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20 Years Of Cher's 'Believe' And Its Auto-Tune Legacy

Cher's dance anthem "Believe" was released 20 years ago this month. Rick Stewart/Getty hide caption

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Rick Stewart/Getty

Cher's dance anthem "Believe" was released 20 years ago this month.

Rick Stewart/Getty

Believe it or not, Cher's dance anthem "Believe" has just turned 20 years old. The song, released on Oct. 22, 1998, kicked off a Cher renaissance, cemented her role as a pop icon and popularized a controversial fixture of pop music today — Auto-Tune.

It could've easily been simply a gimmick; instead, Auto-Tune became a very prominent tool in a lot of pop, R&B and hip-hop production. There's a long history of artists using different vocal modifications, but in the past, producers aimed to keep those alterations disguised. Instead of using effects in hopes that the audience wouldn't notice — just to make a vocal a little cleaner, clearer and more on pitch — "Believe" brings the Auto-Tune front and center.

Auto-Tune sounds like digital stretching or flexing, as you hear a singer kind of slide up and down the register in a way that doesn't sound natural. And though the tactic is used seemingly arbitrarily in today's pop soundscape, the impetus for music's infatuation with Auto-Tune can be traced back to Cher's dance pop song from 20 years ago. The deliberate distortion of her vocals could have been perceived as a gimmick, but, decades later, the success behind "Believe" lives on.


Correction Oct. 23, 2018

In the audio of this story, we incorrectly say that Imogen Heap used Auto-Tune in her song "Hide and Seek." She actually used a Vocoder.


Cher's 'Believe' Still Rips

Twenty years ago, a new world record was set: At 52, Cher became the oldest woman ever to top the Billboard charts with the single "Believe," off her twenty-second record, also called Believe. It was a breakout hit, a wildly successful renaissance for a woman who first became a star with a sugary husband-wife singing duo in the '60s. It was a watershed moment if there ever was one in pop radio, which tends toward misogyny and ageism, and it transformed Cher from simply famous to basically immortal. Two decades later, "Believe" continues to slap.

It remains among the biggest singles of all time, having sold more than 11 million copies worldwide, but it's the irony-free longevity of "Believe" that truly stands out. Just shy of four minutes, the trancelike house beat bangs under the soaring melody and lyrics about not needing any garbage man after a rough breakup. Do you believe?? In life??? After love???? For as many times as the chorus repeats itself, it only gets catchier, leading up to the repeating "I don't need you anymore" bridge line, exploding into a full-on fist-pumping empowerment anthem before gently fading out, providing the perfect template to listen to "Believe" over and over and over again without a hitch. (Here is a playlist of "Believe" 100 times for all the Believers out there.) "Believe" was the first song I remember having a strong enough opinion about to cause an argument with my mom (I said it was good; she said it was bad). We'd have had none of this if not for Cher's "Believe," which, once again, absolutely smacks, no offense, Mom. Only a few songs over time can literally change the way music sounds going forward, and "Believe" did it.

Its origin story is fairly standard in its collaborative nature -- the vast majority of radio-ready songs have at least a handful of people working on them to achieve pop perfection -- except that "Believe" took a braintrust of six songwriters over 10 years to make. It began life as a demo with a "great chorus" (but was a "terrible song"), which got shopped around to major female pop artists, who all passed.

The shelved version eventually landed in Cher's lap. Warner Bros. was pushing her to follow in the dance-pop footsteps of Madonna's 1998 hit Ray of Light after Cher's 1995 record, It's a Man's World, failed with critics and barely cracked the pop charts. The demo was ripped away from its original writer, who, as Warner Music UK's then-president Rob Dickins said, had "done no justice to [his] own song," and given to new producers who, by an inspired mistake, introduced Auto-Tune to Cher's voice. Only after several beers did the new songwriters have the guts to show Cher, notoriously a taker of no bullshit, her synthetic vocal track; she was immediately convinced of the song's strength. "Don't let anyone touch this track, or I'm going to rip your throat out," she told one of the producers when the label was trying to negotiate toning down the robotically smoothing artificiality of the Auto-Tune.

