She's So Unusual

Cyndi Lauper

Portrait, 1983

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan


A native of Queens, New York, Cyndi Lauper had been pursuing a career in music from her mid-teens, which culminated in her forming a rockabilly band called Blue Angel with multi-instrumentalist John Turi. Following a Blue Angel gig one night in the early ‘80s, Lauper met David Wolff. She agreed to let him manage her, and he would later become her boyfriend. In 1982, the pair secured a recording contract with the Portrait label and set to work on what would become not only Lauper’s debut solo LP but her most enduring and exciting work to date. 

She’s So Unusual was recorded in a relatively short time. Lauper co-produced the album with Rick Chertoff and William Wittman, but it was not always a harmonious project to work on. Lauper pushed to have all of her own songs included on the record, but her label was adamant that their selected songwriters had come up with the goods. It turns out that they were both right as there are no dud tracks on this wonderfully colorful and passionate album, but this arrangement would not always be the case.  my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

No less than six tracks out of 10 overall were lifted from the album and released as singles and they all enjoyed success, helping to push eventual sales of the album well over the ten million mark. Of those singles, the most recognized and successful was the anthemic “Girls Just Want To Have Fun.” This track, which Lauper re-wrote the lyrics for but did not receive a credit, not only sounded great but sported a brilliant video that MTV spun relentlessly; in doing so, they introduced the world to the color and charisma of Cyndi Lauper. 

Her dreams of being a pop star were now a reality, and thanks to great songs and the MTV network, the hit singles off this album just kept coming. “Time After Time” is one of the great pop ballads of the ‘80s and with it, Lauper proved that she was not just a jumpy pop singer but could also deliver songs of depth. Her vocal performance on that track remains as engaging as ever. 

Another big hit was the pop-rocker “She Bop,” which sported a cleverly penned lyric by Lauper espousing the joys of masturbation. The mainstream, however, was none the wiser and following another fantastic video being aired, the song rapidly shot up the charts. A sweet cover of Prince’s “When You Were Mine” gave the Purple One a decent sized hit record, and for Lauper, it seemed she could do no wrong. 

Lauper’s quirky yet endearing personality shines through most notably on the dance tracks “Yeah Yeah” and “I’ll Kiss You,” which are in contrast to the more heavy-hitting “Money Changes Everything” and the fantastic reggae-tinged “Witness,” which both add diversity to an incredibly creative and coherent album of pop music that is packed with great songs and still sounds as exciting some thirty years after its original release. 

She’s So Unusual gave Cyndi Lauper one of the biggest selling pop albums of the entire decade, and as exciting as that was for her, she would never again be able to match it for either its creative spontaneity nor its strike-rate.

Rating: A

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© 2014 Mark Millan and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Portrait, and is used for informational purposes only.