When I first learned Cyndi Lauper would be one of the first international pop artists to perform in Harpa, I was really surprised. Who would want to see Cyndi Lauper? Shouldn’t she just stick to playing her hits over and over in Vegas? Well, she keeps getting endlessly nominated for Grammy awards, but does anyone remember anything she’s done since ‘85? She’s doing celebrity reality TV for crying out loud!
But maybe Cyndi shouldn’t be getting such a negative reaction from myself, as her body of work and impact on pop-culture have never been as relevant. Her hits are, of course, karaoke staples, but it feels that today they have a bigger purpose than being belted out off-key at Cosmo-fuelled girls’ nights out.
From the nostalgic balladry of Ariel Pink to the serious cultural criticism of Arcade Fire (Cyndi performed two songs with the Canadians recently, one of hers and one of theirs), from ‘witch house’ to ‘chill wave’ (where did these horrible genre names come from?) it seems the innovative side of pop culture is now all about paying artistic homage to the queens of ‘80s pop. This is especially interesting since they for a long time seemed were viewed as more of a joke than serious talents, the results of capitalist America taking over the music business.
The loud synths and weird clothes are no longer cool in a bubblegum, ‘80s high school sense. They are becoming serious, mature mainstream fashion. Is it because the people who grew up listening to this are now running show business? Have the girls that just wanted to have fun in the ‘80s started having fun again? Are they doing it right now? It may help a little, but it seems too that the joke is wearing thin. We have the ‘90s to make fun of now, and the pure gold pop hits of the ‘70s and ‘80s are climbing up the respect pillar, reaching the best of the ‘50s and ‘60s. If you look at Cyndi’s clothes in her stunning ’83 and ’84 videos, you can see a resemblance to today’s cuts, patterns and items—even her iconic ‘shave-off-one-side-of-your-hair’ look seems to have caught on in fashion recently.
It feels like we are living in an age of post-irony. The criticism of the materialistic ‘80s has faded as people realise that things haven’t gotten any better in terms of material- and commercialism. Instead, people are embracing the highly ignored artistic and cultural value of ‘cheesy’ synths (now: Yeezy synths) and formulaic songwriting. Hipsters donning shiny jackets and vintage ‘80s sunglasses as an ironic statement are becoming oddly relevant. Blasting ‘80s powerpop at parties will not bring about giggly singing and ugly dancing, but rather goosebumps and a strong feeling of togetherness with everyone in the room, as well as a good, loud, feel-good sing-a-long.
It’s a shame that Cyndi was dumped into the same category as the one-hit-wonders of the ‘80s, as she has powerful artistic charisma, owing a lot to the likes of David Bowie (frivolous fashion sense and great stage presence) and Talking Heads (playful use of the pop form), but her original charm had drowned in negative talk of the nefarious decade she made her way in. However, it’s starting to look like Ms. Lauper will once more be viewed as a true talent, and songs like the hitherto unmatched ‘Time After Time’ will never again be laughed at.
As far as her appearance in Harpa goes, I have a feeling that the crowd will be equal parts girls having fun, nostalgic thirty- or fortysomethings, hipster kids and music fans that are slowly becoming proud of their guilty love for ‘Time After Time’. I at least will be in that last camp, enjoying the sound of such powerful balladry in the state of the art acoustics that our shiny new glasshouse by the harbour has to offer.