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Cyndi Lauper - She's So Unusual 30th Anniversary Special Edition

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I have always found the best music to contain a delicate mix of unadulterated euphoria while being laced with lessons for us to discern and apply. Pop music while celebrated by the mass media, is often overlooked in terms of its impact. Whether you love or hate something, if it strikes a chord, you owe it to yourself to sit back and enjoy it without getting overly judgmental. Like any genre, it has its fair share of missteps, but when the stars align and the right artist with an indisputable collection of songs emerges, it is undeniable. Cyndi Lauper released She's So Unusual in October of 1983, but spent all of 1984 on the charts and was the first album by a female artist to house five top-ten hits from one album. While tracks like "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" and "Time After Time" have endured three decades onward, the rest of the album is ripe for a reevaluation. There is a reason that She's So Unusual made Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time and it's now been remastered and reissued in an elaborate and deluxe package for your rediscovery.

Lauper has re-connected with that larger audience in the last few years with an autobiography on the New York Times Best Seller List, Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir, and a hit Broadway musical, Kinky Boots. If this was not enough, Lauper became the first female in this category to win the "Best Original Score" Tony on her own. Further, the single from the musical, "Sex in the Heel" reached the top 10 of the Billboard club charts, which is notable because it's the first song from a Broadway musical to reach this position in more than a quarter of a century. Success is the greatest antidote to fear. While Lauper has never turned her back on her past, she has always been someone with the wind behind her pushing her forward even when it may not make the most commercial sense. However, with her unparalleled success in recent years, she has been able to embrace her past and give back to her fans without feeling as if it is a step backwards. She decided to give her fans the tour they have long been yearning for, a deluxe edition of her most enduring record She's So Unusual: A 30th Anniversary Celebration .

She's So Unusual runs a mere thirty-eight minutes, but you would be hard pressed to find a more catching and indelible songs from this time period. To dismiss the record as pop would be overlooking its charms that include tight musicianship, top-tier songwriting and a winking smile, which the audience can hear in her underappreciated vocals. The record had the great fortune to come out just as MTV was launching into the stratosphere and her charming wit and girlish playfulness were on display hourly for the world to fall in love with her. "Money Changes Everything" kick starts the record with a jolt of new wave furor that never relents. Has there ever been a more prevailing, partying and empowering song for women other than "Girls Just Want to Have Fun"? I doubt it and the reaction of this song anytime I see it performed has enough power to silence her detractors. "When You Were Mine" with its spin-cycle drumming spins the Prince track on its head and it's astonishing that this song was not one of the five singles from the record. Despite being a cover, she owns the song and it could be argued that her version has permeated in the public consciousness more than Prince's has. The keyboard and drums synths you would think would date the record are surprisingly punchy proving that words like "dated" are only useful when the artist isn't sincere in their art. "She Bop" is vigorous with layered rhythm and synthesizer grooves and her ode to self-gratification is even more cheeky today than originally thought. Over the last fifteen years we have all witnessed first hand how women sell their music with their bodies and not their minds. To Lauper's credit, she wrapped this song around irrefutable melodies and arrangements. On "Time After Time", the album's only song to reach number-one, the stark and breezy arrangement is highlighted by glacial guitars. The reggae-ska flavored "Witness" is a forgotten gem of a song while "I'll Kiss You" with its Godzilla synths and two-fisted drums ending with the mischievous "Yeah Yeah". So how does the deluxe reissue hold up? Let's find out.

The 2014 Remaster

She's So Unusual was remastered in 2000 and boasted a greatly improved sound over the original CD pressing in the late 80's. It's mastering in 2000 is key because this was in a pre-iPod era, where "remastered" music often meant pumping up the treble to ridiculous levels to compensate for the loss in MP3 compression. The new 2014 remaster is every bit as good as the remaster from 14 years ago. The best thing about this new reissue is the treble has not overwhelmed the songs. There is more definition in the bottom-end and a clearer separation of instruments giving the current remaster the edge as the definitive version.

The Bonus Tracks

There are nine bonus tracks included on a second disc of the set. "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" is represented by an early guitar demo and a more finished demo. The first has a rudimentary edge to it providing the listener a peak into the creative process. The demo is more fleshed out but is also a showcase for her vocals that she does not hold back on. A work-in-progress recording of "Time After Time" which is almost complete but it is missing some of the lyrics. "All Through the Night" is an in-studio rehearsal, which includes a false start and is similar to the final version. An unreleased song entitled "Rules and Regulations" appears here in rehearsal form (recorded on a Sony Walkman) and appears to have been abandoned. She recently spoke to Rolling Stone about the track and said, "In the end, the song didn't make the record. You have to remember back in the Eighties, the main format for albums was vinyl. Each side of the album had to be under 30 minutes, so you had to decide what the best 60 minutes of music was. This song didn't make the list, even though I thought it was a good song." Making its debut on CD is the b-side to "Girls Just Want to Have Fun", "Right Train, Wrong Track" which easily could have traded places with some of the songs on the second side and still kept every bit of its prominence. A live performance of "Witness" from Boston in 1984 and a 1984 Arthur Baker remix of "She Bop" finish out the bonus disc. While these extra nine songs provide the listener a fly-on-the-wall experience as these songs found their wings.

The Packaging

The packaging for the 30th Anniversary is its crowning achievement. The two CD's come housed in a vinyl sized package that when opened has vinyl figures and costumes that can be used to dress Cyndi Lauper in a variety of outfits. The package opens up into a Colorforms play set replicating her room in the "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" video. I have to give props to the packaging because in a day and age where money is not spent on these types of packages, they went beyond here.

The 2014 Remixes

I always like giving these packages the benefit of the doubt and I believe that they add these modern remixes as a way to bring these songs into the present. Sadly, every deluxe edition that contains modern remixes falls flat and the three included on the 30th Anniversary package are no different. In fact, they're disappointing and inconsequential. The three 2014 bonus remixes appear at the end of the standard album but there are single edits and twelve-inch remixes from 1984 that didn't find there way onto this package and that's a disappointment. The three live bonus cuts on the 2000 remaster are also conspicuously missing not to mention her songs that appeared on The Goonies soundtrack which makes me believe they'll never be properly mastered since this would have been the optimal vehicle for them. The absence of these items do not take away from the packaging, newly unearth material and fine remastering, but it would have taken a great reissue and made it definitive.

The songs on She's So Unusual are sweet, sentimental, sexual and strident. Even though Lauper didn't write all of them, she made her mark on the world with these songs because she owned them. She is an empowered woman that has always brimmed with confidence and astonishing talent and amazingly, thirty years after she made her mark, she's reminding the world that her success was not a fluke but it ever evolving. While there could have been additional remixes from the era along with live cuts, the She's So Unusual: A 30th Anniversary Celebration does a good job of presenting the album and unearthing some great bonus material that helps take us inside its creation.

Order the deluxe edition and other versions here

Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer and Special Features Editor for the antiMUSIC Network. His daily writings can be read at The Screen Door. He can be contacted at tonyk AT antiMUSIC DOT com and can be followed on Twitter

Cyndi Lauper - She's So Unusual 30th Anniversary Special Edition
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