Friday, January 16, 2015

Coming Back Stronger, Cyndi Lauper Shows Her True Colors!

The Good: Good themes, Catchy tunes, Not all the best songs were singles, Good vocals
The Bad: Short, Some unfortunately predictable rhymes
The Basics: Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors might be a more collaborative effort than her debut, but the results are undeniably wonderful!

Back in the day, when Annie Lennox was my Artist Of The Month, I felt a weird pang of artist guilt. When I choose an Artist Of The Month, I try to find a musical artist – one who writes their own music, plays some of their own music and, in general is not just a performer of works written by others. With Annie Lennox, I felt a bit bad because her solo debut album, Diva (reviewed here!) was less good than her follow-up, an album comprised entirely of cover songs called Medusa (reviewed here!). As I delve into the musical works of Cyndi Lauper, I am finding myself feeling a similar sense of guilt. After all, I am enjoying True Colors more than her debut album, She’s So Unusual (reviewed here!).

True Colors was Cyndi Lauper’s sophomore album and while She’s So Unusual was hardly a debut album chock full of Lauper’s writing, on True Colors some of the best tracks were not even co-written by Lauper. Interestingly, True Colors is very much a collaborative album; Lauper had a number of guest musicians and vocalists on the album. Despite being less intimately or distinctly the work of Cyndi Lauper, True Colors is a better album that shows real growth for Cyndi Lauper as a musical artists.

With only ten tracks, clocking out at 37:57, perhaps the biggest strike against True Colors is that it is short. Despite the fact that Lauper is credited as a co-writer on only seven of the ten songs, the fact that she co-produced True Colors seems to indicate that she was integrally involved in chosing the three other songs on the album. Lauper provides all of the lead vocals on True Colors and she is credited with the emulator (I’ve never heard of that instrument) and she performs her own beat box on at least one track. Despite not writing or co-writing the entire album, True Colors does seem to legitimately be the creative vision of Cyndi Lauper.

True Colors is a more musically diverse album than She’s So Unusual. In addition to up-tempo dance songs like “Iko Iko” and “The Faraway Nearby” True Colors includes more contemplative ballads, like the title track, “What’s Going On,” “Calm Inside The Storm” and “Boy Blue.” I was pleasantly surprised by how the album starts out with a meaningful song with “Change Of Heart” (arguably one of the most repetitive songs I’ve heard that actually still works!) and gets True Colors off to a more raucous start!

Vocally, True Colors shows some real growth for Cyndi Lauper as a singer. Outside “Iko Iko,” none of the songs actually have Lauper’s vocals heavily produced. Instead, True Colors has vocals that sound delightfully natural and, on songs like “True Colors” and “Maybe He’ll Know” fairly raw. One of the pleasant aspects of True Colors is how Lauper’s vocals have none of the nasal quality that was apparent on several songs on her debut. So, even songs like “The Faraway Nearby,” where it sounds like Lauper is straining some, still sound distinctly feminine, real and like Cyndi Lauper!

Lyrically, Cyndi Lauper has a lot to say on True Colors. Unlike Public Enemy’s “911 Is A Joke,” Cyndi Lauper does not lampoon the early ineffectiveness of the 911 system on her song “911.” Instead, she makes a song with interpersonal disaster needing a universal remedy. She ties the personal plea for help together well with lines like “Tell me do you have a home-made remedy, / The only time we talk is in our sleep / Oh he likes mornings, I like the moon / It's a typical case of too little, too soon / I'm dialing up 911 / I'm on the brink of trouble again, / If you could change the time, a little, / Then everything would be / Fine, fine, fine” (“911”).

Most of the songs on True Colors are about relationships, though, and Lauper does a great job with her poetics. When Lauper sings “You seem so far away / I wish I could say something / But I don't know what to say / I can feel your eyes / I don't have to look at you / Boy, discontentment / Is-a-sneakin' through” (“Calm Inside The Storm”), it is hard not to empathize with her musical protagonists. Even the somewhat repetitive quality of “Change Of Heart,” which was done a disservice by a music video that had nothing to do with the lyrics, has a sense of longing and desire that is essential and human and uncommon even in music today.

Not all of the songs are lyrical gold, though. The album finishes with the somewhat banal “One Track Mind.” In addition to repeating the title ad nauseum, the song includes predictable rhymes like “I climb up the stairs / I sit up and stare / But nobody's there / I walk ahead / (Got a one track mind) / You fall behind” (“One Track Mind”).

That is not enough to deter one from listening to and adding True Colors to one’s collection even now. Despite some dated elements, Cyndi Lauper’s sophomore effort still rocks and has a lot to offer listeners.

The best track is “Calm Inside The Storm,” the low point is probably “One Track Mind.”

For other, former, Artist Of The Mont selections, please check out my reviews of:
Break Every Rule - Tina Turner
The Beginning Of Survival - Joni Mitchell
Britney Jean (Deluxe) – Britney Spears


Check out how this album stacks up against other music I have reviewed by visiting my Music Review Index Page where the albums are organized from best to worst!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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