Warner Brothers, 2023

REVIEW BY: Peter Piatkowski


It seems inevitable that an entertainer like Cher would put out a Christmas record. What’s odd is that it took the lady so long to do so. For sixty years, Cher found success as a singer, actress, comedienne, gay icon and cosmetics pusher. Her variety show era in the 1970s would have been the perfect time for Cher to release a holiday album, but it took over 25 studio albums before she decided it was time to wrap her distinct voice around some Christmas carols.

Christmas is Cher’s first album in five years, her last being the ABBA tribute Dancing Queen that was released to coincide with her role in the musical comedy Mama Mia! Here We Go Again. It’s a collection of original songs, old chestnuts, and some traditional fare. A squarely secular pop record, there are no hymns; Cher’s Christmas record is an office Christmas party.

Ever since the mammoth success of 1998’s Believe, Cher has stuck with her dance diva guise. That means that even on her Christmas album, we get bleepy-bloopy club tunes in which her strange—yet still powerful voice—gets molded and misshapen by studio wizardry. These dance songs are the low points on the album. It’s clear that Cher—like every pop star on the planet after Mariah Carey’s triumph with “All I Want For Christmas Is You”—is looking to add to the holiday canon with the album’s first single, “DJ Play A Christmas Song,” a tinsel-covered “Believe” retread. Like her big dance hits, “DJ Play A Christmas Song” is a seemingly poignant, melancholy ballad that is set to robo-beats as Cher roars the sorta-inspirational lyrics.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Christmas hits the high notes when Cher hangs up her silver, glittery wigs and goes retro. Christmas is inherently campy and Christmas music even more so, so Cher is a natural at warbling the familiar tunes. She also gets a really impressive guest list: Stevie Wonder, Darlene Love, and Cyndi Lauper, among others, show up to share the spotlight. In fact, these fellow pop legends threaten to steal the show from our Oscar-winning headliner. Wonder’s “What Christmas Means To Me” is a fun, funky duet in which Cher gets to stand back and let the Motown icon spin his magic. Love joins the former Mrs. Bono on the Phil Spector classic “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and the two longtime pals rip through the classic with infectious joy. (A fun bit of trivia: Cher recorded “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” before on comedienne Rosie O’Donnell’s Christmas charity record as a duet with the then-Queen of Nice.) And as if to remind herself and her audiences that she once had designs on being a rock star, she does a great take on Chuck Berry’s “Run Rudolph Run” that hews closely to the original with Cher’s droll interpretation of the song. Equally witty is Cher’s take on the sexy—if materialistic—“Santa Baby,” which vamps with insouciant good humor. Best of all is her torchy take on “Please Come Home For Christmas,” which is quite brilliant some of the best singing Cher has done in her long career.

There are some clunkers on Christmas. Aside from the dance songs, Cher also stumbles on “Drop Top Sleigh Ride” a collaboration with Tyga, that tries to marry rapper’s trap with her pop sound, but it sounds awkward and stilted. Also, her duet with Michael Bublé on the Canadian crooner’s “Home” is a plodding bore that strands the two charismatic performers in A/C pablum.

Cher has warned her audiences that another ABBA tribute album is imminent. If she’s plotting musical sequels, she should do another Christmas album, but embrace the snow-capped, garlanded standards of the Great American Songbook instead of working so hard to bring her own stamp to Christmas carols. She’s still a distinct and unique singer with an immediately recognizable voice and she enjoys so much good will and fan devotion, that if she recorded a fun, kitschy Christmas record that recalled the Christmas albums of the 1960s, she could stumble on a minor classic. As it is, Christmas is fine. 

Rating: C+

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