Within a few years, Auto-Tune went from a brand-new, somewhat embarrassing pitch-correcting technology producers wanted to keep under wraps to a common proper noun that any kid can use as a preset effect on GarageBand. The signature pitch-perfect slide from one note to another on "Believe" became known as "the Cher effect." Kanye West has thanked her for Auto-Tune. T-Pain's love-hate relationship with it gave him his signature style that, years later, inspired him to go Auto-Tune free to be crowned winner of The Masked Singer. At one point, purists came out to decry its pervasiveness in pop music as "Auto-Tune abuse." It's pervaded nearly every popular song since "Believe," whether you know it or not.

Then there's the video, which features Cher switching between roles as a clubgoer and bewitching stage singer, a spirit guide of sorts to a woman who's being cheated on by a white boy in dreads. The production isn't a feat, but it is unforgettable: The green lights ricocheting off of whatever Cher's giftbag plasticine headpiece is; the undeniably millenium-y, Matrix-y vibe; the tight crop to her elated singing face shaded as modern chiaroscuro caught on camera to impeccable beats. In the way that Cher's perfect Twitter account and unearthed archival interviews about not needing men at all, watching "Believe" makes you want to sidle up to Cher's dance circle in hopes she'll extend an arm that invites you to join in dancing off whatever hurts. 

The legacy of "Believe" is more than Auto-Tune, which was merely the perfect vehicle for Cher's voice to demonstrate the burgeoning engineering technology's possibilities, and a memorable video. As a woman whose career has many inflections -- she's three-quarters of the way to an EGOT (just needs that Tony), on top of being a fashion and pop culture icon -- the breakout of Believe was hugely important for her current status in the public consciousness. But it also tragically aligned with the death of her ex-husband and stage partner, Sonny Bono, who died in January of 1998 as the result of a skiing accident. (Believe was released in October of the same year; in March 1999, "Believe," hit Number 1 on the Billboard charts.)

Unfortunate timing be damned, "Believe" revitalized a career that had been treading water. Cher reached a new generation of fans and, as it became a club staple, turned her into a gay icon back when Lady Gaga was still doing high school musicals. In the same year, she performed the "Star Spangled Banner" at the Super Bowl, got a greatest hits record that went certified gold, and sold out every American date of The Do You Believe? Tour, which ran for 121 shows in total (40 were abroad). Just last year, she made a surprise performance in Mama Mia! Here We Go Again, and released a companion record of ABBA cover songs. She even has a freaking self-titled Broadway musical that spans her entire career.

But this isn't about everything that's followed; it's about "Believe." Go ahead, put it on right now. Put it on a hundred times!! I personally guarantee you will be sucked into the vortex, arms as wide as Cher's in the music video for "Believe," unable to avoid singing along, powerless to free yourself from its earworminess. There aren't many pop songs that command you to submit fully without eventually wanting to tear your own head off, but "Believe" does. Maybe "Believe" is the only one. And, as I've already said, "Believe" still rips.

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Leanne Butkovic (@leanbutk) is an entertainment editor at Thrillist. 

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Believe (Cher song)

1998 single by Cher

"Life After Love" redirects here. For the extended plays, see Victoria Monét. For the film, see Life After Love (film).

1998 single by Cher

"Believe" is a song recorded by American singer and actress Cher for her twenty-second studio albumBelieve (1998). Preceding the album release by three days, "Believe" debuted as the lead single on October 19, 1998. "Believe" was written by Brian Higgins, Stuart McLennen, Paul Barry, Steven Torch, Matthew Gray, Timothy Powell and Cher, and was produced by Mark Taylor and Brian Rawling. "Believe" departed from Cher's pop rock style of the time, adopting an upbeat dance-pop style. It featured a pioneering use of the audio processing software Auto-Tune to distort Cher's vocals, which was widely imitated and became known as the "Cher effect". The lyrics describe empowerment and self-sufficiency after a painful breakup.

"Believe" topped the charts of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, the Republic of Ireland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It earned Cher a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest female solo artist to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart and became the highest-selling single by a solo female artist in the United Kingdom. "Believe" is one of the best-selling singles, with sales of over 11 million copies worldwide.[2] Reviewers praised its production and catchiness and named it one of Cher's most important releases. It was nominated for the Grammy Award for Record of the Year and won Best Dance Recording.

The music video, directed by Nigel Dick, has Cher performing in a nightclub. Cher has performed the song a number of times, including four of her concert tours, most recently the Here We Go Again Tour in 2018. It has been covered by a number of artists, and has been featured in several elements of popular culture. Scholars and academics noted the way in which Cher was able to re-invent herself and remain fresh and contemporary amidst the more teen pop-based music of the period. They also credited "Believe" for restoring Cher's popularity and cementing her position as a pop culture icon.


