Lauper Has What She Wants

Now that the word is out on her pregnancy, fans relate to Cyndi Lauper on a different, more confiding level.

“There are women who come up to me and they say things, some reassuring, some horrifying–it depends on how you look at it,” the singer says, bemused.

“I’ve always wanted to do this,” she says, not talking of her pregnancy now, but of being on the road with Tina Turner. “It’s pretty great to be touring with another woman. It’s so romantic, don’t you think ?”

At age 43, Cyndi Lauper seems to have arrived at a point in her life where she clearly is content and enjoying what she is doing. It isn’t necessary to pull out damp clich├ęs about motherhood-fulfilment-identification as a facile explanation because Cyndi has been identifying with women and telling their stories all along.

Yet, as far as the North American media are concerned, what the news of her pregnancy has done is to focus on her story. This is what we find.

In 1983, she was the first woman to have four top-five singles from one album, She’s So Unusual, the vitality of which was crystalized but also stigmatized by the song “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”.

Everybody got the “fun” message of it, but missed the feminist subtext and the ethnic diversity of the women in the subsequent video.

By the follow-up album, True Colors, Cyndi Lauper’s bird of paradise wardrobe and chirpy exuberance weren’t new anymore and North America more or less ignored her.

Elsewhere, however, Cyndi Lauper flourished, her “best of” album, Twelve Deadly Cyns, selling in the millions in Europe, Japan, South America, all places where she has toured to great reception.

With her Sisters of Avalon album, a wildly diverse, self-assured spectrum of grooves and emotions, she has come back, more or less, to find North America ready for her again. This, too, is what we find.

Cyndi Lauper, the film and TV actress. Cyndi Lauper, the director and producer. Cyndi Lauper, the multi-instrumentalist songwriter. Cyndi Lauper, the woman who helped pave the way for the women of strong character and flamboyant image whose careers are thriving today.

While Sisters of Avalon maintains the pop quotient, it also delves into world music, hip-hop beats, rock, even flavorings of country.

It also dares to be introspective one moment, enraged another. “Love to Hate”, for example, is a bracing track that is its own statement about Alanis and the breed of angry young women rockers without actually saying so.

“That’s a real person doing that.” Lauper explains the album’s musical and emotional range. “Every time I see something in real life, I want to write about it and reflect it. I mean, I don’t listen to just one radio station; I listen to four.

“Music has become one note-so one-dimensional. You don’t have a whole person you can look to or hold onto.”


Interview with Foxy Brown

FOXY BROWN: Hi, Cyndi !
CYNDI LAUPER: HOW ya’ doin’, doll ?

FB: Fine. I’ve been telling people, “I’m talking to Cyndi Lauper !” and they’re all like, “Yeah, right.”
CL: Well, you’re doing the interview now, hon.

FB: I wanted to ask you, being a female in the music industry, do you think the industry is sexist ?
CL: It is, but I don’t dwell on it, because my world isn’t like that. I decided a long time ago the only way to change things was for me to change my environment.

FB: Oh my God, I did that same thing. I have enough pressure, being that I’m young and with the things I talk about. You know, people say, “All Foxy does is talk about sex.” I get a lot of criticism for that and I don’t need anybody in my own camp [criticizing me too].
CL: Yeah, but what the hell is L.L. [Cool J] doing ?

FB: [laughs] My thing is I was always open with my sexuality, you know what I mean ? I feel there’s nothing to hide. And it’s been done. Everyone talks a little about sex. Even you !
CL: Who, me ? Well, I’ve talked about different kinds of things. “She Bop” was more [about] masturbation.

FB: See ?
CL: Well, it’s the safest kind of sex there is, doll.

FB: And you’re enjoying yourself at the same time !
CL: Can I tell you something ? What I got from your record was a certain view of life, of where you grew up. That’s what I heard.

FB: Really ? That’s strange, because if you listen to any news station, they’re always like, “Seventeen-year-old X-rated teen rapper [Foxy Brown].”
CL: Oh, fuck what everyone says. Don’t you know that everyone is always going to try and pigeonhole you ?

FB: I used to believe that, but now I can’t help but care what people say.
CL: NO, no, no. Wait a minute. Now, when you started doing this, sure you wanted to be successful, but in the end you know and I know that the joy is in the doing. It’s in the moment when all the rhythms click and the rhyme fits in just the right way. That’s the joy–the music–and that’s what nobody can ever take away from you. And, yeah, you may be pretty–lucky you–but it’s not about that. Even though you’re talking about sex, where is it taking place ? In what neighborhood ?

FB: Yeah, you’re right.
CL: Because really, as artists our job is almost like being a reporter. For my new album, “Sisters of Avalon”, I travelled around the world and wrote about the people close to me, the people I love.

FB: AS far as [my album] III Na Na, if I had had more experience, I would have had more input. ‘Cause [when we started working on it] everything, down to what I was wearing, was left up to the record company. After the album went platinum and I had a little leverage, I was like, “Look, check this out. I want my makeup artist, I want this, I want that.”
CL: You know, I was originally signed as only a singer and I guess that’s what they expected, but I had my own ideas. What I did (which you might want to do) is, I got a really simple set-up in my home–an Akai board–so I wouldn’t have to negotiate over the music that I did. And the less negotiation I had to do, the more music I could make. I play things like the omnichord–

FB: The omnichord ? I love that !
CL: Yeah, it’s dope-simple. On the new album I wrote the chords and I played the omnichord and the harmonium. I played that guitar solo on “Unhook the Stars,” too. [singing] “Da-da-na” ?

FB: Yeah, that’s the joint !
CL: You know what track I responded to on your CD ? “As If. . .”

