Cyndi Lauper’s debut solo album She’s So Unusual changed the way many of us thought about music. It quickly became one of the most iconic albums of the 1980s.
My world changed in 1984 when I first heard She’s So Unusual. I was only seven at the time, which was a turning point in my life. My mother was a big fan of Cyndi Lauper because of her music, and because she represented something different – a woman who not only stood up for her rights, but was also unapologetic for being herself. This left a lasting impression on me that both helped and hindered me through my journey.
- Money Changes Everything
- Girls Just Want to Have Fun
- When You Were Mine
- Time After Time
- She Bop
- All Through The Night
- I’ll Kiss You
- He’s So Unusual
- Yeah Yeah
The first side of the album consisted of the first four tracks. These songs introduced me to concepts that shaped my childhood. The song “Money Changes Everything” showed me that money complicates relationships at a time before I had either. “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” had me confront the idea that women were in some cases not allowed to have fun. “When You Were Mine” illustrated that relationship boundaries are flexible, and that sometimes we make the wrong decisions based on love. “Time After Time” haunted me wherever I went and asked me to understand that the relationships I should seek should be that of mutual support (even though the video is fraught with heartache). This was a lot for a seven year old to take in. Over the years I have returned to many of these songs with fresh experience and insight. My appreciation of them has changed with time.
The second half of the album contains a greater emphasis on 80’s pop that overall has much less probative value than the first. Mega hits “She Bop” and “All Through The Night” are featured on this side, with the latter being the most pivotal. “She Bop” gave breath to female sexuality, but in a tongue and cheek way that was less provocative than contemporaneous Madonna. “All Through The Night” did teach me that we can all move on from the past, but it was many years before it became evident to me. The remaining tracks are a lot of fun, but are more focused on catchiness. It provides a nice balance to the album.
The music of She’s So Unusual was groundbreaking in North America for its time. In Cyndi Lauper’s autobiography she notes that even though she had worked in music for a decade prior, she had to ask someone what the name of the drum was that she wanted to use on the album. It was the caged snare that became part of her signature sound at the time. The album mixes a multitude of traditional and modern (for its time) sounds that the world didn’t even know it was hungry for.
She’s So Unusual is a classic album in my home, and I still have the old LP resting in my collection. This album is great for road trips. Every song is singable, and even though there are some emotional songs within, it ends with a great punch that will keep your day going.