A demo of "Believe", written by Brian Higgins, Matthew Gray, Stuart McLennen and Timothy Powell, circulated at Warner Records for months. According to producer Mark Taylor, "everyone loved the chorus but not the rest of the song". Warner chairman Rob Dickins asked the production house Dreamhouse to work on the song. Taylor said their goal was to make a Cher dance record without alienating her fans.[3] Two more writers, Steve Torch and Paul Barry, joined and completed a version that Dickens and Cher were happy with."[3]

Though she is not credited as a songwriter,[4] Cher said she contributed the lines 'I need time to move on, I need love to be strong / I've had time to think it through and maybe I'm too good for you". According to Cher, "I was singing [the song] in the bathtub, and it seemed to me the second verse was too whiny. It kind of pissed me off, so I changed it. I toughened it up a bit."[5]


"Believe" was recorded in mid-1998 in Kingston upon Thames, West London, at the Dreamhouse studio operated by Metro Productions. It was assembled with Cubase VST on an early model Power Macintosh G3, with synthesizers including a Clavia Nord Rack and an Oberheim Matrix 1000. Cher's vocals were recorded on three TASCAM DA-88 digital audio recorders with a Neumann U67 microphone.[3][6]

The effects on Cher's vocals were achieved using the pitch correction software Auto-Tune. Auto-Tune was designed to be used subtly to correct sharp or flat notes in vocal performances; however, Taylor used extreme settings to create unnaturally rapid corrections, thereby removing portamento, the natural slide between pitches in singing.[7] Taylor said it was "the most nerve-wracking part of the project, because I wasn't sure what Cher would say when she heard what I'd done to her voice".[3] Cher approved of the effect and insisted it remain when Warner wanted it to be removed.[6] In an attempt to protect their method, the producers initially claimed it was achieved using a vocoder.[7] The effect was widely imitated and became known as the "Cher effect".[7]


"Believe" is a dance-pop song.[8][9] It contains uncredited samples of "Prologue" & "Epilogue" performed by the Electric Light Orchestra.[10] The track was recorded in the key of F♯ major with a tempo of 133 beats per minute. The song follows a chord progression of F♯–C♯–G♯m–B–F♯–A♯m7–G♯m–D♯m, and Cher's vocal range spans from the low note of F♯3 to the high note of C♯5.[11]


A 15-second sample of "Believe". It is noted for its use of a sound effect on the vocals (using the then newly invented Auto-Tune software), which became known as the "Cher effect".

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Critical reception[edit]

Bill Lamb from said that the song is a "perfect piece of dance-pop".[9]AllMusic editor Joe Viglione called "Believe" a "pop masterpiece, one of the few songs to be able to break through the impenetrable wall of late 1990s fragmented radio to permeate the consciousness of the world at large."[12] Michael Gallucci gave a lukewarm review, writing that the Believe album is an "endless, and personality-free, thump session".[13]Chuck Taylor from Billboard said that it is "the best darn thing that Cher has recorded in years". He added, "Some songs are so natural, so comfortably sung, that you wonder that somebody didn't think them up decades before. With this, you'll be whirling around the floor, tapping hard on the accelerator to "Believe," a simple ode to those feelings that we all search out and cling to. Cher is just a prize here; even her hardy detractors will be fighting the beat on this one."[14]Matt Stopera and Brian Galindo from BuzzFeed noted it as "iconic".[15]Damon Albarn, frontman of the bands Blur and Gorillaz, called the song "brilliant".[16]Entertainment Weekly described the song as "poptronica glaze, the soon-to-be club fave..." and noted Cher's voice as "unmistakable".[17] Tom Ewing from Freaky Trigger wrote that "Believe" "is a record in the "I Will Survive" mode of embattled romantic defiance – a song to make people who've lost out in love feel like they're the winners." He added that "it's remarkable that it took someone until 1998 to come up with "do you believe in life after love?", and perhaps even more remarkable that it wasn't Jim Steinman, but the genius of the song is how aggressive and righteous Cher makes it sound."[18]

