Friday, July 3, 2009

494. She’s so unusual- 1983 Strikes again.

Album: She’s so unusual.

Artist: Cindy Lauper.

Year: 1983

Genre: Pop.

Track listing.

1. Money Changes Everything
2. Girls Just Want to Have Fun
3. When You Were Mine
4. Time After Time
5. She Bop
6. All Through The Night
7. Witness
8. I'll Kiss You
9. He's So Unusual
10. Yeah Yeah

I swear to god I can sing every word of Girls Just Wanna have fun. I’ve never owned a copy of the album or the single, I’ve never voluntarily sought it out but when the track came up on this album I could sing it word for word. The lyrics are lodged in my brain and I can’t tell you how annoying that is. There is so much I’ve tried to cram into my head over the years (the Japanese language, computing terms, things my wife told me I had to buy on the way home) that have dissolved from my brain like an asprin in coke. But the lyrics to Girls Just Wanna got stuck in my head like a well aimed spear. I have a horrible feeling that at the end of my life I’ll succumb to dementia and forget important things like my own name but if someone asks me a question I’ll reply “Phone rings… in the middle… of the night.”

She’s So Unusual was Cindy Lauper’s breakthrough hit and it launched her into the pop stratosphere. The 10 songs on the album (mostly obscure covers) acted as a forum for her quirky voice and the video clips which accompanied the 5 hit singles beamed her equally quirky personality and style of dress into homes all over the world. Girls Just Wanna became a huge favourite with teen-age girls and a bit of a feminist anthem. It also provided the music world (and Miles Davis) with Time after Time, her other biggest hit.

Just like Touch by The Eurythmics, She’s so Unusual is a product of it’s time and that time is 1983. Consequently all 10 songs are crammed full of synthesizers and simulated percussion. For me the synthesizer is that person having a loud phone conversation on a train; it’s the niggling cough from two rows back in a movie; it’s my neighbour’s stereo when I’m trying to sleep; it’s an annoying noise that becomes more irritating the more I hear it and try not to be annoyed by it. As a sound it’s far bigger than anything else around it could ever hope to be. So just like Touch I listened to She’s so unusual and wondered what it would be like if I could hear just the songs and the voice without the electronic beastie all over it.

Thankfully I’m not the only one who wondered this. A few years back Lauper was obviously pondering along the same lines. In 2005 Cindy released an album called The Body Acoustic which was made up of newly recorded acoustic versions of the hits from her back catalogue, many of them coming from She’s So Unusual. And I have to say it’s a bit of a winner. With real instruments behind her Lauper sounds great and a lot of the songs really go places. A long list of guest stars range from some of my favourite artists (Jeff Beck, Ani Di Franco) to people I’d never heard of (Puffy Ami Yumi) who have all been inspired by Lauper in some way (I can imagine Jeff Beck really grooving to She Bop. Good for him). Speaking of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, The Body Acoustic version is a weirdly demented Ska version in which Lauper is backed by a very boisterous Japanese female band. It’s definitely the least painful rendition of this song I’ve ever heard.

Returning to the point of this entry- She’s So Unusual is an album I didn’t enjoy but then it’s not like Lauper recorded it with mid-thirties males in mind. It’s an album for girls who want to have fun. I bet when she recorded it she was imagining girls would be still be singing along at weddings 25 years later. And how right she was. But while I’m no fan of the original album and plan never to hear it again I’ll go on record as saying The Body Acoustic was a surprisingly pleasurable listen.

Highlight: Time after Time suffers least from the production. (Although Check out She-Bop on youtube, it’s a fairly wild video clip)

Lowlight: Every painful sound that dribbles out of my least favourite machine.

Influenced by: A general desire to prove herself.
Influenced: Women who like to make quirky music.

Favourite amazon review quote:
“Two facts and only two facts only must you know about Cyndi Lauper.
1. I was born on the same day in the same place and we were probably switched at birth.
2. Halloween 1982 I dressed up as Cyndi for a party. This may not seem so bad but the fact is that I not only dressed up as Cyndi but rode the bus dressed that way!!! You just don't do those things in Duluth Minnesota.”

-I’m just not sure those two nuggets of information are as essential as you think they are.

So what do you think: Is she So Unusual you can’t get into her or are you a girl who just wants to have fun? Let me know below


  1. I'm a man (heterosexual even) and I love this album, the synths don't ruin it for me. With the exception of I'll Kiss You, every song is a masterpiece.
    After Zappa, Pink Floyd and The Beatles, Cyndi Lauper is my favourite musician.

  2. And BTW: The genre is New Wave

  3. I know there's a lot of music I could love if I could get past my hatred of synths. Sadly it's just so evocative of an era I can't stand that I can't look past it to appreciate the tune underneath. But then I understand it's my problem.