FB: Yeah, that was straight from my heart.
CL: Well, it hit mine, and that is what you should focus on–that is what will make you a cut above. You’re not just selling sex, sweetie. You are a sexual human being, that’s all.

FB: And is there anything wrong with that ?
CL: Well, you know–it’s just that they sent all the Puritans over here.

FB: What I’m getting from you is good advice. Because sometimes I feel like I don’t know which way to go. I really enjoyed talking to you, Cyndi. Thank you so much.
CL: Good luck, sweetie. Knock ’em dead.


Cyndi Lauper with Mature Sounds

Singer Cyndi Lauper shows off a more mature sound on her latest album. But does she still just want to have fun? Larry Flick reports.

With her brilliantly crafted new Epic collection, Sisters of Avalon, Cyndi Lauper is working overtime in her desire to be viewed as an artist of far greater creative substance than the often cartoonish figure who became a leader of the MTV generation in 1984 with the kitschy ‘Girls just Want to Have Fun.’ Produced by the ever quirky and ebullient singer with Jan Pulsford and Mark Saunders, the album plays to Lauper’s considerable strengths as a vocalist and her marked maturity as a songwriter, with broad stylistic leanings that range from textured hip-hop and dance to guitar-driven alterna-pop.

Despite its seemingly disparate musical elements, Sisters of Avalon is a cohesive and powerful collection that is notable for the absence of the novelty ditties that have long been associated with the singer.

But is the world ready for the “serious” Cyndi Lauper? She certainly has some preconceived notions to overcome, but she firmly believes that her music will be met with open minds. ‘I believe in my heart that a great song will always find a home,’ she says. “These songs speak with an honesty that I hope others will connect with. I’ve always been open and free in my music, but I’m proud of the growth I’ve experienced in the last few years.

The secret to getting Sisters of Avalon heard is in the magic of live performance. In the past, Lauper’s records have been built almost exclusively around MTV and radio. And while those will remain key elements in elevating the visibility of this project, more emphasis will be placed on the singer’s chemistry with an audience. A smart move, because Lauper is never better or more beguiling than when she’s onstage. To that end, punters will have numerous opportunities to bare witness to her otherworldly presence in the coming months.

She is tempering a massive summer tour with Tina Turner with a handful of intimate club appearances. She recently turned the New York bar Splash upside down when she did a four-song acoustic set to the frothing approval of the bar’s patrons. ‘Sometimes, it’s like stepping into an alternate universe when I do a show,’ she says. ‘It’s like meeting people on a different plane and we’re sharing our hearts before resuming our real lives.”

Epic recently started the campaign for Sisters Of Avalon with the single “You Don’t Know,” a biting diatribe on the sheep-like mentality of society. It’s a commercially viable, funk-fortified pop jam that has been deftly remixed with a variety of trend-conscious dance beats by Tony Moran, Prince Quick Mix and Junior Vasquez. Response to the song has been incredibly positive, fueled by the fact that a number of indie retailers have been selling a Japanese pressing of the album since November.

“She’s one of those unique artists who has loyal followers that literally clamor for every bit of music or memorabilia they can get their hands on,’ says Marlon Creaton, who manages the Record Kitchen in San Francisco. ‘I agree that there are some people who will initially write off this album without listening. But it’s a good enough record to change a lot of those minds if the label stays committed to the record for longer than a couple of months; I think they will.’

Ironically, Lauper doesn’t view Sisters of Avalon as such a dramatic departure. “To me, this album is a natural progression from the songs on Hat Full of Stars,’ she says, referring to the 1993 album that had her dabbling in more textured and experimental rhythms and weightier lyrics.

If there is a difference between this album and those from her ’80s heyday, Lauper says that it’s in the way these tunes were assembled. “While I was on tour for Hat Full of Stars, I found myself fortunate to be working with musicians I felt I could record with,’ she says. “Remember, I started out as a singer/songwriter in a band called Blue Angel. Those are my roots. It’s always been strange to go into the studio with one set of people, and then go on the road with an entirely different group of people. I was longing to have a more cohesive experience.”

It was during the worldwide tours supporting Hat Full of Stars and the 1995 greatest-hits collection, 12 Deadly Cyns and Then Some, that some of the songs for Sisters of Avalon started to take shape. “I cannot begin to explain what a fabulous experience it was for all of us to be jammed into my hotel room every night, spontaneously putting our ideas together,” she says. “It was exciting because everyone comes from such different backgrounds and perspectives.”

Among the band members with whom she most closely connected was Jan Pulsford, a keyboardist who first tweaked Lauper’s interest with a tape of a world beat-spiced groove that would eventually evolve into the song “Searching.” ‘It was while I started putting words to that piece of music that I started to understand that we were on a special journey that felt so right,’ the singer says. ‘Jan and I are extremely compatible collaborators because she is so well-studied and I approach music in a real primal manner.

We complement each other perfectly.’ When the tours ended, Lauper and Pulsford recruited producer Mark Saunders, and together they began seeking an ideal setting in which to assemble the various ideas accumulated on the road. Their search lead them to a mansion in Tuxedo, New York, which they renovated into a studio. “It was ideal in that we were able to make it as technically proficient as we needed it to be,’ Lauper says, ‘but it also provided a warm and homey space that fed our souls. It was so beautiful to be working on a vocal and smell lilacs.”

With the experience of recording Sisters of Avalon a pleasant memory, Lauper says that she is itching to get out on the road and perform again. “I’ve never been more proud of a group of songs,’ she says’ ‘It will be interesting to see the shape they take onstage. I can’t wait to find out”.