LOS ANGELES (AP) — There isn’t much Cher hasn’t done in her career. She’s achieved EGOT status, she’s the only artist to have a No. 1 song in each of the past six decades — heck, she’s got her own gelato business, Cherlato. But a Christmas album? That’s new territory.
So, why now?
“I just didn’t want to do one,” she told The Associated Press. “I didn’t know how I was going to make it a ‘Cher Christmas album.’”
The secret, of course, was to lean into the incredible eclecticism of her career, all while avoiding the sleepy, saccharine pitfalls of a “Silent Night” -heavy holiday release.
Her first new album in five years, the appropriately titled “Christmas,” releases Friday. In some ways, it required Cher to find her voice again. She hadn’t sang since a March 12, 2020, performance in Oklahoma City was canceled when a Utah Jazz basketball player tested positive for the coronavirus.
So she called up her vocal teacher, “Adrienne Angel, who’s 96, who came out and hung with me and we worked every day.”
“And then I went to the mic and I was able to sing,” she says. “I have very young vocal cords.”
On “Christmas,” Cher enlists an all-star list of collaborators. There’s Cyndi Lauper on “Put A Little Holiday In Your Heart,” Stevie Wonder on “What Christmas Means to Me,” Darlene Love on “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home),” Michael Bublé on “Home,” and even the rapper Tyga on “Drop Top Sleigh Ride” — you read that last one correctly.
But working with others in this way is something she says she’s never done before. When you’re Cher, do you really need a featured voice?
“Well, with Darlene, I wasn’t going to sing her song without her,” she says of the song they first sang together 60 years ago on “A Christmas Gift for You From Phil Spector.”
“With Stevie, I did the song, I loved the song, but there were just things I couldn’t do, that were just Stevie,” she says. “So, I called him and just said, ‘Stevie, I’ve done it. I’m pretty proud of it. But there are things I can’t do, and I need you.’”
“I was still trying to sell him when he’d already said yes,” she says. “At some point he asked me, ‘Is this my song?’ And I went, ‘You think I could call you to ask you to sing on someone else’s song?’”
Alexander Edwards, Cher’s romantic partner and a credited producer on the project, is best friends with Tyga, who helped make the most unexpected and delightful collaboration happen.
“Christmas” is dedicated to Cher’s late mother, Georgia Holt, who died just before the holidays last year. But don’t mistake this album as therapy — the act of reclaiming Christmas in the face of loss, or a way to memorialize Holt.
“I think about my mom all the time,” she says. She doesn’t need an album to remind her of her mom; her mom is everywhere.
“I don’t have a bit of regret that my mom is gone because my mom was such a vibrant woman and she didn’t like what was going on in her life,” she adds.
Cher says her mom sends her messages all the time — like recently when she rediscovered a huge plate she made her mom, flipped it over, and read what it said: “Dear mom, I love you, Merry Christmas.”
“And it was like, ‘Mom, you’re just not going to leave me alone, are you?’” she says.
In addition to the album, Cher is preparing to release a 25th anniversary edition of her Grammy-winning album “Believe” on Nov. 3. Its title track is credited as the first use of autotune — though, as she recalls, it was termed a “pitch machine” at the time.
She was arguing with her longtime producer Mark Taylor about the track, and he brought up the new technology.
“It started and it was like, ‘Oh my God, this is the best thing ever.’ And I thought, ‘You don’t even know it’s me. This is the best thing ever.’ And then we high fived,” she recounts.
But don’t mistake an openness to technology and musical innovation as an openness to artificial intelligence.
Of the technology, Cher is quick to say: “Not AI. Someone did me doing a Madonna song and it was kind of shocking. They didn’t have it down perfectly. But also, I’ve spent my entire life trying to be myself, and now these a——- are going to go take it? And they’ll do my acting and they’ll do my singing?”
“I’m telling you, if you work forever to become somebody — and I’m not talking about somebody in the famous, money part — but an artist, and then someone just takes it from you, it seems like it should be illegal,” she adds.
For those keeping count: It is also the 35th anniversary of Cher winning the best actress Oscar for her role in “Moonstruck.” When asked if she will act again, she’s quick to point out the necessity of a resolution to the ongoing Hollywood actors strike.
She was asked to do a special, she says.
“They said, ‘Well, we can do it in England.’ I said, ‘We can do it on the moon, but I’m not doing it,'” she says, not until an agreement is reached.
Spoken like, well, Cher.