Commentary: In 1963, Darlene Love walked into a recording studio to sing a new Christmas song being produced by Phil Spector. Also in the session were the girl group, The Blossoms; Love was the group’s lead singer, and an unknown 17-year-old Cher provided background vocals.
“Christmas, Baby Please Come Home” has become a seasonal standard so, this year, when Cher decided to do her first Christmas album, she asked her old friend to sing it with her. The “He’s a Rebel” singer welcomed the opportunity for a reunion, 60 years in the making.
The 1963 classic is just one of thirteen songs destined for drag queen treatment. Besides the rocking duet with Love, the album includes duets with Cyndi Lauper, Stevie Wonder, Michael Bublé and Tyga. Yes, you read that right.
For those of us who are so over Mariah Carey’s 1994 snoozer “All I Want for Christmas is You”, having an album of the ageless gay icon singing Christmas dance songs along with new and covers of other Yuletide tunes, Cher’s Christmas is the present we’ve been needing all year.
Cher released “DJ Play a Christmas Song” as the lead single from the album and it rocketed to number three on Billboard magazine’s Dance/Electronic Digital Song Sales chart its first week out. The single, which has numerous dance remixes out, is a pop-dance banger that rejects festive clichés. Spoiler alert: It’s about going clubbing during the Christmas season.
“‘It’s cold outside but it’s warm in here!’ the star sings with a full-throated belt, describing not a cozy domestic scene, but… the club,” writes Attitude’s Jamie Tabberer. He adds: “This is a cut-glass powerhouse pop-dance banger that would work just as well in the height of summer at a beach party, or year-round at circuit parties.”
Attitude’s review continues, saying: “Cher’s trademark vocoder trickery reaches new extremes on the verses; in the age of AI, it ought to sound uncanny, but the Cher-bot, some 25 years later, sounds more like an old friend who instantly puts a smile on your face. The choral vocal, meanwhile, is straightforward and magisterial: few people can pronounce the ‘d’ of “DJ” with the robustness of Cher, and when singing at full throttle with all those fabulous pronunciations — no one else has Cher’s accent, have you noticed? It’s beyond cheering.
“After so many desperate attempts by modern artists to tap into the commercial viability of Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ — when even Chris Brown is dropping cringe-inducing festive fare, you know all bets are off — Cher outshines them all with this cool, chill cut from upcoming album Christmas, which the icon promises is ‘not your mother’s Christmas album.’ We don’t doubt it. Just call her Mother Christmas!”
Jim Farber, writing for The Guardian, penned: “In fact, her voice never sounded stronger than it does on the new album. She uses it to great effect on the album’s ecstatic duets, including one with Stevie Wonder on a Motown holiday song from 1967 titled ‘What Christmas Means to Me’. The album’s most surprising guest star is Tyga who raps on ‘Drop Top Sleigh Ride’. He was brought in by his producer, Alexander Edwards, who Cher has been dating for the last year. (He is 40 years her junior.)”
My personal favorite is “Run, Run, Rudolph”, the Chuck Berry classic that highlights Cher’s rock and roll background, complete with an electric guitar. “Home”, the duet with Michael Bublé, is melancholy enough to bring tears to your eyes. “Put a Little Holiday in Your Heart” with Cyndi Lauper is upbeat and will easily drive queens to the dance floor. Oh heck, I like every selection on the album!
Christmas is Cher’s twenty-seventh studio album and first in ten years. It debuted at number 1 on the Billboard Top Holiday Albums chart. With that fete, Cher, 77, is the only artist to have a number-one record on a Billboard chart in each of the past seven decades.
“Overwhelmingly festive and quintessentially Cher, there’s a new Queen of Christmas in Town,” writes RETROPOP.
Mariah, move over. There’s a new queen in town.