Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Two-fer Tuesday – Cyndi Lauper

As I patiently await the new Cyndi Lauper blues album (due June 22, 2010), I decided to take a listen to the 80s icon’s song library and see if I could spot anything that would hint at her ability to do the blues justice. By now, most of us have seen her performance on Celebrity Apprentice and if you’re anything like me, you’re left wondering if Memphis Blues will remain a curiosity album or if she’ll be able to dig deep and deliver anything gutsy. Again, I went looking and I was pleasantly surprised to find a couple videos that lead me to believe Memphis Blues might not entirely suck.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I came of age in the 80s and was definitely someone who embraced the crazy clothes and big hair. I had my share of “She Bop” moments, indeed. However, there was a point where I grew up and assumed Cyndi had moved on to something else, or at the very least was riding the tide of her success as fully as she could. I assumed as much for all my favorite 80s bands. So, it is with an adventurous heart that I dove in to this challenge to discover what I’d missed out on in the last 20 some odd years.

First up is “I’ll Be Your River” from her 2005 album Body Acoustic. The song and her delivery is heartfelt and earnest in the promise to be there when you “need someone to fall into”. Lauper and co-writer Tom Hammer have crafted one of the loveliest tunes I’ve heard in a long time. And yes, I realize I’m five years late in this sentiment.

(xicopires video for Cyndi Lauper’s “I’ll Be Your River”)

And while “I’ll Be Your River” isn’t really the blues, it does show a depth of vocal talent that transcends genre and hints at the potential for the June release. Even better, I found a video from 2003 with Cyndi’s take on “At Last”. She does the song proud (better than Beyonce, I might add).

(Cyndi Lauper – “At Last”)

Nowhere in either of these songs — nor in the bonus third video for “Above The Clouds” (co-authored with Jeff Beck and Jed Leiber, again from Body Acoustic) — do you find the expected exuberance or what I call the Lauper squeak. Nowhere. All you have is pure vocals that sound more mature than one has come to associate with Lauper. Not that she’s not delightful when she’s all wound up, but it’s a very pleasant surprise to discover her range once she exercises her talents.

(HarroSIN – Cyndi Lauper “Above the Clouds”)

None of this is surprising to Cyndi Lauper fans, but to those of us who mostly remember her as a girl who just wanted to have fun and who believed the Goonies were good enough, these songs are more mature, a bit deeper, and utterly beautiful in their contrast to how we’ve come to see her.

The cuts I’ve heard from Memphis Blues aren’t nearly as restrained vocally as she’s achieved in the past, but I haven’t heard the entire album yet and I’m willing to withhold judgment until I do. Even if Lauper reverts back to her trademark ebullience, I think the blues world should consider themselves lucky to have someone of her caliber coming in to shake things up a bit.

No comments: