Remember the ’80s? How could you forget them? They just happened ten minutes ago.
Not so fast. It may be hard to fathom, but Wham! happened a full ten years ago. With ’90s music innovations like, um, gangsta rap, is it any wonder why the ’80s are making a comeback?
The songs of the ’80s are returning in the form of shockingly true covers. HiNRG artists like Nicki French are cashing in with beaucoup-BPM remakes of hits of ’80s classics. Nobody has remade any Cyndi Lauper songs yet. Who’d dare? Who has a four-and-a-half octave voice and a Queens accent that would make even Archie Bunker cock his head and grunt, “Huh?”
Cyndi herself, that’s who. The quirky singer of 1984’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” is riding the crest of the ’80s revival with a new song. But she’s one-upping the nostalgia buffs by redoing her own most famous hit.
Lauper has a new hit with “Hey Now (Girls Just Want to Have Fun),” the debut single from her greatest hits release Twelve Deadly Cyns … and then some. Her collection of 14 songs was a worldwide smash in 1994. It was a hit everywhere … except in America, where it was finally released by Epic in July.
Still brandishing the brassy humor and accent that made her famous, Lauper is more sophisticated. Gone are the eye-popping thrift-store rags of yesteryear. She dresses distinctly, but with a downtown flair. Her face is made-up like a ’40s film star’s, and she looks 15 years younger than her true age of 42.
Cyndi Lauper talks as freely as most people think. She doesn’t hold anything back. For example, she is upfront about why not all of her biggest hits made Twelve Deadly Cyns. With characteristic frankness, she grimaces of her No. 10 movie-theme hit “The Goonies ‘R’ (Good Enough),” “I hated that.”
Besides ten certified hits and “Hey Now,” her CD contains a brand-new song, “Come on Home, ” which has been whipped into club-ready techno by co-composer Junior Vasquez.
The multi-talented Lauper directed the video to “Hey Now” herself. The video for the original featured girls led Pied Piper-style down the streets of Manhattan by urchin-chic Lauper, sporting her trademark orange hair. In the update, Lauper’s hair is canary and the girls are, well, boys: Director Cyndi playfully chose a cast of drag queens as her co-stars, always out to shock the hinterlands.
“Hey Now” will shock listeners with its fresh reggae beat. The revamping happened when she tired of singing the same old “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” over and over in concert. It was a stroke of genius that has sparked an international comeback.
“Hey Now” marks a return to form for Lauper. Though her debut She’s So Unusual sold more than 4.5 million copies in the U.S., she lost the ears of many fans when she championed the virtues of pro wrestling, and of her then-sidekick Captain Lou Albano. As Lauper learned the hard way, hanging out with a guy wearing a rubber band in his cheek will get you nowhere fast.
When Lauper’s outrageousness wore thin, so did her success in America. Her last Top 40 hit was 1989’s cover of Roy Orbison’s “I Drove All Night.” Her most recent studio album, 1993’s critically praised Hat Full of Stars, failed to chart in the U.S.
But pop culture is fickle. Acts deemed laughably passe five years ago are irresistible today. Cyndi’s comeback was inevitable. Lauper sang “I’m Gonna Be Strong,” a ballad she first recorded with her old band Blue Angel, at both last year’s Gay Games and at the Pier Dance after the 1995 New York Gay Pride Parade. Her appearance in the parade on her float with Greg Louganis and her performance at the dance were greeted enthusiastically.
Following are excerpts from an interview with Lauper.
MR: How was your gay pride weekend?
CL: It was really fabulous. I have a great company: They got me a float and then they gave me Greg Louganis!
MR: What was Greg like?
CL: He’s so sweet. And cute. And shy. Poor little one, he’s shy!
MR: What do you think of your gay following?
CL: That you always have to remember-no matter what you’re told-that God loves all the flowers, even the wild ones that grow on the side of the highway.
MR: Speaking of God, you’ve always been an outspoken critic of the Catholic Church-
CL: [Interrupting.]-That’s because I’m a recovering Catholic. I went to a few of their organizations and schools. I speak from experience. … There’s, y’know, the Sisters of Charity, the Sisters of Mercy, and it just so happens that I was with the Sisters of No Charity and No Mercy At All.
MR: Were all the nuns and priests who schooled you rotten?
CL: When you take a group of people and you repress them and they cut themselves off from their feelings as a human-and a human being has sexual feelings, has bodily feelings-what you are handing over to children is a monster….
Maybe God’s a woman … I’m against their teaching that women are evil and that their power and their sexuality is evil. [The Church] is losing popularity anyway. They’re not selling the tickets that they used to.
Ever-outspoken, Cyndi’s a proud liberal who says she voted Democrat in 1992, despite the fact that Tipper Gore once spear-headed a campaign that labeled Cyndi’s No. 3 hit “She-Bop” -a veiled ode to another favorite Catholic pastime, masturbation-as “filthy.” The flap enraged Lauper, though she laughs over it now. Tipper is not forgiven.
CL: I voted for Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Gore! [Giggles mischievously.]
MR: Your message has always been feminist…
CL: It is not a dirty word, “feminism.” We are taught not to like ourselves as women, we are taught what we’re supposed to look like, what our measurements are supposed to be. And there’s a lot of angry women. Me? I’m trying to deal with it. I’m gettin’ to the point now where I’m hopin’ that it’s really my own belief system…
MR: Do you channel your anger into performing?
CL: For me, singing is magical. You feel hooked in, grounded, and connected above and below. I feel alive. There’s something very healing about music.
MR: How was it growing up in Queens as such a talented kid?
CL: I felt like an alien. This counselor made my mother cry. He told her that-’cause at the time my mom was a waitress-“Do you want your daughter to wind up being a waitress, too, and have no career and no life?”
MR: You can answer the question “Are you big in Japan?” with a resounding “Yeah!”
CL: It’s really great to come back home where it’s nice and calm. It’s hard to be famous. ‘Cause it’s really just me, anyway. Always was.
Cyndi Lauper in 1995 remains who she has always been: A woman whose love of music keeps her working non-stop, whether singing, writing, producing, directing, or even acting-last month she won an Emmy nomination for her recurring role on NBC’s Mad About You.
Cyndi Lauper is not desperate for a comeback, but this is one star of the ’80s who may have to give up her stateside quiet time if her new song-and her old material-takes off.