Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
Making the first album for Cyndi's discography was simple. While Madonna may have had more hits, and seemed to be a more consistent 80s and 90s pop star, Cyndi Lauper was a unique 80 pop visionary who could sell songs about sex without making that her entire personality for five years. She didn't need to constantly update her image to appeal to the MTV generation, nor did she feel the need to push taboo envelopes to garner shock value. There's nothing wrong with any of those things Madonna did them perfectly in order to keep a stranglehold on the pop diva crown, but Lauper was just herself for her entire career, and while she fell out of the spotlight for the 90s and early 21st century, she never seemed desperate to reclaim it.
She's not desperate in this era, either. She's doing her own thing, even if it seems to be somewhat unusual compared to her 80s output. I mean, unusual is what Cyndi does. It's the name of her breakthrough album.
I've tried to spread around the two main concepts that make up this album.
1.) There are still some very 80s tracks worthy of being in her discography, even if they weren't the powerhouse hits from She's So Unusual.
2.) She put out a country album called Detour. Is it great country music? I don't know. I have a very specific type of country that I'm willing to listen to, and some of these songs fall into that category. I think they're worth your time.
1. We're going to start off country. Very much pre-1980s country. The classic, slow Patsy Cline style country. It's shocking how well Lauper's voice falls into that groove. Begging To You is just that sweet, generically lyriced love song with some soft fiddle riffs, that sound really 60s or 70s country to me.
2. Moving into the more modern, somewhat mean-spirited country, Vince Gill joins Cyndi for a duet that wouldn't seem out of place in the 1980s Muppet Show. You're The Reasons Our Kids Are Ugly is one of those we love each other, even though our relationship is complicated songs that seem like Jim Henson or Shel Silverstein could have written them, as opposed to Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn. Lauper's delivery is more subdued here than in the first track, but it kind of has to be to keep from stealing the spotlight from Vince's limited range.
3. Back to mid-century we go, Lauper lets us know I Want To Be A Cowboy's Sweetheart. This is more Dolly Parton than Patsy Cline. This is another song that seems like it would be at home on a kids show from sometime before the 80s. It's got a nice little guitar solo broken up by Cyndi using her So Unusual voice to say "Yippee-yi-yay" in the background. Oh, and Jewel yodels on this track. Why not?
4. Ok, let's take a break from the country and go back to Lauper's signature 80s pop ballad style. Who Let In The Rain has the haunting synth organ and minimal percussion leading you into the chorus, where the bass arrives, welcomes the drums, and we start to get a subdued New Wave classic. Something Ric Ocasek might have penned for The Cars. But it ends with a very Tina Turnerish belted fade out.
5. We get a little 90s pop dancy with Sisters Of Avalon, the closes Lauper ever gets to recording an Alanis Morissette song. Her voice waivers in a way I don't remember her using anywhere else in the discography.
6. What's 80ser than The Goonies? Cyndi Lauper singing the theme song, The Goonies R Good Enough? Yea. I don't remember this song at all. But it's so Cyndi. This probably belongs on She's So Unusual but I didn't remember it, and it makes for a fun retro song on this collection.
7. We're back to the country for the title track. Detour is another fiddley country song. This seems really Johnny Cash to me. It's very speak-country with that twinge of harmony to it, and then a wonderfully simple, yet beautiful harmony during the chorus. Man, I would love to hear Cyndi cover an entire Johnny Cash album. That's going on my musical bucket list.
8. Night Life falls into that chasm between country and Jimmy Buffet tropical soft rock. Slow piano, crooning, soft fiddles, Willie Nelson. All you need for a cool night on a Florida porch, sipping something whiskeyed or, I don't know, vanilla-esque. Something slightly off and delicious in its inappropriateness. It's a very sedated duet.
9. We get the danciness back for Unhook The Stars, which would esaily be the B-side to "Sisters Of Avalon". There's a very country bassline, but everything else is late 80s/early 90s Lillith Fair pop.
10. Heartaches By The Numbers is very much a prototypical country song but with Lauper returning to her Patsy Cline voice. It's gorgeous and, so far, the toe tappingest of her country songs.
11. The best title on the album, unquestionably, is Funnel Of Love. Is it country? Is it 90s "alternative" rock? Is it neitherly both? Is it a 50s throwback? There's a lot going on in this simple sounding song.
12. Time for a Lauper classic. I Drove All Night is actually a Roy Orbison song, but Lauper released it first, as a single, and it's perfect. Another very new-wave Cars-y track that's also, somehow, uniquely Cyndi Lauper.
13. We close off the album with a bookend. We began with Lauper channeling Patsy Cline's style, so we end on a classic Patsy Cline cover. I have always loved the original I Fall To Pieces, and Lauper elevates it without altering it very much. It's just such a beautiful, simple sounding love song. It's a great closer.