Friday, November 6, 2015

Cyndi Lauper - So Unusual - (1983)

At some point between the mid 70's and the rise of what was then known as the WWF circa 1985, Cyndi Lauper went from fronting a group called the Blue Angel to managing in the first ever Wrestlemania, and putting out one of the 80's greatest synth-pop albums ever.  

When it comes to 80's music and it's popularity, there weren't too many musicians that couldn't pump out a song worth recording from the radio.  Ok, that's not a completely true statement, there were a bunch that you would have a difficult time trying to remember if you ever heard of them at all.  Not everyone can be as magical as Mick Smiley.  Cyndi Lauper's a curious case...  The Queens native was an accidental star.  She was discovered while singing for the outstandingly horrible group, Blue Angel as the lone star in that outfit.  Apparently her voice was the only bright spot there.  Think I'm kidding, do a Google search for them.  They were Apple Maps bad.  

Like any repressed artist should, Cyndi went for the solo career.  As such, she kinda hit it big.

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

The first single released from this album, came about a month before the albums drop making it a late summer banger.  Matter of fact, that one song was so popular that it charted #2 on Billboard and that single alone was certified platinum.  This album actually set off a trend when it came to that anomaly.  Obviously a musician would want to tease you with their best work on their album so that based on the strength of that song or songs, you would go out and buy the album,  It's been going on since the beginning of time.  What makes this single on this record special is that it was the first of many singles from the album, and this single alone sold better than a lot of artists full length albums! That changed how important singles were to the success an album.  It also validated some musicians right to stop creating albums and just work on singles and videos, a horrible trend that hit it's stride in the 90's and is now quite the norm today.  Hell, this single was so big that at it's time, it was the most recorded single on FM radio.  (Hoover your mouse over that last part if you have no idea what I'm talking about,)  Then there was the 2nd single...

Time After Time

Three months after So Unusual was released, Cyndi's 2nd single, Time After Time landed. That one ended up spending 20 weeks on the charts, certified gold, and set up what I'm calling the first commercial song about masturbation ever, Single #3...

She Bop

As has been the history with Cyndi, this single charted for 18 weeks, again certified gold and at this point it's July 1984.  There's still 2 singles to go, and lots of good music out there.  Elsewhere in the music world at this point, Michael Jackson's Thriller was still in full swing having been released earlier in 1983, So Unusual was released up against The Police with Synchronicity.  Right when  She Bop was nearing it's run of air play, Prince popped up with an album I'm sure you may have heard of, Purple Rain.  So what does Cyndi do?  Releases single #4.

The single, All Through The Night, really slowed things down on the album.  Over time it became a standard for easy listening music or adult contemporary.  The coolest part about this song is while it didn't resonate quite the same way the previous 3 singles did, it showed her range as an artist.  Cyndi was able to go from power punk borderline riot grrl, to having a super soft persona.  It's kinda scary particularly considering the make up of the song.  Part of the reason that this song didn't become larger has everything to do with Prince and damn near every song from Purple Rain.  As a musician, you literally had to pay to get your music on the radio, and if you didn't hear Prince at least 4-6 times an hour, something was wrong with you.  That said, here we are over a year since So Unusual was released, and she's about to drop the 5th single.

Money Changes Everything came out in December of 1984.  

Money Changes Everything

That single, a cover of a 1978 song by the group, The Brains, was the downside of the album.  Money Changes Everything, while a great commentary on relationships and how money has a funny way of fucking them up, didn't do too much better than 27 on a lot of charts.  Curiously enough though, it was the 2nd in a series of easy listening songs that we would hear from this album.  Thinking that since there were only 10 songs on the album, why not make 1 more single or two?  

Cyndi went on to release 2 more singles into 1985.  Neither of them with the same degree of popularity of anything she had released prior.  That's not a problem seeing as though her next album, True Colors in 1986 will do just fine.  So unusual won her quite a few awards through it popular life span.  She won a Grammy for Best New Artist, and a MTV award for Best Female Video for Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. Cyndi is an outstanding activist as well.  Her work for and with the LGBT movement has kept her in the public eye through today.  If you're lucky enough to see her live these days, you'll see that she can still sing and her live shows are something to witness.  While she isn't as "punk" as she used to be, she can still power with the best of them.

I picked this original pressing up over at Replay Records in Hamden CT.  I highly recommend that if you're ever in the area that you check this place out.  He's got a great collection of R&B, well curated used Rock, and some of the most obscure soundtracks that you'll see in a used record store.

Next week, I may be in a period of transition, but I think I'll be dropping the needle on something really different.

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