Picks and Pans Review: True Colors
Back in the '50s Teresa Brewer became a big pop music star by chirping out a series of dippy novelty tunes, all the while grinning and bouncing as if she were a refugee from the Howdy Doody show. Lauper is, give or take a couple of hair shades and an ankle bracelet or two, the Teresa Brewer of the '80s. That's not at all to say she isn't often a lot of fun. On this album, to choose a couple of examples, 911 and Maybe He'll Know are both happy, splashy party records; don't be surprised to see them sashaying up the dance-disco charts. Lauper and the small army of co-arrangers she uses quite clearly have an astute ear for rhythmic hooks. She herself performs with the benefit of a large reservoir of vitality, yet she doesn't really sing on these tracks. What she does is more akin to burbling, in that inimitable (and just as well) Kewpie-doll voice. There may, however, be something more to Lauper than meets the ear. There are two covers of old hits on this album, a lame version of the Marvin Gaye classic What's Going On and a more appropriate, calypso rendition of the Dixie Cups' 1965 smash Iko Iko. On both those tracks Lauper overdubs her own background vocals. The "background Cyndi" sings with substantially greater power and musical appeal than the "lead Cyndi." Then, too, there's Boy Blue, which begins, "You never knew yourself well enough/ But she never knew you at all." It's an affectingly emotional tribute to an old friend of Lauper's who died recently of AIDS, yet it manages to avoid the pitfall of being cloying. Lauper's singing, too, seems less reflexive and artificial. It might pay to remember that after all the silliness, Brewer developed into a first-rate singer who has hung around in some musically fast company—-Basie and Ellington, for instance. (Portrait)
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