Deborah Wilker from Knight Ridder said that "her electronically altered vocal" on "Believe" "is like nothing she's ever done."[19]Knight Ridder also described the song as "present-tense disco, with Cher an anthemic, Madonna manqué."[20]New York Daily News described the song as a "club track so caffeinated, it not only microwaved her cold career to scorching-hot but gave dance music its biggest hit since the days of disco."[21] They also noted the song's "killer hook and amazing beat."[22]Neil Strauss from The New York Times wrote that "the verses are rich and bittersweet, with the added gimmick of breaking up Cher's voice through an effect that makes her sound robotic. And the choruses are catchy and uplifting, with Cher wailing, "Do you believe in life after love?" All of it bounces over a bed of 80s-style electronic pop. It is a song with a universal theme—a woman trying to convince herself that she can survive a breakup".[23] Another editor, Jim Sullivan noted the track as a "hooky, defiant, beat-fest of a song".[24] Bob Waliszewski of Plugged In said that Cher "musters self-confidence to deal with a failed romance".[25]Robert Christgau highlighted "Believe" as the best song on the album.[26] Dave Fawbert from ShortList described "Believe" as a "really great pop song with, as ever, an absolute powerhouse vocal performance from Cher".[27]

Chart performance[edit]

Cher performing "Believe" on the WKTU's "Miracle on 34th Street" show in New York Cityon December 11, 1998.

The song, recorded and released in 1998, peaked at number one in 21 countries worldwide.[28] On January 23, 1999, it reached the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 and reached number one on the chart on March 13, making Cher the oldest female artist (at the age of 52) to perform this feat.[29] Cher also set the record for the longest gap between number-one singles on the Hot 100; there was a gap of 33 years and 7 months between her singles "I Got You Babe" and "Believe" reaching number one.[30] "Believe" was ranked as the number-one song of 1999 by "Billboard" on both the "Billboard" Hot 100 and Hot Dance Club Play charts and became the biggest single in her entire career.

In the United Kingdom, "Believe" debuted at the top of the UK Singles Chart on October 25, 1998 – for the week ending date October 31, 1998[31] – ahead of "Outside" by George Michael. It became Cher's fourth number one in the UK and remained at the top of the chart for seven consecutive weeks until it was dethroned by "To You I Belong" by B*Witched. "Believe" become Britain's biggest-selling song of 1998, and won its writers three Ivor Novello Awards (for Best Selling UK Single, for Best Song Musically and Lyrically, and for International Hit of the Year) at the 1999 ceremony.[32] On July 30, 2021, "Believe" was certified Quadruple Platinum by the British Phonographic Industry. As of October 2017, the song has sold 1,830,000 copies in Britain, making it the biggest-selling song by a woman on the UK Singles Chart.[33]

The success of the song not only expanded through each country's singles chart, but also most countries' dance charts. In the United States "Believe" spent 15 weeks on the U.S. Hot Dance Club Play chart, five of those weeks at number one, and 22 weeks on the European Hot Dance Charts. "Believe" also set a record in 1999 after spending 21 weeks in the top spot of the Billboard Hot Dance Singles Sales chart, it was still in the top ten even one year after its entry on the chart.[34] On October 13, 2008, the song was voted number 10 on Australian VH1's Top 10 Number One Pop Songs countdown. "Believe" was nominated for Record of the Year and Best Dance Recording at 42nd Grammy Awards, the latter of which it won.[35][36] Peter Rauhofer (Club 69) won the Grammy Award in 2000 for Best Remixer of the Year for his remix of Cher's "Believe".

Music video[edit]

The official music video for "Believe", directed by Nigel Dick, features Cher in a nightclub in a double role as a singer on stage while wearing a glowing headdress and as a supernatural being in a cage (with auto-tuned voice) surrounded by many people to whom she is giving advice. The video largely revolves around a woman who is in the club looking for her boyfriend and is heartbroken when she sees him with another woman. The version on The Very Best of Cher: The Video Hits Collection is slightly different from the previous version (the version that is also included on the Mallay Believe Bonus VCD) with additional scenes towards the end that were not in the original video. There are also two 'rough' versions of the video as the song was released in Europe before a video was completed. The first is a compilation of scenes from the videos of Cher's previous singles "One by One" and "Walking in Memphis" and the second includes a brief scene of the "Believe" video where Cher sings the chorus while the rest of the video is composed of scenes from "One by One".

Three official remix videos exist for this song. Two of the remix videos were created by Dan-O-Rama in 1999. Both follow different concepts from the original unmixed video. Instead of showing the significance of the lyrics the videos mostly show Cher with different colored backgrounds and people dancing. The two remixes used for these videos were the Almighty Definitive Mix and the Club 69 Phunk Club Mix. The third video entitled Wayne G. Remix was released by Warner Bros. and the concept is similar to the Club 69 Phunk Club Mix video.

