At first, “Believe” was a joke. An older artist, aggressively using autotune (to cover up for her failing voice?) for her first #1 single in nearly a decade, it felt too weird to be real. And it was a little bit like the single equivalent of Hootie and the Blowfish’s Cracked Rear View a few years earlier – the music industry said this single was extremely popular but nobody would admit to liking it or buying it. I was in high school at the time and I can tell you there was nothing less cool than this Cher song and the people who secretly liked it.
But things have changed. Now “Believe” is a trailblazing use of Autotune that influenced numerous other artists. And a bunch of thoughtful, compelling covers have revealed that there really is a song under all that production.
Sammy Rae and The Friends have added to that list of covers. Rae is a New York-based singer-songwriter who has been pumping out singles and EPs for the last four years.
Rae and her band don’t stray as far from the original as many of the more distinct covers have, with the vibe being sort of funkier than the dance sound of the original. The main deviation is that the instruments are organic and Rae isn’t using autotune. The fairly cheesy smooth jazz saxophone doesn’t help, but there are hints that something more interesting is happening, including a break before the second verse, and more and more backing vocals. And things get really fun in the bridge around the 3 minute mark, when there’s a breakdown and Rae and her band let loose. Rae’s vocal performance is great throughout, but especially during the bridge.
If you start listening to this and you’re not super impressed, wait till you get to the bridge, it’s great.