Review Summary: Cyndi Lauper is a Goonie.
Tom Selleck's mustache. The Nintendo Entertainment System. Rubik's cubes. Garbage Pail Kids. Hulkamania. And “I want my MTV.” If nothing else, the '80s were totally awesome. Probably the most rad decade of all time. People liked their clothes in denim, their hair to be large and their pop stars to look like Saturday morning cartoon characters. A punked-out Rainbow Brite come to life, Cyndi Lauper was an excess of flash, color and fun, requiring a big sound to back up the look. On Cyndi's mega-hit, chart-camping debut, she matched the image with a slew of potent, timeless (yet dated) classics. For a strange moment in time, this album would make Cindy Lauper one of the most important figures in popular music.
Before dominating early MTV airwaves, Cyndi co-wrote and sang for a New York retro-rock group called Blue Angel, which released one self-titled LP. The band then fell apart, due to lack of support from their label, caused by a lack of hit songs. She wouldn't be forgotten though, as Lauper was given a solo contract not long after the band's dissolution. With a larger scaled production than her previous effort, Cyndi would have a smaller role in the writing of her songs. She's So Unusual
is a collection of covers and songs written by others for her, with only a few exceptions. This did nothing to hurt her, however -- as she would be an overnight success upon the release of her first single.
Originally written and recorded by obscure new-waver Robert Hazard, Cyndi changed a few of the lyrics to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,”
creating a classic female anthem and making all the boys jealous of the girls with their carefree ways. “The phone rings in the middle of the night / My father yells 'What you gonna do with your life?'
' was the lyric as wrestling star, Captain Lou Albano, reprimanded his daughter in the polarizing video. Cyndi would turn the tables and twist him up in an arm-lock combo move straight out the WWF. Between her bright, multi-colored appearance and a video that did exactly what it said girls were planning to do, Cyndi Lauper became an instant icon, poised for a string of career-sustaining singles. “Time After Time”
was the only track on She's So Unusual
with significant writing contributions from Lauper, herself. A soft progression of minor chords with an underlying breeze of warm synth tones and one of the saddest vocals put to cassette, the track doesn't wear out. Cyndi's first US number-one hit, “Time After Time”
is the best and most significant song she ever wrote or recorded.
The opening notes of “All Through the Night”
twinkle like stars and leave a sparking trail of '80s wonder. Everything about the song is completely beautiful. Cyndi's vocal exudes empowerment as she bellows the chorus: “We have no past / We won't reach back / Keep with me forward all through the night.”
The song could have not have existed in any era other than the one from which it came. “Girls”
is the spirit of the album. “Time After Time”
is its masterpiece. “All Through the Night”
is the forgotten gem that makes the album as a whole such a great collection of colorful pop songs. “She Bop”
was the record's third biggest single, and got a bit of attention for its racy subject matter. One of the most famous songs dedicated to one-player sex, the track was bass-heavy with some strong hooks and thinly veiled innuendos. A cover of Prince's “When You Were Mine”
is a high-point beyond the big singles. Album opener, “Money Changes Everything,”
does well to build a lot of energy early.
Song placement on She So Unusual
was a bit imbalanced, favoring Side A with the bulk of heavy singles. “I Kiss You”
isn't much better than its title would indicate. “He's So Unusual”
is a bit of a filler track, where Cyndi sings with a cartoonish voice reminiscent of Betty Boop over vaudevillian piano. It gets carried over into “Yeah Yeah,”
where it's a bit irritating and makes the track essentially unlistenable. “Witness”
features virtually the same reggae-infected guitar riff as “Roxanne,”
by The Police. The weaker tracks make the overall record a bit less essential and hurt its replay value. Cyndi Lauper did not have many great hits beyond She's So Unusual.
The spirit of this album would only really be replicated once more in the glorious Top 10 soundtrack hit, “The Goonies 'R' Good Enough.”
Even still, with her 1984 debut, Cyndi managed to make one effort strong enough for her to be forever remembered as rad to the max.