Announcing her return like a fluorescent cannon ball, the album’s opening track is the omnipresent gay anthem “Woman’s World,” Cher’s most recent stab at dancefloor obliteration. As much as this song dabbles in disco-diva cliche, something about it just works. Cher sells the hell out of the song’s “torn up, busted, taken apart” lyrical conceit, and her performance makes this one of the year’s best singles, not to mention a hell of a way to kick off her new material.
Following hot on that single’s heels comes the equally frenetic, but far more interesting, “Take It Like A Man.” This twirler allegedly features backing vocals from Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears, but who can tell? When Cher’s going at full power, lesser entities just kind of melt in the shadows. That said, it definitely features an appearance from one of her most iconic former collaborators: Autotune! Yes, the swoopy sound effect that made her “Believe” single a worldwide smash never really went away, but here it’s displayed so prominently that, when Cher’s voice starts pitching and pouncing all over the place, you’ll swear it’s 1999 all over again. That’s a good thing.
As the album tears on from there, “My Love,” “Dressed to Kill,” and “Red” keep the tempo at a high, steady pace, each track sounding like a potential single in some alternate universe where Cher singles still fly into the Top 10. Rather wisely, she hasn’t strayed far from the power-pop template that kept her on the radio in the ’80s and ’90s. Working with longtime producer Mark Taylor (among many others), she co-signs each of these dispatches with her signature drawl and an enthusiasm that puts her contemporaries to shame.
The first half of the album caps off with the fantastic “Lovers Forever,” a swirling Europop anthem with retro Italo disco touches, not to mention an interesting backstory. Apparently, this hi-NRG stormer was written for the 1994 film Interview With A Vampire but never used until now. What a missed opportunity! We can just see Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt getting down to this in a gothic New Orleans disco.
Lyrically, the remainder of Closer To The Truth takes a more introspective tone after this, and I have to say, it improves the proceedings considerably. Whereas the camp spectacle of “Woman’s World” is a lot of fun, centerpiece stomper “I Walk Alone” — from which the album gets its title — showcases a depth that has always made the best of Cher’s work so compelling. Without losing energy or the beat, Cher asserts herself as a thinking independent, and experienced character who hasn’t been beaten down by an all-too-cruel world.
Both “I Walk Alone” and album closer “Lie To Me” were co-written by the mighty Pink, book-ending a clutch of equally powerful covers. Nell Bryden’s “Sirens” sounds tailor-made for Cher’s signature pipes, and her take on Miley Cyrus’ “I Hope You Find It” brings an appropriate world-weariness to the song. These moments round out and give a satisfying emotional depth to what turns out to be one of Cher’s most engaging albums, a strong collection of pop tunes the world would be wise to pick up.
Idolator Score: 4/5
— John Hamilton
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