Leiki Veskimets On…Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual

Each week, one of Biff Bam Pop’s illustrious writers will delve into one of their favorite things. Perhaps it’s a movie or album they’ve carried with them for years. Maybe it’s something new that moved them and they think might move you too. Each week, a new subject, a new voice writing on… something they love.

I was 8 when Cyndi Lauper’s “She’s So Unusual” was released, and I discovered it on cassette tape. Before then there was Michael Jackson, David Bowie and Prince, so when Cyndi came along, bursting with immense confidence, talent and unapologetic decisions, it was hard not to notice. Yup, even at 8, drowning in the “Just Say No” marketing of the 80s. I feel lucky that it landed in my lap when it did. I can’t remember the source, it was very likely intended for my older sister, but with youthful sponge-like absorption, I inhaled that album, playing each side over and over until I could hear the notes of the next song in my head as the previous one was fading out.

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Before learning the lyrics to the entire album inside out and unearthing the “B-side” songs, the pull to the album was obviously Girls Just Want To Have Fun, which exploded at the time. I was a girl. I wanted to have fun. Seemed simple to me. Even the music video was fun, flighty and with a beat that got you off your chair each and every damn time. But the beauty of this album is rediscovering it every few years and, as one would imagine, getting more and more out of it as I matured and my tastes and experiences broadened.

The opening line from the opening song, “I said, I’m sorry baby, but I’m leaving you tonight” from Money Changes Everything lays the cards out. I’m independent, I do what I want and I don’t feel guilty about it. Madonna’s “You Can Dance” wouldn’t come out for another 4 years. Gwen Stefani, Pink and Beyonce were decades away. In my memory, Cyndi was girly and feminine, with unique hair, make-up and outfit choices. This was not a woman whose intention was to blend in. Pre-teen addiction to drama drew me to Time After Time with the soft spoken words laced with the harmonized chorus entrenched in my memory as I sang along, eyes closed painting the words into a soap opera in my head as if I could relate.

She Bop lyrics confounded me. I was 8, after all. But I sang my made-up words because I knew it didn’t matter. I was having fun. Singing into a hairbrush in front of the mirror kind of fun. He’s So Unusual, leading right into Yeah Yeah celebrated the strange and was of immense relief to me. With an odd name in a school full of Jennifer, Amy and Kathryn’s and curly hair in a sea of cookie-cutter bowl cuts of poker straight hair, Cyndi let me know that weird was also fun. I knew the world didn’t agree. We can’t all be mass consumption acceptable, but secretly, it gave me solace that there’s something to be said for being yourself.

I recently found myself singing along to a song from the album playing on the radio. The words tumbled out of my mouth effortlessly, unconsciously, and it give me the opportunity to download the album and revisit it again. It holds up. Some of what’s holding it up is nostalgia, for sure, but compared to some in the current music spotlight, she’s a breath of fresh air. Something different. Something unusual.

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