Picks and Pans Review: Drama According to Bernadette Cooper

updated 01/28/1991 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/28/1991 01:00AM

Bernadette Cooper

She's funky. She's funny. She sings smart, sassy pop songs. So the big mystery is, where has Cooper been hiding? In an interview parody on her debut disc, she addresses that issue.

Interviewer: "Where have you been?"

Cooper: "Just kickin' back, relaxin' and lookin' good."

Not exactly. Even if she did look good while she was doing it, the former vocalist-drummer for Klymaxx must have put in a lot of hard labor to make music as finely crafted as this. Cooper co-wrote the songs, produced the sharp arrangements and even directed her own witty video. Her control over the project and her vision bring to mind Michael Jackson and Prince, who also clearly influenced her urban pop style.

As the title implies, Cooper is a nonstop actress and mimic who shifts effortlessly into a variety of styles and voices. On "I Look Good," for instance, she plays the ultimate arrogant diva, dripping with enough attitude to sink a supercarrier. In one verse, she claims to stop a bank heist because the robber can't take his eyes off her: "He threw down the gun and said..."Who does your hair?' "

She does a night-day switch from comedy to social commentary for "The Agency Sent Me." This time Cooper plays a frustrated social worker who can't help battered children because of bureaucratic red tape.

Nearly every song on the album has the slick style of a pop hit, yet Cooper's intelligence adds a deeper dimension. Even the cover photo is a double-edged joke. Parodying divas who build their image on clich├ęs about female sexuality, Cooper pouts while tied up in a black leather straitjacket.

Like Madonna, she can be sexy and funny at the same time. If her solo career took a long time to start, momentum seems to be kicking in. (MCA)

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