Thursday, December 30, 2010

12 Years of "Believe"

OK this is not really opera related but eh, just humour me this time...

Cos it was in the last few months of 1998 that a song would go on to become one of the greatest phenomenons of pop-culture, going to number 1 in the charts of 26 countries and on the playlist of many more countries. All this from a woman in her 50s whom many has written off as a has-been.

I remember it so clearly: back in my secondary school days, someone who would become my best friend for many years introduced me to this D-list celeb named Cher. We weren't in any way the "cool kids", and no one else understood or wanted to know what we were talking about. Flamboyant, out-spoken and no-nonsense with decades of experience in singing and acting and yet hidden from the mainstream, Cher was a great idol to us that no one else had gotten, and we wouldn't want it any other way. She was our best kept secret and knowing her work made us smarter than the rest of the world.

So when we heard on the internet earlier in mid-1998 that Cher would be releasing a new CD of dance songs, we honestly had no big expectations for it. It would be called Believe, and the title-track would be the first single. In our minds, it would probably be a great song and album that few people would appreciate and no one else would hear about.

And then Believe went to number one on the UK charts! So taken aback was her record company who had such low expectations that not even a music video was made to promote the album, that a montage of her past videos was hastily cobbled together while a proper video was filmed. The song would proceed to dominate the charts for a total of 7 weeks, beating out Celine Dion's phenomenally successful Titanic theme song My Heart Will Go On at the last minute to become the most successful single of the UK in 1998. In early 1999 the rest of the world finally caught on and it became number 1 in 26 countries, including the most important charts: America's Billboard Top 100.

Needless to say, Believe went to number 1 in Singapore as well. The song was heard EVERYWHERE! All of a sudden, it became cool to know everything about Cher. Having supported her for so long, my friend and I felt like we were at the centre of attention everytime the song is played on the radio, CD store or canteen jukebox, feeling that we have started a trend long ago that everyone else is only now following.

This surreal episode taught me that one is never too old to be successful even in the image-conscious music business, that perseverance, tenacity and continued hard-work does count, and that one can be true to oneself instead of being someone else in order to be popular.

Anyway, its been 12 years since that phenominal episode and Believe remains one of my favourite songs till this day; and with Burlesque about to open worldwide, its good to know that Cher will return to the mainstream once again. This guy who won a contest on Oprah explains what it is that Cher inspires in so many of her fans around the world:

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