Note: as part of Throwback Thursday, I’m posting this piece I wrote in the fall of 2013 for my Reporting Entertainment and Pop Culture class. The assignment was to write a paper (650-800 words) on the shifting power in the music business and what it takes to be more than a one-hit wonder.
The phone rings in the middle of the night
My father yells what you gonna do with your life
Oh daddy dear you know you’re still number one
But girls they want to have fun
– “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”, Cyndi Lauper
Cyndi Lauper is proud to be unusual. It’s right there in the spelling of her first name, as well as the fact that her first debut album is actually titled She’s So Unusual. Her early looks were punk, her flaming orange hair and radical fashion sense being part of her persona as she sang about such topics as masturbation and feminism.
Growing up as a bit of a loner in the ’80s, I took her passion for weirdness to heart, copying her style in my clothing (although it wasn’t until much later in my life that I realized the true meaning of the song “She Bop”). Her rebellious spirit was something to aspire to, and was one of the many influences on my desire to get away from my small town and make something of myself.
While Lauper was able to step away from one-hit-wonder status with the release of True Colors, she also became a bit forgotten in the shadow of the Material Girl. I lost track of her music as I went away to college, as her album Hat Full of Stars released in 1993 was a completely different style than I was used to (and maybe wasn’t quite ready for at that time). While she followed it up with a greatest hits album (Twelve Deadly Cyns) and a Christmas album, it really wasn’t until her 2003 release At Last that made me sit back up and take notice. Heavily influenced by the blues and 40s style singing, Lauper reinvented herself from her ’80s persona as a more sensual woman, all grown up from the punk teen she used to portray. A big fan of this style of music, combined with my being more open to new opportunities, I was floored that this was the same woman who had sang “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough” – and became a fan of hers once more.
Reinventing her image didn’t mean reinventing her: Lauper has always kept to her core beliefs of being an advocate for LGBT issues and keeping her core self of a Brooklyn gal just trying to make it in the music industry. In several interviews, she admits to not caring if people like her or not – it’s all about doing good.
Her latest reinvention is as the Tony-award winning songwriterof Kinky Boots, a musical about a shoemaker and his drag queen business partner. Once again, it’s a topic that is not typically the first you’d think of when imagining a Broadway play.
Since her greatest hit album in 1994, each successive release seems to strive to be something different than the one before. Whether it’s electronica, blues, acoustic, or Broadway, Lauper is determined to keep staying unusual while still remaining true to herself.
In 1986, Lauper sung about not being afraid to let your true colors show. In 2013, she wrote about the ability to raise someone up out of the dust. After all these years, her rebellious spirit still inspires me and makes me want to be more than I am.