I still love Cyndi

>> Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I don't think she gets enough credit. There's the high-pitched, nasally, New-Yawkur speaking voice, the flamboyant hair, the vagabond clothes, the long flirtation with professional wrestling and all that goofiness. But I'll tell ya, when Cyndi Lauper opens her mouth to sing, BLAM! Those pipes, I'm in love with those pipes. Okay, I'm in love with the quirky chick, I'm the kind of nerd that digs the pink hair and thrift-store look, you caught me. But those pipes!

It was always an injustice that she won the 1985 Grammy for Best New Artist, not because she didn't kick ass and not because she wasn't the best nominee that year1, but because that award was already the kiss of death for artists' careers by '85 for some damn reason. Okay, so I don't really believe in curses and a lot of Lauper's career woes were the result of weird choices on her part. But even when she was on the edge of "Where Are They Now"-dom, oh man, those pipes! And it was even more of an injustice when Madonna kind of made off with Lauper's career. There used to be a sort of debate in the early '80s over who would last, and I like Madonna alright, but no doubt at all who had the pipes, not to mention, let's be honest, the uncalculated and admirably naïve artistic integrity, the soul.


Cyndi Lauper tears (like it's a fresh orange) into Prince's classic poignant-yet-hysterically-funny-because-it's-so-true (yes, sadly I've been there--who hasn't?) take on being on the loser's end of infidelity, "When You Were Mine":

(And I promise I'll stop picking on Jeri tomorrow... but Prince Week... Prince Week is on!

1The other nominees that year, if you were wondering, were Sheila E., Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Corey Hart, and The Judds. Shelia E. is a phenomenal drummer/percussionist and The Judds were decent vocalists (though I never cared much for their actual music), but Corey Hart--really? And I like FGtH (Frankie, by the way, still says "Relax") but they don't even belong on the list--I'm not meaning to disparage them, if you're in my car and "Welcome To The Pleasuredome" comes on the satellite radio, I will crank that shit, thank you, but "Best New Artist"? Okay, moreso than Corey Hart, sure, no doubt, but what the fuck, man?!

Basically, in other words, and notwithstanding the awesome that is Shelia E., Cyndi Lauper could have out-asskicked the rest of that slate with a sore throat and a dead microphone.


Janiece Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 10:03:00 AM EDT  

I still remember the first time I heard her actually let loose and sing. She was doing a duet with Patty LaBelle, and I was quite shocked that she more than held her own against Patty's powerful voice.

After that, I always wondered why she thought it necessary to sound like a whiney git so much of the time, when she so obviously had the chops to do so much more.

Eric Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 10:17:00 AM EDT  

I think it's just the difference between her speaking voice and singing voice, which isn't really that unusual. (Seems like there's an Lauper-album-title-pun in there somewhere, but I'm not going to work to fish it out.) Another favorite example of Lauper's amazing voice can be found on her version of "Drive All Night," subsequently covered decently by Roy Orbison not long before his death.

Random Michelle K Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 11:57:00 AM EDT  

I also love Cyndi Lauper--and her albums are ones I no longer have (BOO HISS!)

Carol Elaine Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 2:08:00 PM EDT  

I adore Cyndi Lauper. I love her singing, I love her acting (she was fantastic in a recurring role on "Mad About You"), I love her.

I have her "At Last" album. If you haven't heard her take on these wonderful standards, hie thee to iTunes/Amazon/B&N/brick and mortar music store and get it now.

For a taste: At Last

Jeri Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 4:29:00 PM EDT  

Eric dear, I like Cyndi Lauper too. Except, well, she's kind of trivially pop.

And you can pick on me any time, any day. Revenge will be all the sweeter. And it may entail the use of airline miles. And, given your predilection for Prince, noise-canceling earphones. ;)

Eric Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 5:29:00 PM EDT  

Trivially pop? Trivially pop is an oxymoron.

"The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it immensely. All art is useless."--Oscar Wilde


Random Michelle K Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 7:14:00 PM EDT  


I do believe that Eric's point was--YOU LIKE A PRINCE SONG! OMG!!!!1! PWN!ES!

Jeri Wednesday, April 14, 2010 at 4:11:00 AM EDT  

Michelle, I liked your Prince song yesterday too. :)

So, let's postulate - I dislike PRINCE. Not his songs, per se, although I will still say that I find many of them inane rather than poetic and musically... blah.

But then my tastes swing to opposite ends of the spectrum - either acoustic singer/songwriter stuff, or blues/metal/rock. I prefer either somewhat unpolished and raw. Much of the entire middle of the spectrum, the pop or light rock stuff, leaves me stone cold bored. Overproduction is a particular turnoff.

Eric Wednesday, April 14, 2010 at 9:21:00 AM EDT  

If your issue is production, then I'll be curious to see what you think of the acoustic afterparty version of "Mountains" that'll post later this week.

I understand being turned off by certain production techniques or genres; I have my own betes noire, myself. But I also have to point out that Prince has had a nearly forty-year career spanning a variety of styles, and his albums have ranged from very elaborately produced (e.g. Around The World In A Day) to very--almost brutally--stripped-down (e.g. Sign Of The Times).

The other thing I'd have to come back to is "trivially pop"; them's fightin' words, you know. Cyndi Lauper did a song about watching a friend die of AIDS and The Beatles recorded one about having a crush on a lady who writes parking tickets. Which one's trivially pop? My favorite song off of Springsteen's Magic, "Girls In Their Summer Clothes," is one I'd rank with anything he's written--including the title track from Nebraska, a harrowing meditation on good and evil based on the not-trivial-at-all Starkweather/Fugate killing spree.

I guess what I'm getting around to in a backwards way, and the reason for the famous (and usually misunderstood) Wilde quote, is that all art is in some sense a trivial thing, while even art that is trivial in all senses--those silly love songs or meaningless ditties--may be profound in the effects they have not merely on individuals but as social memes, the cultural glue of a society (few songs are as frivolous as "Macarena," but--love it or hate it--everybody old enough to remember it has it as a cultural common touchstone).

I have to wrap this up. Wish I could pontificate more. Hope I said something coherent.

Random Michelle K Wednesday, April 14, 2010 at 10:58:00 AM EDT  

To second Eric re the "pop"...

The headline song of "Sign O' the Times" starts with AIDS and moves forward:

"In France, a skinny man died of a BIG disease with a little name
By chance his girlfriend came across a needle and soon she did the same
At home there are 17-year-old boys and their idea of fun
Is being in a gang called The Disciples
High on crack and totin' a machine gun

Hurricane Annie ripped the ceiling of a church and killed everyone inside
U turn on the telly and every other story is tellin' U somebody died
A sister killed her baby cuz she couldn't afford 2 feed it
And yet we're sending people 2 the moon
In September, my cousin tried reefer 4 the very first time
Now he's doing horse - it's June

It's silly, no?
When a rocket ship explodes and everybody still wants 2 fly
But some say a man ain't happy unless a man truly dies
Oh why?"

As I said yesterday (or was it today?) He has a lot of socially conscious lyrics--yes his has pop as well, but who doesn't.

And then there's another of my favorite songs, "Sometimes It Snows in April"

"Sometimes it snows in April
Sometimes I feel so bad, so bad
Sometimes I wish life was never ending,
and all good things, they say, never last"

Talk about a spare song--piano & voice and not much else.

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