Sunday, February 07, 2016

"She's So Unusual," Cyndi Lauper (1983)

The first side of “She’s So Unusual” is one of the great album sides in the history of rock music.  Had Cyndi Lauper been able to sustain that greatness across the entire album, her debut might very well have been considered the best debut album of all time.

The album kicks off with “Money Changes Everything,” written by Tom Gray and originally recorded by The Brains a few years earlier.  It’s an incredible song with incredible lyrics, and Lauper sings it as if the future of her career is resting on her ability to make you believe the story the song tells as if you were living it yourself.

From there we go to the massive hit, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” by Robert Hazard.  You’ve probably heard it.  In fact, one way or another you’ve made up your mind about it, so I’ll just say that I think it’s one of the greatest singles of its day, and likely of all time.

And then for good measure, Lauper decides to cover a Prince song, and not just any Prince song – “When You Were Mine,” one of his best.  How good is her effort?  Well, you could do worse than spending the rest of your life trying to decide whether her version is better than his.  It’s that good.

Closing off Side One is “Time After Time,” the first Lauper composition on the record (co-written with Rob Hyman).  Has that song been around long enough to call it an immortal ballad?  I think so.

I’m not even going to say anything about Side Two.  It’s good, but it couldn’t possibly match what preceded it.  And Lauper, notwithstanding a long and successful career, has never matched it.  But that’s OK, because it’s not every day of the week that an artist puts together 20 solid minutes of music like what one hears on Side One of “She’s So Unusual.”

Christgau: A. “Initially, this blue angel won my heart by covering the two most profound pop songs of the past five years, "Money Changes Everything" and "When You Were Mine." Now, with "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" the official pep song of the daughters of Ms. and Pepsi-Cola and "Time After Time" throbbing hearts by the millions, I've softened my strictures about her Betty Boop bimboism--if a kook who's loved, respected, and taken seriously by her sisters fools boys into believing she can be fooled with, more power to her. First side's an eternal classic. The second gets by on the one where she kisses me and the one where she diddles herself.”

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