CYNDI LAUPER “A Night to Remember.” Epic ** 1/2
The girl doesn’t just want to have fun. She wants to sell records. For Lauper, who slipped commercially after her smash 1983 debut, that means playing it straight with her third album. Lauper’s old goofiness is gone, replaced now by sober professionalism. “A Night to Remember” is a polished work that is catchy and well-crafted, consistently well-sung and disappointingly conventional.
Lauper covers all stylistic bases in a something-for-everyone fashion that belies
an eye toward mega-sales. The assortment includes fervent ballads, snappy dance-rock tunes, a solidly straightforward rocker after the style of “Money Changes Everything,” and incongruous opening and closing snippets of old-timey Appalachian folk.
But most of the songs are one-dimensional affairs. Lauper and her cadre of established hitmaking songsmiths go for a bland simplicity that has little room for the well-turned phrase or the specific imagery and hint of emotional ambiguity that can give pure pop some staying power. The best songs cast Lauper in the role of a woman emerging from bad relationships: “Like a Cat,” with its taunting put-down of a domineering lover, and the more aching “Heading West” and “I Don’t Want To Be Your Friend,” which resembles a Joan Armatrading song in its dusky emotionalism.
Lauper, an inventive, versatile singer, proves here that she doesn’t need her old dizzy image to get by. But it would be nice to hear her push her talent with songs that don’t just skim the surface.