Rewinding the Charts: 'Believe' It, Cher Took Auto-Tune to No. 1 in 1999
Before T-Pain and Kanye, Cher introduced the technology to the masses – and the top of the Hot 100.
Twenty-five years after she had last topped the Billboard Hot 100, Cher scored her fourth No. 1 with "Believe" on March 13, 1999 -- setting the record for the longest gap between first-place finishes on the chart.
The California native's career began in the 1960s as a backup singer on a number of Phil Spector-produced recordings, but she found real fame as one-half of the husband-and-wife duo Sonny & Cher. The pair claimed five top 10 Hot 100 singles during a near-decade of hits, including the No. 1 "I Got You Babe" in 1965.
After she navigated a messy divorce in the mid-1970s, Cher emerged as a solo star. She tallied a total of 11 top 10 hits through 1988 and won the Academy Award for best actress for 1987's Moonstruck.
"Believe," which famously asks, "Do you believe in life after love?," was one of the earliest pop smashes to feature Auto-Tune and pitch correction for vocal effect. After watching British singer-songwriter Andrew Roachford perform with a vocoder, Cher asked co-producer Mark Taylor to introduce a similar element to "Believe," and he tinkered with the studio's pitch machine to achieve the song's robotic-sounding vocal.
Cher was satisfied, but she encountered another hurdle in her record label, who hesitated to release a song that masked the star's recognizable voice. Her reply, per The New York Times in 1999? "You can change that part of it, over my dead body. And that was the end of the discussion."
"Believe" made Cher, then 52, the oldest woman to reach No. 1 on the Hot 100 - a record she still holds today. It also became the top song of 1999 and won a Grammy Award for best dance recording.
Cher continues to record, tour and act. She currently stars in the ongoing residency Classic Cher, with dates in Las Vegas and Washington, D.C. Plus, the diva will return to the silver screen in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, a sequel to the 2008 hit musical film. The movie, set for release on July 20, 2018 in U.S. theaters, marks her first on-screen role since 2010.