Billboard music critic Chuck Taylor in March 1999 graded the video a "C", praising Cher's appearance and hairstyle but criticizing "an unnecessary subplot about a few kids stalking each other."[37]

Live performances[edit]

Cher performed the song during the Do You Believe?, The Farewell Tour, Cher at the Colosseum and the Dressed to Kill Tour. While she would lip-sync the entire song on various television programs, she would only lip-sync the synthesized verses when performing on her Believe and Farewell tours, the Colosseum shows and on the 2002 edition of VH1 Divas Live. Since 1999, the song has been the encore to all of Cher's concerts until her 2014 Dressed to Kill Tour, where the encore is the ballad "I Hope You Find It", a second single from her 25th studio album Closer to the Truth.[38] It returned as the encore at her Classic Cher (2017-2020) shows and stayed in that place for the Here We Go Again Tour (2018-2020) as well.


VH1 placed "Believe" at number 60 in their list of 100 Greatest Dance Songs in 2000[39] and at number 74 in their list of 100 Greatest Songs of the 90s in 2007.[40] In 2007, Rolling Stone placed "Believe" at No. 10 in their list of the "20 Most Annoying Songs"[41] In 2020, British national newspaper The Guardian ranked "Believe" as the 83rd greatest UK number one.[42]


(*) indicates the list is unordered.

Other versions[edit]

In December 2018 Adam Lambert performed a ballad version of Believe in honor of Cher during the 41st annual Kennedy Center Honors; the performance was highly acclaimed, with Cher stating that she was "at a loss for words" and was moved to tears.[57][58] On December 6, 2019, Lambert released a studio version of his version of 'Believe' which reached number 23 on the BillboardDigital Song Sales chart on December 21, 2019.[59][60]

Track listings[edit]

European and UK CD single (WEA175CD1)

  1. "Believe" – 3:58
  2. "Believe" (Almighty Definitive Mix) – 7:35
  3. "Believe" (Xenomania Mix) – 4:20

European and UK CD single (WEA175CD2)

  1. "Believe" – 3:58
  2. "Believe" (Grip's Heartbroken Mix) – 9:12
  3. "Believe" (Club 69 Future Mix) – 6:50

US CD maxi single (944576-2)

  1. "Believe" (album version) – 3:59
  2. "Believe" (Phat 'N' Phunky Club Mix) – 7:42
  3. "Believe" (Club 69 Phunk Club Mix) – 8:55
  4. "Believe" (Almighty Definitive Mix) – 7:36
  5. "Believe" (Xenomania Mad Tim and the Mekon Club Mix) – 9:15
  6. "Believe" (Club 69 Future Anthem Mix) – 9:20
  7. "Believe" (Grip's Heartbroken Mix) – 9:12
  8. "Believe" (Club 69 Future Anthem Dub) – 7:13
  9. "Believe" (Club 69 Phunk Dub) – 7:04
  10. "Believe" (Phat 'N' Phunky "After Luv" Dub) – 6:22

Credits and personnel[edit]

  • Timothy Powell – composition
  • Gypsyland – background vocals, guitar
  • Robin Smith – arranger
  • Adam Phillips – additional guitars
  • Ryan Art – designer
  • Michael Lavine – cover art photographer
  • Rob Dickins – executive production

Credits adapted from Believe album liner notes.


Certifications and sales[edit]

See also[edit]


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Cher - Believe [Official Music Video]

Directing it to graceful shoes. - Kiss my shoes. lick my feet.

Believe youtube cher

Feeling that I would soon finish, I left Lena, turned her around by the shoulders and forced her to kneel down in. Front of me, and apparently she already understood what they wanted from her and took a penis in her mouth herself. It took a few movements of her tongue and finished, sperm poured into her mouth, but I did not let her free and. She had to swallow.

I only released her when the last drop was in her mouth.

Cher - Believe [Official Video]

And then the fanfare began. On the one hand, ten fighters in cocoons entered the arena, on the other hand, me. One minute.

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Then they rolled over at the same time, and now two completely naked women were lying in front of me, seducing me with their breasts and pussies. I didnt know what to do, but I didnt want to leave either, impudently examining the naked bodies with my gaze. The first Zhenya could not resist.

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