She’s So Unusual

Cyndi Lauper

Portrait, 1983

http://www.cyndilauper.com

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/19/2014

I knew I’d get around to reviewing this album eventually. My one regret is not including it in my Pop 100. As one of the best debuts ever, by a solo female or otherwise, Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual should never be forgotten. From the kick-ass opener “Money Changes Everything” to the going out with a lion’s-roar of “Yeah Yeah,” Cyndi proves she’s a force to be reckoned with. Hell, she even managed to bypass someone known as Madonna with this record, though the effect wouldn’t be a lasting one. Cyndi’s album sales after this first flush of fame would yield diminishing returns, though as a live performer she still is right up there with the greats.

Cyndi Lauper was designed for the video age of MTV. Her kooky, offbeat dime-store fashion sense and New Yawk attitude was cute, in a borderline obnoxious sort of way. And what a video “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” was, featuring Captain Lou Albano as her father, of all things. The wrestling tie-in made for some strange bedfellows and at times may have overshadowed anything Lauper was trying to achieve in her music career. Still, she managed to snag the Best New Artist Grammy, not to mention a coveted spot in the USA For Africa supergroup. She heated up the nbtc__dv_250 Billboard charts too, with no less than four songs becoming Top Five hits, which was a first for the times. On this debut effort, look for the #1 ballad, “Time After Time.”

Interestingly, Cyndi Lauper only was able to reach #1 once more and it was with another slow song, “True Colors,” the title track from her second album. The public seemed to like a more toned-down Cyndi, especially since it gave them a chance to really hear what she could do from a purely vocal standpoint. She really was – and still is – a triple threat, even writing many of her own songs. It was mighty hard to stand out for the wild pack in the ‘80s, but Cyndi Lauper was their fearless leader.

Prince even gave Cyndi one of his songs, always knowing a good thing when he sees one. Though it was never a single, “When You Were Mine” was originally a track on the Purple One’s 1980 release, Dirty Mind, but Cyndi’s version capitalizes on what he started, making it a definite standout on She’s So Unusual. The same holds true for the dynamic ode to, um, masturbation, “She Bop.” By comparison, only Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Relax” would raise more eyebrows. This album’s other hit, “All Through The Night” is another ballad, but it shines brighter than any other she’s ever attempted.

But wait, there’s more! And don’t you dare dismiss those B-sides and call them filler. In fact, out of all the songs, they are the ones that have only gotten better with age. The deliberately paced reggae cut, “Witness” shows off Cyndi’s feisty side, while the crazed “I’ll Kiss You” is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Cyndi’s on-stage flaming temper tantrums are now the stuff of legend and this track is the clear spark that started a thousand of ‘em.

Kudos to Cyndi for staying true to herself and her fans. A gay rights advocate from the start, she is a heroine to many and an icon for the ages. My apologies, Cyndi, for waiting so long to say so.

Rating: A

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