

“Some­times I love it and some­times I just want to tear my eyes out... Of course I have those days, and what I’ve learned is you just go through them and they pass,” she says.

“And some­times you only have a week of it, or some­times you’re like, just go, ‘Oh my God.’ You’re think­ing, ‘Oh my God’ and then you do the show when you’re think­ing, ‘Oh that was fun. That was good.’”

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