So you’ve been wondering where Cyndi Lauper’s been. She admits she’s a year late in coming out with her new album, Hat Full Of Stars, while seated in her living room in the Althrop building on the upper west side of Manhattan. She looks like a normal American girl-next-door, with no make-up, oversized painter pants and a big, black T-shirt with white socks and no shoes. What color hair this time? Blonde, of course, in a pageboy style.
Since the hugely successful She’s So Unusual (“Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” was the monster single) in 1983, which led to Rolling Stone magazine dubbing her “Best New Artist” and MTV tapping her as “Best Female Video Artist,” Cyndi released True Colors in 1986, which spawned yet another hit single in the title track. She then went on to Paris to record her action-packed live concert video, “Cyndi Lauper in Paris,” followed by 1989’s A Night To Remember.
Fast-forward to 1993, and her latest album, Hat Full Of Stars, which she co-produced with Junior Vasquez (Tevin Campbell, Siouxsie and the Banshees). Lauper speaks with enthusiasm and good humor, drifting in and out of her Queens accent, as she philosophizes about creativity and her career, occasionally breaking into refraines from the songs themselves.
Q: Where have you been since your last album?
CYNDI: In 1991 I got married to David Thornton, while we were doing a movie together called Off and Running. He was the murderer, and I met him on the set. We fell in love in Miami, which is a great place to fall in love. After going to Liverpool to do the John Lennon tribute, we went to Cape Cod [Massachusetts] for a couple of months, where I started writing. I went to Berlin to do The Wall. And then I started working on “Who Let iIn the Rain” from the new album, which I wrote with Ailee Willis, who really helped me as a friend. I then started writing with the Hooters and the encouragement of my husband.
Q: Did you feel that you had to compete with Madonna for your audience?
CYNDI: I knew at one point that her record company was competing with me. They put an advertisement out in the paper that said, “This fall, I will give Cyndi Lauper a run for her money.” She can have it. It’s like apples and oranges. Madonna is really bright. I think she’s a performance artist. I saw her “Truth or Dare,” and I thought it was really good, but it’s not what I do. I’ve come to say something, and maybe some people don’t understand what it is. Maybe they thought it was a gimmick. It wasn’t. Even “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” wasn’t a gimmick. I wanted to bring women together. I saw how it was unpopular for mothers and daughters to be friendly. I said to myself, maybe we should fix that and make it popular. It brought women around the world together–it was a celebration, and I think that’s very important.
Q: In “Product of Misery” from the new album, who are you specifically talking about?
CYNDI: I’m talking about people. Real people. The Bush/Quayle administration sold us a bill of goods, especially Barbara Bush, and I felt like I had to stand up to it. I’m not talking about what we’re sold to think real people are or what we’re sold to believe real people look like. What we’re taught is twisted, and I just wanted to write that. I wanted to write a work that was like a piece of literature.
Q: “Who Let in the Rain” and “Hat Full of Stars” seem introspective and sad. Is this the new Cyndi Lauper?
CYNDI: “Time After Time” [from True Colors] was sad. You always think that your truth is not worth anything, [that] it’s not what people want to hear. But the truth is, you can’t write what you don’t know about. I’ve got to know what I’m saying. In “Who Let in the Rain,” I broke up with someone that I really cared for. People really feel things like that. If you really feel that, you should write about it. A year or two ago, I would not have said it. And I thought, “It’s too sad and nothing came out. But you have to write it.” Even though “Hat Full of Stars” is really sad, it’s also uplifting because she always had a hat full of stars. All my songs on this album are testimonies to people.