Yay, Cyndi!!!

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One of my favorite music people, Cyndi Lauper, won a Tony Award tonight, and her musical Kinky Boots won five others.  This is pretty awesome news, and she is quite an accomplished singer and songwriter.  But for me, and many others in my generation, Cyndi will always be the girl who wanted to have fun.

 

“Money Changes Everything”

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I heard today that a number of investment groups and pension plans are questioning or ending their investment in companies that manufacture and sell assault weapons.  Aside from some sort of sweeping ban on these killers (and the ammunition that feeds them), this is the best news I can think of right now.  The one thing that (almost) universally makes people stand up and pay attention is money.  Whether you’re making it or losing it, money changes attitudes and minds.  It reveals truths about people.  Deep Throat told Woodward and Bernstein to “follow the money,” and it would help them break the Watergate cover up.  Money is a language everyone knows how to speak.

When the Mega Millions gets big enough, I put a few bucks in.  Not because I think I’m going to win; I know the odds are prohibitively against me.  I just figure if the jackpot is over $100 million, then it’s worth a few dollars in the entertainment value I get from daydreaming about what I’d do with all that money.  There’s the obvious stuff, like take care of my family and friends.  And I’d probably go ahead and buy myself anything I wanted.  (I can tell you right now that my purchases would consist mostly of music, books, and socks.  And maybe a pair of Converse high-tops in every color of the rainbow.)  But I’d give a lot of it away.  I’d buy books for libraries, and make sure animal shelters had whatever they needed.  I’d like to fund a couple of scholarships.  I’d make sure kids had health care and teddy bears.  I’d buy a couple of apartment buildings, and give apartments to homeless people.  My life would change, but I’d make sure a lot of other lives changed, too.

That’s kind of the point of having money, I think.  I wouldn’t mind a really nice house and stuff, but I don’t need a giant mansion filled with designer furniture and a closet full of Jimmy Choos.  The rich people who sock all their money away in offshore accounts or waste it on partying are kind of sad and pathetic.  They’re missing the point.  Once Leland Stanford had made all that money on the railroad, he went and founded a university with his fortune.  Alfred Nobel was so distraught over the destruction caused by his invention dynamite, he bequeathed his fortune to found some prizes, including the Peace Prize.  Money really can make a huge difference in so many ways.  Obviously, most of us don’t have millions and millions of dollars to give away.  But a dollar in the Salvation Army kettle makes a difference, too.

I’m gonna stop here, because it’s starting to get away from me.  Enjoy the delicious 80s goodness that is Cyndi Lauper, and imagine what would change if you had the money.

“Time After Time”

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I’ve written before about how a good cover song is some kind of weird mix of the familiar and the new.  That’s not just limited to artists covering other artists’ songs.  There’s been a spate recently of older classic rock stars re-recording their old songs in some new way.  Most recently, Peter Gabriel followed in Sting’s footsteps (how often does that happen?) and re-recorded many of his old hits and classics with an orchestra.  Now I’m not opposed to something like this, although I do view it kind of skeptically.  At its worst, it’s just repackaging a greatest hits collection to make people think they’re getting something brand new.  but when done with some style and artistic integrity, the results can be breathtaking.

Time changes everyone.  The perspective you have at 18 is different from the perspective you have at 25 or 30.  Middle-age brings not just new aches and pains and responsibilities, but the kind of experience that you wish you were 20 years younger to appreciate.  The same goes for musicians.  The songs they had hits with as 20-somethings become different when they sing them in their 40s or 50s.  They often develop a dislike of some old hits because they’ve had to perform the same songs over and over and over.  Re-recording a song can be a way to give a song a new life.  Or they can just sing it with someone else.

Cyndi Lauper’s monster hit “Time After Time” was impossible to escape during the 80s, and it’s still kind of hard to get away from.  It’s one of those songs you know even if you don’t like it very much.  A sweet, yearning, aching song, “Time After Time” is full of the kind heartbreak of first love ending.  It’s a vow and a promise: “If you fall I will catch you, I’ll be waiting, time after time.”  It can be hard to move on, so you promise to stay in touch forever, to never let each other go, even when you know that’s impossible.  It’s a story everyone’s heard a million times before, especially if you’ve heard “Time After Time” a few hundred times.

Lauper makes this song resonate anew playing it acoustically and sharing the vocals with the ethereal-voiced Sarah McLachlan.  There’s new layers to it with a new voice.  Turning “Time After Time” into a duet is one of the most natural evolutions of a song I’ve ever heard; part of me thinks this song should have always been a duet.    There are always two people in a relationship, two points of view, two hearts that break when things go wrong.  This version highlights this duality, with the disparate voices of Lauper and McLachlan blending seamlessly together.  It makes an already lovely song that much better.

“When You Were Mine”

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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.