SKIPPING A BEAT – CYNDI LAUPER
By Henry Branham Jr.
Rock & Roll is almost 60 years old! Millions of albums have been released during this time frame, but the mass population is only ever exposed to what radio deems as “popular”. Let me shine a light on some undiscovered musical treasures out there that deserve a second listen!
There is no argument that Cyndi Lauper’s most popular and beloved music came out of the 1980’s. She gave us pop classics like “She Bop”, “Change of Heart”, “All Through the Night”, and the feminist anthem “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, not to mention those legendary ballads “True Colors” and “Time After Time”. Her sound shifted gears many times over the next two decades. Her remake of The Trammps “Disco Inferno” garnered Lauper her 16th Grammy Award nomination in 1999. She followed that up with the 2004 album of classic standards, At Last and most recently, 2010’s big hit CD Memphis Blues which went to number one the Billboard Blues Charts for more than 10 weeks! And there have been a bunch of fantastic releases in between, most notably her greatest album ever – Hat Full of Stars.
The year was 1993. The music scene was nothing like it was in the 1980’s. The glamour and glitz of the video music age had been replaced by grunge and gloom. Most of the artists who were once considered rock & roll royalty by MTV and the pop magazines were now considered obsolete, regardless if they were still putting out quality work or not. Cyndi Lauper experienced this thinking first hand. When Hat Full of Stars was released in June 1993, the album was completely ignored by the media and the general public. In fact, it did not even break the Top 100 on the Billboard Album charts. The only real promotion for the album was a “preview tour” Cyndi Lauper did prior to the CD’s release. The album’s lack of success is one of the biggest crimes in music. It is a pop masterpiece from beginning to end.
Hat Full of Stars kicks off with “That’s What I Think”, a dance tune in which Lauper rhapsodizes about the trials of everyday life. The album quickly takes a huge turn in subject matter. “Product of Misery” and “Broken Glass” paint pictures of abused women. The song “Lies” more than hints at the horrors of incest. “Sally’s Pigeons” depicts a childhood friend who died from an illegal abortion. Wait! It’s not nearly as morose as it all sounds! The songs are actually very empowering. On “Product of Misery”, Lauper continuously sings “and I don’t want to live like that”. She turns all of the aforementioned topics into feminist anthems rather than depressing dirges. The poppy track “Someone Like Me” portrays a woman getting out of a rut and moving on with her life. Just as strong is the tune “Like I Used To” which features the protagonist getting fed up and standing up for herself (“I’m my own possession” she sings devilishly).
Things lighten up a great deal on the joyous “Feels Like Christmas”, but the songs do continue to get personal. “Who Let In The Rain” is about the end of a romance, most likely her relationship with David Wolfe who was her longtime boyfriend and manager. “Dear John” is an urging of individuality and not the “kiss off” letter you expect it to be. “A Part Hate” deals with the nonsense of racism. The final track “Hat Full of Stars” features Lauper’s most heartfelt lyrics ever. Featuring the vocalist accompanied only by a piano, she reminisces about a past lover while going through his things. Grab a tissue!
An album of this magnitude plays out like an autobiography. Listeners may never know for sure if Cyndi Lauper actually experienced all of these events firsthand or as a casual bystander. One thing is for sure – she knows what she sings about. You can feel it in every word. Hat Full of Stars may not be every fan’s first choice of Cyndi Lauper material, but it absolutely proves that this singer / songwriter / artist is so much more than the media and general public perceive her to be. Take a chance on this lost treasure. You will not be disappointed.
HATFUL OF STARS is available at www.itunes.com