“Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves” is one of those songs it’s easy to make fun of, the butt of the joke, until you listen to it again.
There’s a lot that can be said about 70s music. Cheesy. Dumb. Manufactured. The only problem with all those labels is that they’re equally applicable to the Pop music of any era. The only thing that changes is the dominant musical style and the double entendres, and even those are fairly consistent from decade to decade. I like cheesy Pop songs. I like it when they have a storyline. I like a good chorus that’s easy to sing along with. I like “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves.”
Cher has never had the greatest voice, but she’s okay. What she lacks in technique and raw talent, she makes up for in style and charisma. You get the feeling she means what she sings. Not that she grew up as a performer in a traveling show, or anything like that. But that she understands what it’s like to be that girl. She feels the loneliness and sadness. The same goes with any of her other hits. She sings with conviction.
Of course, it’s also clearly a performance. Watch her face in the clip. There’s a couple of points where she almost breaks character, smirking a little as if she cannot believe she’s singing this glop. It says something about her abilities as a performer that she still pulls it off. There’s something in her eyes that gives truth to the lie of the song. She might not be that girl, but she gets what it feels like to be trapped like that.
None of this magically transforms “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves” into a great song. But it’s not a joke, either. Take a little trip in the wayback machine, and remember how much fun this song still is.