Cher, Like Madonna, Helped Redefine The Term ‘Comeback’ 20 Years Ago [Opinion]

Luca BrunoAP Images

This week, there have been plenty of articles celebrating the 20th anniversary of the album Ray of Light by Madonna. After this author wrote an opinion piece on the album for the Inquisitr, several Cher fans sent emails wondering why Cher’s pivotal 1998 comeback album Believe wasn’t being celebrated as well. After all, Madonna’s album wasn’t as much as a “comeback” as Cher’s was since the Queen of Pop had decent success in the years that came before Ray of Light.

Perhaps the main reason Believe isn’t being celebrated is that its anniversary arrives on October 22. But it’s true that it’s hard to talk about Madonna’s “comeback” without Cher’s true comeback echoing in the background. Both artists used dance music to re-identify with their fans. Both artists were called “has-beens” before their 1998 releases and were seen as entirely uncool before 1998. However, while Ray of Light is more of a musical milestone, Believe is a more important cultural milestone, especially when it comes to older women.

Madonna has helped make the topic of ageism mainstream over the past couple of years, but Cher is the one who shattered the glass ceiling with her 1998 comeback. The first single “Believe” became an international sensation before smashing radio and sales records in the United States in early 1999. Cher, at 51, became the oldest woman to score a No. 1 song. Believe became the No. 1 song of 1999 according to Music Outfitters. The song became a pivotal moment for the use of auto-tune. However, in Cher’s case, she used auto-tune to make the song more appealing (not because her voice was bad). You can’t say the same thing about future singers who used the process.

Madonna album 1998
Madonna competed with Cher on the charts in 1998. Featured image credit: Andrew MedichiniAP Images

Unfortunately, Believe was so massive that it overshadowed the rest of the album. The next single, “Strong Enough,” only peaked at No. 57 on the charts, and all the other singles failed to chart, which is unfortunate since the album received positive reviews, with many complimenting on how it revolutionized dance music. If you were in a dance club between 1998 and 2000, you couldn’t walk out without hearing “Believe” and “Strong Enough” the same night.

There have been other female artists, since Cher, who have had success in their 50s. They have been accused of trying too hard to be hip and cool — something Cher is never criticized for, and that’s because being cool and hip just comes naturally for Cher, who is now 71 years old. It won’t be shocking if Cher scores another No. 1 hit in the next decade.