02 February 2004

In praise of our Boop-a-Doop girl

So a couple of years ago I was reading about Betty Boop and I learn that she's based on a real person, Helen Kane, a very popular jazz singer of the 1920s who had a squeaky voice. Her signature song was “He's So Unusual”.

And I laugh, because I'm getting a joke almost 20 years late.

Cyndi Lauper's first album, the one that has all of those pop songs you remember from the ’80s, was entitled She's So Unusual, which I thought was clever at the time given her wacky style. But now I really got it. By the time I was sixteen or so I had already grown snide about contemporary pop and had turned to the Beatles and Velvet Underground and was getting turned on to punk, but I couldn't resist Cyndi Lauper: that album was everything pop should be and so rarely is, including smart.

So the other day I go to see a show where this singer does a heartbreaking version of “You Really Got A Hold On Me”. Well, all versions of it are heartbreaking for me thanks to an unhappy romance many years ago. Still, it was a terrific rendition, and it occurs to me that this would be a good excuse to check out the iTunes function for buying songs individually.

I was looking for Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, but about a million people have done cover versions of the song. Including Cyndi Lauper. So I'm curious, and I listen to the sample, and wow -- a minute later I'm downloading her entire new album of her singing Motown and standards, At Last.

Spare arrangements, distinctive renditions, and the girl's got pipes. Check it out.

No comments: