LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Few musicians are able to keep their careers alive for more than five decades, but pop diva Cher says her latest album is her "best effort ever."

Cher, 67, a staple of American dance music, released her 26th studio album, "Closer to the Truth" on Tuesday, her first record in 12 years.

"It's my best effort ever, so I'm happy with that. I'm singing better than ever and the songs are really good. I'm unbelievably proud of it," the singer said in an interview with Reuters at her home in California's beachside community of Malibu.

The new album, which includes the Paul Oakenfold-produced single "Woman's World," a disco-pop ode to strong women, also features songs written by pop star Pink, such as "Lie to Me" and the rousing "I Walk Alone."

"A song either is good or is bad as far as your feelings go. So I know pretty much immediately, I just know. Also, if it doesn't touch me, I can't sing it," the singer said.

The California native first gained recognition as part of musical duo Sonny & Cher, known for their 1965 hit song "I Got You Babe." With a singing voice that rang deep into the lower registers, Cher embarked on a solo career that has spanned five decades and made the singer a household name across the world.

Despite amassing a legion of fans, including more than 1.7 million Twitter followers and 500,000 Facebook likes, the singer said she is still surprised by continued interest in her work.

"It just didn't occur to me that anybody would be waiting with bated breath for my next project," Cher said.

"I've been doing it for what, 50 years almost? It just didn't occur to me to do it anymore. Nobody gets that, but I just didn't think about it," she added.

DANCE MUSIC DIVA

Dance anthems have become a musical home for the singer, who has become a long-standing name in disco with songs such as 1974's "Dark Lady" to "Believe," which earned the singer her first and only Grammy award in 2000.

Cher will once again hit the road to support her new album, and said she will be using new technology in her live performances, embarking on a North American tour spanning 49 cities, kicking off in Phoenix in March 2014.

"I like the new songs. I hope I get to do some of those. I'd like to do 'You Haven't Seen the Last of Me' and 'Welcome to Burlesque' because I just think that's so campy and fun. You know, concerts should just be fun," Cher said.

With six decades in show business under her belt, Cher is forthcoming with her opinions, from speaking out in defense of the lesbian, gay and transgender community that regards her as an icon, to weighing in on the antics of younger pop stars.

Cher said she wasn't a fan of singer and former Disney Channel actress Miley Cyrus' recent raunchy and provocative performance at MTV's Video Music Awards, where Cyrus "twerked" her way into headlines with sexually suggestive dancing.

"I didn't like it because I didn't think it was her best effort. I thought she really needed to go back and rethink it. I just didn't think it was up to the standards that I would've liked to see professionally," the singer said.

(Writing by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Mary Milliken and Lisa Shumaker)

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