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Cher on Making Her First Holiday Record: ‘I Had No Intention of Doing a Christmas Album’ (Exclusive)

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In her six-decade-long career, Cher has done many things, including sell more than 100 million records worldwide, star in a multitude of hit movies, land a No. 1 single on one of Billboard’s charts in each decade from the 1960s through the 2010s and win an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy and three Golden Globe Awards.

But on Oct. 20, she’ll accomplish a new first: she’ll release Christmas, her first holiday album. 

“I had no intention of doing a Christmas album,” Cher admits to Billboard with her typical candor. “But [Warner Records] said, ‘Why don’t you do a Christmas album, Cher?’ and I said if I can do my version I’ll do it, and they were very pleasant.”

Doing her version meant staying away from some of the more overdone holiday standards. “Everybody’s gotten ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ and ‘Jingle Bells’ and all that,” she says. “I just said to them, ‘There will be Christmas songs and they’ll be appropriate, but I want to do what I feel.’”

“She’s made not just a Christmas album, but an incredible Christmas album that will rival and sit alongside the great Christmas albums of all time,” says Tom Corson, Warner Records co-chairman and COO. As Cher began playing him tracks over the summer, Corson says he felt “excitement and joy and the feeling of Christmas coming six months early. It’s quality from top to bottom.”

Christmas, Cher’s first new studio album in 10 years, features 13 songs, including four originals. Produced by her longtime producer Mark Taylor, the set includes the legend’s interpretations of “Santa Baby,” “Run Rudolph Run” and “Please Come Home For Christmas.”

Additionally, Stevie Wonder joins her for a remake of “What Christmas Means to Me,” which he originally released in 1967; she and Michael Buble´ recreate his 2005 hit, “Home”; Cher and Cyndi Lauper collaborate on “Put a Little Holiday in Your Heart,” Tyga raps (Cher does not) on original “Drop Top Sleigh Ride” and, sentimentally, Cher and Darlene Love reunite for “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)” 60 years after a 17-year old Cher made her debut singing backing vocals on the Phil Spector-produced classic. 

The other originals are upbeat dance twirlers “DJ Play A Christmas Song,” which dropped as the first single at midnight (Oct. 6) and reunites Cher with the famous autotune sound she deployed on “Believe,” and “Angels in the Snow, as well as the bluesy “I Like Christmas.”

“They’re not ‘Christmas Christmas’ songs, OK, they’re just great songs,” Cher says. “And I never say that because I almost never like what I do. But I mean people love it and I’m happy. I’m so particular, but I love the songs and everyone who hears them loves them.”

Her excitement is so great that she volunteers to play “DJ Play a Christmas Song” over the phone during the interview and raves about the song’s co-writer, Sarah Hudson, who also co-wrote “Angels in the Snow” and “Drop Top Sleigh Ride.” 

“I’ve known her father, [songwriter] Mark Hudson, for a million years,” she says. “I didn’t even know she’s a writer. I’ve known her since she was three of four years old, so that was great for me. I’m really thrilled about that.”

She was also thrilled to reunite with Love, with whom she’s stayed in touch all these decades. Love even toured with Cher as a background vocalist on the 1989-1990 Heart of Stone tour. 

In the liner notes, she thanks Love, writing: “Singing with you – ‘one of the greatest singers ever’ – is a special kind of miracle. Just think, I was l7 when I sang background on this song… I’m still so in awe of you!  Now we’ve come full circle.”

Cher called Love out of the blue to suggest the remake. “Very rarely do I get a chance to talk to her on the phone, I usually talk to her in person somewhere when we run into each other,” Love tells Billboard. “And she said, ‘Hey, doll!’ I hadn’t talked to her in so long I said, ‘This is who?’ and she said ‘Cher, b–ch!’” Love says, bursting into laughter. “I was so humbled that she wanted to sing, ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’ with me. Between the two of us, I don’t know who was more excited.”

Love recorded her part in New York, singing the song all the way through as lead vocalist and also tracking a version with her singing with backing vocals, and sent it to Taylor. The result is a high-octane duet with both Love and Cher belting out the yearning lyrics. “There are parts in the song when sing together and I’m hitting high notes and she goes right there with me. Cher’s voice has not changed in the smallest bit, it is still so powerful,” Love says. “I think everybody is going to be shocked and surprised because it really came out fantastic. Not that I didn’t think it would, but the song is 60 years old. I’m 82. Cher is [77].”

Warner Bros. is already working on licensing songs from the album for film and TV. “Synch opportunities are at the top of our list. We’re already getting great feedback from places like Hallmark and other networks and other people that really want to include it,” Corson says. “We expect it to be not just for this year, but an annual synch opportunity.”

Christmas won’t be the only release fans get from Cher this year. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of Believe, her 1998 album that spawned the huge electro-pop hit of the same name, Warner Records will release a deluxe edition that encompasses three LPs or two CDs on Nov. 3. 

The deluxe edition includes the original album plus 13 remastered remixes including Tee’s Radio One and Ray Roc’s Latin Soul instrumentals of “Dov’e l’Amore” together in one package for the first time. The original album, produced by Taylor, sold more than 11 million copies worldwide, according to the label. The title track, which was Billboard’s No. 1 song of 1999, went to No. 1 in 23 countries. 

Cher concluded her last major tour in 2005 and a Las Vegas residency in 2011, but she has been contemplating playing live again. She says she recently said to Taylor that she’d like to do a concert of her favorite songs. In turn, he suggested a concert for the Christmas album, which she nixed. But when asked if there’s a possibility of another tour, she says, “Well, I don’t know. Look, if I do a concert, there’s gonna be a tour behind it. I’m working really hard right now. I’m training, like, unbelievably. So I’m training and singing at the same time, which is always fun,” she says sarcastically. “So I’m working on it.”

There will be no concert to celebrate the Believe reissue because she says she wouldn’t be ready, but also because her immediate calendar is filled with a project that is sure to delight fans:  “I have another album to do right after this,” she says.

Christmas track listing:

1 DJ Play A Christmas Song
2 What Christmas Means To Me (with Stevie Wonder)
3 Run Rudolph Run   
4 Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home) (with Darlene Love)
5 Angels In The Snow
6 Home (with Michael Bublé)
7 Drop Top Sleigh Ride (with Tyga)
8 Please Come Home For Christmas  
9 I Like Christmas 
10 Christmas Ain’t Christmas Without You 
11 Santa Baby   
12 Put A Little Holiday In Your Heart (with Cyndi Lauper)
13 This Will Be Our Year  

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