Connect with us

Music & Concerts

Cher’s new album of ABBA covers strangely compelling

Iconic singer infuses faithful arrangements with vocal maturity, nuance



Dancing Queen review, gay news, Washington Blade

Cher’s new album is an extenuation of her appearance in the recent ‘Mamma Mia!’ sequel. (Photo courtesy the Karpel Group)

Conceptually, Cher’s new album of ABBA covers may be the kitschiest, campiest gayest record since “The Ethel Merman Disco Album.” But — you may be wondering — does it hold anything beyond novelty appeal? It does. In fact, “Dancing Queen” is quite great and strangely compelling.

The legendary singer, whose career now spans five decades, remains in full voice and continues to record and tour widely. Her role in the recent “Mamma Mia!” sequel was her first live-action role since “Burlesque” (2010) with Christina Aguilera.

“Dancing Queen” follows on the heels of the “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” soundtrack release, but with a complete set of 10 ABBA covers. It’s Cher’s first release since her 2013 album “Closer to the Truth” and a notable change of pace. “Dancing Queen” features exclusively songs popularized by a different and likewise well-loved pop act.

Of course, there are plenty of obvious commercial reasons to explain the new album: The release of a major Hollywood movie, the crossover of two hugely successful acts and so on. But the more interesting question is not so much about the why but the what what about Cher’s recordings is different from the ABBA originals? In terms of instrumentation, the tracks are almost unaltered, except for slightly heavier bass pulse on uptempo tracks like “Waterloo” and modified synth sounds. The difference can only really be summed up by the emotional tone the iconic singer brings to the four-decade-old songs.

If one listens to Cher’s album “Take Me Home” (1979), which was released the same year as ABBA’s “Voulez-Vous,” it’s not hard to see certain stylistic similarities between the two. ABBA’s title track pulses with disco dance floor energy, not unlike Cher’s titular single “Take Me Home.” And unsurprisingly, both albums are dominated by talk of youth, love and sex.

But what Cher brings to the covers is of a different order. It’s the sound of a major singer revisiting the past and it’s palpable in her voice. Take for instance the album’s titular song, “Dancing Queen.” Cher’s version is filled with a certain nostalgia absent from the original. It’s more reflective and soulful, almost as if the song has lost its innocence. There is an emotional force in the new recording that not only gives it new meaning but also makes one remember why the original is so great. It’s revitalized yet conveys a sense of longing the dancing queen is not the pretty young girl in front of us, but instead her memory.

“Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)” works especially well in Cher’s distinctive lower register. It also features her trademark Auto-Tune sound, reminiscent of her 1999 single “Believe.” It works even better as a club track than the ABBA original. In “Waterloo,” Cher’s version again makes use of a heavier synth sound but is vocally more reminiscent of her rock period (think “If I Could Turn Back Time”).

The rendition of “Fernando,” which was quite well received in the movie, returns on the new album. The recording of “The Winner Takes It All” is particularly good. Cher’s opening is somber, almost tragic. And the lyrics seem to take on new meaning for the singer: “I’ve played all my cards/and that’s what you’ve done, too/nothing more to say/no more ace to play.” Yet as the music builds and the beat begins to pulse, there is no doubt about her power and resilience as a performer.

One might say the same of the album’s aptly chosen final track, “One of Us” from ABBA’s final studio album “The Visitors” (1981). Of all the tracks, this one departs the most from the original in terms of instrumentation. Over a sparse piano and string accompaniment, she delivers the famous first line: “They passed me by, all of those great romances.” And it’s every bit as enrapturing as the original, if not more.


Music & Concerts

Bruce & Janet & John Legend, oh my!

Slew of iconic acts hitting the road after pandemic cancellations



Janet Jackson is among the iconic acts touring this spring.

Pop and rock icons are releasing their pent-up pandemic frustrations by mounting huge tours this spring and summer. After three years of canceled and postponed shows, everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Janet Jackson is hitting the road at long last. But save your coins because the TicketMaster algorithms are driving ticket prices to astronomical highs. Here are a few highlights from D.C.-area venues this spring. Although some of the iconic acts aren’t coming until summer — Beyonce, Madonna, Pink — several others are hitting the road this spring.

Betty Who plays March 10; Keyshia Cole headlines the All Black Extravaganza 20 Year Anniversary tour on March 18; the Yeah Yeah Yeahs come to town on May 3; Seal brings his world tour to town on May 10; and the beloved Pixies are back on the road with a new North American tour stopping here on June 10.

9:30 CLUB
Don’t miss Gimme Gimme Disco, an Abba dance party on March 18; Inzo arrives on March 31, followed by Bent on April 1; Ruston Kelly brings his The Weakness tour on April 17 along with Purr; The New Pornographers show on May 19 is sold out but there are tickets available for the May 20 show; The Walkmen have added a fourth show on May 23 because the other three shows are sold our;

Living legend Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are back with a vengeance, playing one of four area shows on March 27. (They’re in Baltimore the night before.) If you missed out this time, don’t worry, Bruce is playing Nats Park in September as well as at Baltimore’s Camden Yards. April 1 brings the R&B Music Experience, including Xscape, Monica, Tamar Braxton, and 112. Blink-182 comes to town on May 23. And this summer watch for Sam Smith to continue his hot streak, bringing his “Gloria” tour to town on Aug.4.

