Fresh off the worldwide success of her 1998 dance album Believe, Cher has done the unbelievable, at least by typical diva standards. Rather than immediately capitalize on her staggering comeback, she’s recorded an album so comfortably personal she’s titled it not.com.mercial. An Internet-only release, the deeply personal album features Cher writing and recording her own material for the first time in her three-and-a-half decade career. Topics addressed here by Ms. Cherilyn Sarkisian LaPier include homelessness, her brief time spent in a Catholic orphanage and her reflections on the death of Kurt Cobain. Fans of the more familiar side of Cher needn’t fret, though — her official follow-up to Believe will be in stores this spring, and her next movie project will find her playing, of all things, a world-famous diva.
You’ve described not.com.mercial as very un-Cher like. Why?
Well, oh God, I don’t know, because I’m not ever sure what un-Cher like is anymore. It’s just not very commercial sounding, and I think that most of my albums have always been at least been intended to be that way even if that wasn’t the final outcome. And this one there was no intent behind it — it’s kind of demos.
On “(The Fall) Kurt’s Blues,” you tackle the subject of Kurt Cobain’s suicide. How you were impacted by his death?
You know, I don’t know any of his music. And I don’t know how I was impacted; I only know I woke up one morning and Courtney Love was reading his suicide note on MTV, and I just felt bad. I didn’t even know him. I remember my son was really upset about his death, and just something about his suicide note made me feel bad for him. I just thought it was a weird thing that she was reading the note, which was something that was really private, over the TV.
You wrote most of the songs on this album, but there’s a song on here by Sonny Bono, “Classified 1-A,” that you had released before. Why did you put that out again now?
We put that song out in 1970 and no one would play it because they said it was un-American, because I’m singing the part of a soldier that’s in Vietnam dying and those are his last words. So no one ever got to hear it, so I just thought that would be a good thing [to include], because that wasn’t commercial either.
Why did you go with an Internet-only release?
Well, because I don’t know that it belongs any place else. I think that it’s something if people are Cher fans and they want to be into it, then maybe they’d like it. But I just really don’t think a lot of people are going to like it. I think that the Internet is a place that at least it doesn’t infringe on anyone else’s life and if you want to go there you can go there and check it out, and if you don’t want to be bothered by it you don’t even have to know it’s in the universe.
Do you yourself spend much time on the Web?
No, I’m not on it at all. I’m dyslexic. I can’t navigate shit there.
Do you anticipate trying to write more songs for the “official” follow-up to Believe?
No. I’ve got almost all the songs for the follow-up, and it’s the best material I’ve ever gotten. I have to kind of pinch myself to wonder how I got all these great songs. The music is coming from some very strange places — some Danish guys, some English guys, some Irish guys . . . and one of the guys from ZZ Top. We keep referring to the new album as “Son of Believe,” and it just makes me laugh so much because that’s what I keep calling it in my mind. It’s so great, I told this writer I almost broke my neck the other day because I have one of those shower things — you know those things you get at Sharper Image, the shower Disc Man — and I was dancing to the demo tape and I almost slipped and killed myself in the shower.
So you’d describe it as “up-tempo,” then?
It’s so fucking great. My favorite song so far is called “When the Money’s Gone.” And there’s a remake of this song that’s so obvious to make a remake of that when I told [producer] Rob Dickins I wanted to do it, he said “Cher, that is just so lame.” But the young guys that work for him, they didn’t even know the song and they thought it was just great, so they totally redid it and it sounds great. But I can’t tell you what it is. I can’t give it away.
What’s next for you movie-wise?
I’m going to direct and star in a film I’ve been trying to do since I was eleven-years-old called The Enchanted Cottage. I’m just now getting a chance to do it, but that probably won’t come until the end of the year, especially because we’ve got an actors strike coming up in the summer.
What’s the story about?
Oh, God, it’s kind of complicated, but it’s a story about a woman that’s kind of like if you rolled me and Tina Turner and Madonna together. She gets in a terrible accident and gets disfigured and the media hounds her into kinda wanting to kill herself, and she goes away to a desert island and her whole life changes — and everything kind of becomes different.