Cyndi, we hardly recognize you
Her first album of original material in 10 years is quite the opposite of unusual. It's dance-floor pablum that sounds like a knock-off of Madonna's "Hard Candy." That's fine if, like her annoying and overrated 80s peer, she wants to cash in without using her songwriting or singing skills. But Cyndi has always been above imitation, preferring to lead music new places instead of recycling the same tired beats and lyrics.
Where does that leave us with "Bring Ya to the Brink"? Confused, and disappointed.
FIRST LOOK: The album cover almost resembles "Hard Candy." But what's with the parental advisory stick for explicit content? That's a first for Cyndi -- not counting "She-Bop." ("Same Ol' Story" is the reason for the sticker, thanks to an f-bomb inserted over and over again for no good reason.)
THE SOUND: This maybe a great dance disc, but that doesn't make a good music disc. Expect the same brain-numbing repeating synthetic beat over and over again in "High and Mighty." In this cut, like most on the CD, Cyndi holds her voice in check, seemingly happy to sing in whispers instead of letting it fly.
RETRO ON REPEAT: "Into the Nightlife" has a catchy chorus with a late 80s or early 90s feel. You may feel the urge to bop your head Haddaway/"What Is Love" style, but please don't. (Now that that tune has been usurped for a Diet Pepsi Max commercial, it's lost all sentimental credibility.)
TOO FAR BACK IN TIME: "Set Your Heart" sounds straight off a late 70s episode of "The Love Boat." There's a reason disco died a quick death, people. Nobody remembers or buys music just to dance to.
THERE SHE IS!: There are two tracks that capture her old magic: "Grab a Hold" and "Lay Me Down." Here, her voice gets a chance to soar to full strength. (And are those actual real instruments I hear instead of the mouse-clicks of some DJ's Macintosh? Finally!)
OTHER REVIEWS: A review of the album on the Blender website calls "Bring Ya to the Brink" her best work in 20 years. "Lauper hasn’t sounded this relevant since her 1983 debut," it gushes. But relevant to whom? Not her original audience. With the vast majority of 80s nation in their late-30s to mid-40s, the last thing place you'd catch us is in a dance club. It's cool to change demographics, but throw us old-timers a bone too.
Lauper's touring this summer as the headliner to the True Colors tour, which makes a stop later this month at Clearwater's Ruth Eckerd Hall. Let's hope her set includes plenty of hits from her earlier career. Otherwise, the only thing longtime fans from the 80s will be at the brink of ... is leaving the show early.