Janet Jackson makes her highly anticipated return to the stage this spring, arriving in our area on May 6 along with guest Ludacris. The LGBTQ ally and icon has promised new music on her upcoming “Together Again Tour,” which follows the pandemic-related cancellation of her “Black Diamond Tour.” Jackson also plays Baltimore’s newly renovated CFG Bank Arena on May 13.

John Legend plays two nights at Wolf Trap on June 2 and 3; Charlie Puth follows on June 4. Wolf Trap also hosts the Indigo Girls on June 7 just in time for Pride month. Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with the Smithereens at the Birchmere on March 17. Fans of ‘80s alternative will be lined up for the Church also at the Birchmere at April 4, followed by Suzanne Vega on April 26. Amy Grant returns to the stage this spring and plays the Birchmere on May 2. Echostage plays host to a slew of buzz worthy shows this spring, including Ella Mai on April 8 and Fisher on May 12.

Continue Reading

Music & Concerts

Internationally acclaimed pianist to play at Strathmore

Brian Ganz to celebrate 12th annual concert



(Photo by Vitalii Petrushenko/Bigstock)

“An Evening of Chopin’s Chamber Music with Brian Ganz and Friends” will be on Saturday, Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. at the Music Center at Strathmore.

Pianist Brian Ganz will celebrate his 12th annual concert in his quest to perform the complete works of Frédéric Chopin. He will be joined by Carter Brey, principal cellist for the New York Philharmonic, and Laura Colgate, concertmaster for the National Philharmonic. The artists will perform all the major chamber music works written by Chopin, including the rarely heard Trio in G minor for piano, violin and cello, Op. 8, as well as the famed Sonata for Cello and Piano in G minor.

Ticket prices start at $29 and free for young people 7–17.  For more details, visit

Continue Reading

Music & Concerts

Boston Gay Men’s Chorus builds bridges in new documentary

‘Music Triumphs Homophobia’ chronicles group’s travels around the world



Boston Gay Men’s Chorus (Photo by A Priori Photography)

Poland, Turkey, and South Africa are among the places the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus has traveled, facing discrimination, but also finding acceptance and camaraderie on the road. 

“Music Triumphs Homophobia,” a new documentary available on Amazon Prime Video written and directed by filmmakers Craig Coogan and Michael Willer, follows the Chorus’s tours around the world and grapples with how spiritual LGBTQ people contend with the homophobic mistranslations of religious texts. It also explores the power of music. 

“Our goal is to share … the joy and inspiration that music can have in overcoming prejudice,” Coogan, the former executive director of the chorus, said in an interview. “What BGMC has done for 40 years, and other choruses have done as well, is infusing the world with joy, inspiration, and hope.”

And it’s not just Christianity that misinterprets religious doctrines, Coogan said. 

“It wasn’t just Christian, and it wasn’t Muslim. It wasn’t Jewish. It wasn’t one particular denomination. It actually was overall,” Coogan said. 

The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus was founded in 1982 and is comprised of more than 200 performers, from all different backgrounds. This diversity of perspective is what drives the mission of the chorus and the documentary, Coogan said.  

“The universality of coming together as one voice, to tell one story, is incredibly powerful. And I think that’s what audiences identify with,” Coogan said.  

Because the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus had to go on hiatus from performing at the onset and height of the pandemic, Coogan and Willer sought out a solution — to put together a documentary chronicling the history and work of the group.  

The pair already had most of the footage before putting together a full, nearly two-hour documentary was a reality for them. For years, people at the chorus, including Coogan and Willer, had captured the various trips for the archives. 

“This actually afforded us a unique opportunity to immerse ourselves in 30 terabytes of footage,” Willer said. 

Michael Willer is one of two filmmakers behind the new documentary. (Photo courtesy BGMC)

Coogan and Willer put together the footage and filled gaps with additional interviews, which they filmed in a studio at the height of the shutdown while following health and safety protocols. 

The entirety of the music paired with the documentary is also produced by the chorus. 

Coogan and Willer hope LGBTQ people and non-LGBTQ people alike watch the film and that they experience a “shifting perception.” 

“We tried to cover as many different perspectives as we had access to that had stories to share,” Willer said. “And to give a sense of relatability and humanity to people that are human, and deserve to have their voices heard, and hopefully in a way that is affecting, and that lasts for whoever might watch it.”

“It’s not about one person, but all these different perspectives,” Coogan added. 

The title of the documentary is a spin on a translated news headline in Poland when the chorus went there in 2005 — “Music Triumphs Intolerance.” It also communicates the mission of the group in a clear, concise way, Coogan said. 

“When it really comes down to it, music does triumph over homophobia,” he said. 

Continue Reading

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade