“When You Were Mine”


So I was listening to music on the computer to choose a song for tonight’s entry, when I noticed something odd.

Prince’s “When You Were Mine” came up on the shuffle, now this is a song I really enjoy, despite the 80s synth attack.  I also really enjoy the Cyndi Lauper version from her debut She’s So Unusual.  So I turn off shuffle and scroll to the C’s, because I think writing about Cyndi’s version will be fun, and I find out that for some unknown reason, her version was not in my computer.  Neither was “She Bop” (one of the best songs about masturbation ever, and there’s been more than you think).  I could’ve sworn I had both on there at one time, and checking my iPod wouldn’t have done me any good since I’ve synched it a couple of times in the recent past.  So I rectified the situation pronto.

“When You Were Mine” is a typical sad sack, oh-baby-please-come-back song.  Lauper’s version suffers from the same awful 80s production and can be considered slighter because she is so obviously imitating Prince throughout most of it.  Luckily, her wonderfully quirky voice and personality can’t be held down for too long, and she breaks through in the second half.  What really gets me is the genderbending.  Or the lack of it.

See, when a woman sings a man’s song (or vice versa) she will generally change the gender of the pronouns from “she” to “he” (such as Shawn Colvin’s cover of “Every Little Thing (He) Does is Magic”).  I don’t think it’s any kind of commentary on sexual orientation, but I could be wrong.  The Prince version is about a guy pining for a girl he lost, even though he gave her everything he had.  He even let her sleep with other guys in his bed.  And so did the girl in Lauper’s version.  The thing that makes this stand out is that she doesn’t change the pronoun: “I know that you’re going with another guy.”  She doesn’t mind “when he was there, sleeping in between the two of us.”  This is wonderful, although it begs the question just which one is bisexual, the Cyndi-character or her wayward partner.  Admittedly, this is all presuming both Prince and Lauper are singing as characters of their own sex (which bends the gender question just a little further).

The only other song I can think of like this is Joan Jett’s version of “Crimson and Clover” (infinitely better than the original).  And I know for a fact that Jett likes chicks (whether she’s bisexual or lesbian or an ambisexual walnut is her business. . . but she did date Carmen Electra).  I remember being kind of wowed to hear that, too.  I was around 11, I think, and homosexuality wasn’t really important one way or the other to me at that point.  I do remember knowing instinctively that what Jett did was somehow transgressive.  Because the convention is for women to sing about men, and men to sing about women.  Openly gay artists like Bob Mould and Elton John (these days) tend to keep their love songs gender neutral.  Personally, I think that’s kind of a crime.  Who cares if a gay man is singing to another man?  Isn’t that how it works?

Cyndi Lauper not changing the gender pronoun in her cover of “When You Were Mine” might not seem like that big of a deal.  Until I start to think about how rare it is.  And then I get a little angry.  Everybody should.  Love is love.  Who cares how someone else expresses it with his/her chosen partner?  Bedrooms have doors for a reason, after all.

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