Dancing Queen (Warner)
You need major star power or major balls to tackle an album of ABBA covers. Thankfully Cherilyn Sarkisian has both. In spades.
After stealing the Mamma Mia film sequel in a matter of minutes, she clearly got the taste for Cher-ifying some of the best pop songs in history.
Here we go. Dancing Queen sounds pretty much like the original, because why would you change perfection?
Cher has one of the most identifiable voices in pop culture, with or without the now trademark Auto-Tune, that surfaced in Believe 20 years ago.
That button gets a work out on Cher’s take on Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! — where ABBA’s 1979 disco banger is given a modern tweak.
SOS is another that takes advantage of production innovations since 1975 — a lot has happened in pop since ABBA’s golden years.
Waterloo now sounds like Goldfrapp at Eurovision. It’s good to hear Cher singing — and being Auto-Tuned — over a live band again on Mamma Mia.One of ABBA’s most underrated singles, The Name of the Game is given a deep bass groove and Cher handles both Agnetha and Anna-Frid’s vocal parts, playing call and response in the chorus with herself.
Chiquitita fully commits to a Latin vibe, Fernando re-uses the Benny Andersson production from the movie soundtrack and while it sounds fantastic, it’s virtually identical to the original, which is why producer Mark Taylor (Believe) was needed to stop this being just celebrity karaoke.
The Winner Takes it All is stunning; the perfect example of speeding up a ballad without desecrating the original, and Cher knows how to deliver ABBA’s most personal hit — it’s now relationship murder on the dancefloor. If only Cher had done it as a duet with her Mamma Mia mate Meryl Streep.
The reverse works on another divorce post-mortem, One of Us, stripping back the 1981 beats to become a 2018 torch ballad with a true powerhouse vocal bursting with 72 years of emotion and experience. The campest album ever made? /CAMERON ADAMS
Try this if you like: A-Teens, Erasure
THE LIVING END
The Living End have always been political, willing to throw the first punch. Their eighth album blazes on Don’t Lose It and Drop the Needle. Chris Cheney and Co. are full of vitality and vitriol on Death of the American Dream and Wake Up the Vampires, railing against governments with vested interests. Otherside joins a Blue Oyster Cult; Not Like Other Boys is a crisp pop cut where Cheney’s voice does as it pleases. It’s The Living End, back as we know and like them./ MIKEY CAHILL
Try this if you like: The Stray Cats, The Choirboys
Piano & A Microphone 1983 (Warner)
Long bootlegged, this is now the first official posthumous Prince album — which ties into how fans saw him on his final tour. It’s 1983, he’s on the cusp of superstardom, after 1999 and before Purple Rain, rehearsing on piano. The audio isn’t perfect, but you get an early sketch of Purple Rain as well as 17 Days (the b-side of When Doves Cry) and Strange Relationship from Sign O’ the Times. There are some unreleased songs in the session — Wednesday was nearly on Purple Rain — and while he probably never wanted this heard, it’s an intimate glimpse of a genius at work. Now, what’s next? / CAMERON ADAMS
Try this if you like: Kate Bush, Maxwell
Melbourne rapper, singer and Uber Eats driver Ryland Rose makes music somewhere between KiD CuDi, Drake and Allday. With this sequel to 2017’s Almost Famous & Broke, he amplifies his engaging persona, again defying hyper-macho posturing (or cloud rap nihilism) for wryly relatable songs about the anxieties of lowkey getting by. On the lyrical Unfinished In November, the indie star drolly raps, “I flew Tiger for a tour.” Dork is musically gratifying, too, with producer JakeOnKeys favouring intricate, melodic synthscapes over any formulaic trap ‘n’ trop. And, yes, Dork has more hooky bangers like the single Blindfold – starting with Turn Up Feeling, Pt 2. /CYCLONE WEHNER
Try this if you like: Drake, G-Eazy, KIDS SEE GHOSTS