Picks and Pans Review: Hat Full of Stars

updated 06/28/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/28/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Cyndi Lauper

Lauper never really wanted just to have fun. We all knew that, even though her thoughtfulness usually came wrapped in irony. On her first album in four years, she rarely cuts loose or cuts up. And that's quite a change—a welcome change—for someone who used to Betty Boop us with her voice and bedazzle us with her hair color du jour.

Hat has enough weighty topics to supply a season's worth of TV movies: incest, wife abuse, a botched abortion, racism. To these subjects, as well as to the more customary topic of romance and its pitfalls, Lauper brings an enticing mix of literal description and oblique metaphor. Writing with a variety of collaborators, she sets a scene, makes us care, gives us hope.

Yet in no way does the album sound like an Issues and Answers forum. For five of the 12 songs, including the jaunty "Feels Like Christmas," she brings back the lively multi-instrumentalists Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman of the Hooters, who gave her 1984 debut album, She 's So Unusual, such zest. The real strength of the album, though, is the way Lauper lets her feelings and opinions, dark as some of them are, emerge naturally. The wacky energy that made Lauper perfect for the go-go '80s is pretty much gone-gone, but Hat's clear-eyed pop rock provides '90s nourishment for body and soul. (Epic)

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