Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Puzzle of Cyndi Lauper:

In the mid 80's, Cyndi Lauper was the top rock singer, with an unheard of string of hits at a time when Rock-world USA seemed to have room for exactly one star female. Then there was this disturbing music video of a woman who moved sexually, wore underwear outside her clothes and sang conventionally; Madonna knocked Lauper off her perch. Madonna's fashion sense differed dramatically from Lauper's:
Somebody did complain to me and tell me that my clothes were so loud they couldn't hear me sing. - C.L.
Lauper took a few years off to follow the pro wrestling world, but otherwise she has been singing ever since to varying degrees of critical acclaim and some commercial success.

I saw an interview on TV, and it was quite striking that she could barely produce coherent sentences. Was she - when talking instead of singing - suffering from stage fright? Having a bad day?
I get the greatest feeling when I'm singing. It's other-worldly. Your feet are anchored into the Earth and into this energy force that comes up through your feet and goes up the top of your head and maybe you're holding hands with the angels or the stars, I have no idea. - C.L.
Cognitive dissonance jarred. Could this be the creative genius behind every aspect of all those hits?
You know, I do speak the Queens English. It's just the wrong Queens that's all. It's over the 59th Street Bridge. It's not over the Atlantic Ocean. - C.L.
Her great mid-80's songs all showcase her piercing, adenoidal, emotion-laden voice.
When I got hoarse, the manager would say, 'Drink this. Joplin used to drink this,' and I used to say, 'Joplin? Joplin's dead. - C.L.
But there's wonderful variety and imagination in her songs. Did she write the melodies? The harmonies? The arrangements? The lyrics? Did she direct the band?
If you're lost you can look - and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you - I'll be waiting
Time after time.
- Lyrics
"Time after Time" is a beautiful, quiet, reflective song. "He's so Unusual" is so unusual. "Shebop", her reassuring song about masturbation, was only a little controversial.
they say I better get a chaperone
Because I can't stop messin' with the danger zone
- Lyrics
The hits are all imaginatively different. (In contrast, I remember Chris Cross explaining that the way he wrote a second hit was to write exactly like the first one, and he was puzzled that nobody seemed to care.)
And I wonder: Is Cyndi Lauper just a well-packaged fine singer? Is she indeed the brilliant artist behind the music, the lyrics, the arrangements and performance? Where, in between, might the truth lie?
I got discouraged because I used to think that dance music was very innovative, and then I found out it wasn't and I got real discouraged. I found that mostly remixers wanted to take ballads and rewrite them, but if you wrote a dance song they never want to do that because it's too obvious that it's a dance song. (quoted from an interview.)
So here's the puzzle of Cyndi Lauper. (The random quotes are copied from this and related pages.)

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