Within a few years, Auto-Tune went from a brand-new, somewhat embarrassing pitch-correcting technology producers wanted to keep under wraps to a common proper noun that any kid can use as a preset effect on GarageBand. The signature pitch-perfect slide from one note to another on "Believe" became known as "the Cher effect." Kanye West has thanked her for Auto-Tune. T-Pain's love-hate relationship with it gave him his signature style that, years later, inspired him to go Auto-Tune free to be crowned winner of The Masked Singer. At one point, purists came out to decry its pervasiveness in pop music as "Auto-Tune abuse." It's pervaded nearly every popular song since "Believe," whether you know it or not.
Then there's the video, which features Cher switching between roles as a clubgoer and bewitching stage singer, a spirit guide of sorts to a woman who's being cheated on by a white boy in dreads. The production isn't a feat, but it is unforgettable: The green lights ricocheting off of whatever Cher's giftbag plasticine headpiece is; the undeniably millenium-y, Matrix-y vibe; the tight crop to her elated singing face shaded as modern chiaroscuro caught on camera to impeccable beats. In the way that Cher's perfect Twitter account and unearthed archival interviews about not needing men at all, watching "Believe" makes you want to sidle up to Cher's dance circle in hopes she'll extend an arm that invites you to join in dancing off whatever hurts.
The legacy of "Believe" is more than Auto-Tune, which was merely the perfect vehicle for Cher's voice to demonstrate the burgeoning engineering technology's possibilities, and a memorable video. As a woman whose career has many inflections -- she's three-quarters of the way to an EGOT (just needs that Tony), on top of being a fashion and pop culture icon -- the breakout of Believe was hugely important for her current status in the public consciousness. But it also tragically aligned with the death of her ex-husband and stage partner, Sonny Bono, who died in January of 1998 as the result of a skiing accident. (Believe was released in October of the same year; in March 1999, "Believe," hit Number 1 on the Billboard charts.)
Unfortunate timing be damned, "Believe" revitalized a career that had been treading water. Cher reached a new generation of fans and, as it became a club staple, turned her into a gay icon back when Lady Gaga was still doing high school musicals. In the same year, she performed the "Star Spangled Banner" at the Super Bowl, got a greatest hits record that went certified gold, and sold out every American date of The Do You Believe? Tour, which ran for 121 shows in total (40 were abroad). Just last year, she made a surprise performance in Mama Mia! Here We Go Again, and released a companion record of ABBA cover songs. She even has a freaking self-titled Broadway musical that spans her entire career.
But this isn't about everything that's followed; it's about "Believe." Go ahead, put it on right now. Put it on a hundred times!! I personally guarantee you will be sucked into the vortex, arms as wide as Cher's in the music video for "Believe," unable to avoid singing along, powerless to free yourself from its earworminess. There aren't many pop songs that command you to submit fully without eventually wanting to tear your own head off, but "Believe" does. Maybe "Believe" is the only one. And, as I've already said, "Believe" still rips.