pirate smiles always make me cry

posted at 4:08 pm by brandon in now hear this

Perhaps aiming once more to one-up her old rival Madonna, the spectacularly gifted Cyndi Lauper is back this week with Bring Ya to the Brink, her first album of original material (not counting 2001’s Shine, which was released only in Japan) since 1997’s stunning Sisters of Avalon. (Her last two records — 2003’s At Last and 2005’s The Body Acoustic were both covers projects.) Brink is heavily influenced by electronica, marking Lauper’s — ever the maverick, this girl — first full-length foray into the field after years of pressing her face to the glass (1997’s crazy-ass club smash “Ballad of Cleo and Joe” and 1998’s Grammy-nominated “Disco Inferno” cover spring immediately to mind) and flirting with it. Especially if you’re accustomed to (and love) Lauper’s ballads and more downtempo fare, Brink is a bracing change of pace that requires a touch of patience; nevertheless, exposure of any stripe to Lauper — one of a fortunate few artists whose work only got more interesting beyond the ’80s (who besides George Michael and, possibly, Prince can seriously stake that claim?) — is a good thing.


And so it is that artist and that work to which we look for the Buzz’s inaugural playlist. I ran Cyndi’s music in a constant loop for the entire first year of our relationship, and A wasn’t swayed in any direction by it; however, after watching a VH1 concert a couple of years back, he became an instant Lauper fan. Go figure, yeah? Let’s see if he can find something here to fall madly in love with.


1. “Time After Time” (from She’s So Unusual) — Cyndi Lauper - She's So Unusual (Remastered) - Time After Time — even if she had never written nor sang another frickin’ bar of music for the rest of her natural life, this one tune — the chart-topping smash that kicked 1984 into hyperdrive — still woulda made Lauper a legend.

2. “Change of Heart” (from True Colors) — Cyndi Lauper - The Essential Cyndi Lauper - Change of Heart — following the massive success of She’s So Unusual, Lauper’s all-o’er-the-map second album was something of a letdown, as if she couldn’t decide exactly what she wanted to be. Even so, it had its moments; witness the uplifting title track, and this, the record’s underrated second single.

3. “Who Let in the Rain” (from Hat Full of Stars) — Cyndi Lauper - Hat Full of Stars - Who Let In the Rain — the leadoff single from the gorgeous 1993 album that — its flaccid title track excepted — marked Lauper’s indisputable creative zenith.

4. “Sally’s Pigeons” (from Hat Full of Stars) — Cyndi Lauper - Hat Full of Stars - Sally's Pigeons — a haunting story song — co-written with the incomparably divine Mary Chapin Carpenter — about two childhood friends whose paths diverge. You’ll never picture a pirate smile the same way again.

5. “Come On Home” (from Twelve Deadly Cyns… and Then Some) — Cyndi Lauper - Twelve Deadly Cyns...And Then Some - Come On Home — one of three original cuts from Lauper’s thrilling 1995 best-of set, “Home’s” obvious zydeco influences would not only blend in beautifully with her discography theretofore, but would also hint at a more musically adventurous act two.

6. “Love to Hate” (from Sisters of Avalon) — Cyndi Lauper - Sisters of Avalon - Love to Hate — and how. 1997 brought Sisters, a lush, daring, decidedly rock-tinged effort which allowed Cyndi to play with jungle rhythms (the aforementioned “Cleo and Joe” and the album’s title track), crunchy guitars, and bolder vocal trills.

7. “La Vie en Rose” (from At Last) — Cyndi Lauper - At Last - La Vie en Rose — eat your heart out, Edith Piaf.

8. “Unchained Melody” (from At Last) — Cyndi Lauper - At Last - Unchained Melody — just a spare piano arrangement and a woman unafraid to belt with the best of ’em. A textbook illustration of how to cover a classic.

9. “All Through the Night” (featuring Shaggy) (from The Body Acoustic) — Cyndi Lauper featuring Shaggy - The Body Acoustic - All Through the Night — always been able to take or leave Shaggy, I have, but who knew his charmingly roguish Rastafarian flair would mesh with Cyndi’s Brooklyn gal bent this flawlessly?

10. “Above the Clouds” (featuring Jeff Beck) (from The Body Acoustic) — Cyndi Lauper featuring Jeff Beck - The Body Acoustic - Above the Clouds — saved the heartbreaker for last. From the woman who gave us “True Colors,” its decade’s most moving and ubiquitous diversity anthem, comes an even stronger affirmation of spirit.



3 responses to “pirate smiles always make me cry”

  1. the buzz from A.:

    I don’t think I could have asked for a more successful first Brandon’s Buzz Playlist! Of course it helps that (1) I absolutely loved the Cyndi Lauper VH1 concert and (2) I already own two out of the ten songs on the playlist (“Time After Time,” “All Through the Night,” plus another five by Cyndi Lauper). Here are some highlights among the eight remaining songs:

    “Change of Heart” — This has to be one of the greatest songs of the 1980s! (Ok, caveat: I am not an expert on 80s songs at all.) I cannot believe this was not on my iTunes until tonight. Brandon, was this just a minor oversight? (Just kidding.)

    “Sally’s Pigeons” — With this sad, regretful song to lost childhood and friendship, I discovered a side of Cydni Lauper’s music I did not know. She is a much broader (or multifaceted, as some might say) artist that I originally thought.

    “Above the Clouds” — This is truly a gem in a collection of greats, so it’s no wonder Brandon saved the best for last. With a hint of Eva Cassidy’s “Fields of Gold,” the refrain on its own is plainly amazing.

    “La Vie En Rose” — This is the second modern incarnation of the Edith Piaf classic I have heard (the first being Belinda Carlisle’s). Call me a traditionalist, old-school, conservative, whatever-you-want, but Edith Piaf’s deep, gruff, in a sense, full-of-experience voice simple cannot be beat. Indeed, Cyndi Lauper’s “La Vie En Rose” is a fine but simply different song! If you have not heard the Edith Piaf version, give it a listen.

    “Love to Hate” – Almost every playlist has a song that does not speak to me at all (after all, none of us are perfect!).

    Looking forward to Playlist No. 2!

  2. the buzz from brandon:

    Whoa, Trigger! “Change of Heart” is a great tune, no question, but one of the best songs of the ’80s? Only if your list has 999 other songs on it!

    The brilliance of “Sally’s Pigeons” and “Above the Clouds” goes without saying, but isn’t it funny how I just KNEW A would go for “La Vie en Rose” if nothing else! I’m telling you, wrong every damn time!

  3. the buzz from A.:

    Per Brandon’s request, here are the songs I acquired last night: “Change of Heart,” “Sally’s Pigeons,” “Above the Clouds,” and “Who Let in the Rain.” I already own “Time After Time” and “All Through the Night,” the latter in both Shaggy and non-Shaggy versions.

    Despite Brandon’s comment above, I still maintain that, given the caveat noted earlier, “Change of Heart” is one of the best songs of the 1980s. (By the way, I know of far fewer than 999 80s songs!)