Cher's career in a way reflects the key trend in the contemporary music industry: long-established artists maintaining an older audience picked up over their careers whilst also seeing the digital revolution helping them to gain a younger, secondary audience.
Cher is notorious for her drastic usage of plastic surgery to defy the aging process, becoming the oldest woman, at 52, to reach no.1 in the contemporary charts with 1998's "Believe". Her work, her very body, is highly contestible, and would evoke radically different responses from a feminist and a post-feminist, arguments we looked at with Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" video. Her hyper-femininity being achieved through such artificial means also brings to mind Judith Butler's provocative concept of the performativity of gender: the idea that gender does not exist in nature, but is simply a concept we learn to apply and 'perform'. This has made Butler an important thinker within 'queer theory', but could also help explain why Cher has attained iconic status within the gay community.
(This last phrase, gay community, itself contains ideological values: are all gay people the same (homogenous)?! Our language, especially as expressed through our media, are constantly loaded with subtle value judgements we tend to think little about. When an idea is seen as common sense; that it would be ridiculous to even question it, we say that it has achieved hegemonic status ... a concept we'll explore in more detail later in A2)Over her long career Cher has created some hallmark singles:
- 1989's "If I Could Turn Back Time" was instantly banned by MTV for her risque criss-crossed belts costume (and features unsubtle phallic imagery: Cher sits astride the long artillery barrels [here we've just applied some basic Freudian psychoanalysis, a common approach within Media and especially Film Studies]). The ambiguity of her gender performance, to use Butler's concept, is seen in the juxtaposition of her feminine long hair and thickly applied make-up, plus her semi-nude attire (Laura Mulvey's male gaze...), with her tattoos and manly biker's jacket. The heterosexual eroticism of the video, however, is somewhat undermined by the campness of the 'in the navy' backdrop!
- 1998's "Believe" brought the vocoder into mainstream pop, later to be (ab)used by the likes of Victoria Beckham. This intentionally distorts the voice, creating a robotic, mechanistic effect - not to be confused with auto-tuning, source of a recent X Factor scandal, which computer processes any voice to put it into the correct key and essentially can make any terrible singer sound quite good and in tune! Again, Cher's physicality is key to the video. The nightclub setting also takes on a camp aspect, as does her headdress, which helps her appeal not just to a mainstream pop audience but also a gay audience. Explicitly referencing gay culture has been a strategy used to gain greater credibility by Madonna as well, who, for example, took 'voguing' from gay clubs onto MTV and into mainstream consciousness, and has worked with provocative gay artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe. (He caused huge controversy with works such as 'Piss Christ'; using such an artist helps Madonna render his edginess as part of her image)
WALKING IN MEMPHIS
Black and white is used to affect a timeless, classic feel, with the shots of the diner, seemingly featuring a youthful Cher, signifying the 50s, a period many Americans look to with real affection: this was pre-Vietnam War, and seen as a golden age when there seemed to be a clear set of universal values. This is a fantasy, but a powerful one. Weezer's "Buddy Holly" is a great example of a postmodern text which reflects this: it plants the band inside footage from Happy Days, a 70s TV show which affectionately reconstructed the 50s featuring a 90s band! Its a good example of director Spike Jonze's style (and is featured on the 2DVD set of his work now in the Library and available to loan!).
Its not often I'll embed anything related to the loutish Mr Moyles, but here's an example of the technology in action
There is a vid which humorously demo's the vocoder effect, but ...: CONTAINS USE OF STRONG LANGUAGE (fairly typical contemporary hiphop badinage): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=234v_apCQO4