Ah, Cyndi Lauper. Remember her? That fearless style that inspired generations? The breaking of barriers and rallying cries for female empowerment? That time she told you that your true colours were beautiful like a rainbow and fucking meant it? Remember? Okay, good. But forget all of that now. Girls just wanna have fun — but grown women just want to make wishy washy cover albums. 2010 saw Lauper releasing an album of classic blues covers. Six years later and we’ve been presented with ‘Detour’ - a twee twelve-track record consisting entirely of the ‘She’s So Unusual’ chanteuse singing country songs in a crass New Yoik accent.
Maybe somewhat naively there was an assumption that this record would offer up glimmers of the junk-rock spirit she’d once been famed for, regardless of its genre. Then again, no sane mind could keep from devising that an album from Lauper would at the very least say something. ‘Detour’ initially seemed like an appropriate album title, but perhaps ‘Lost’ is more fitting.
Aside from a few pleasing moments, most of which feature Willie Nelson, the whole thing is very tenuous. Her stabs at reworking Patsy Cline (‘I Fall To Pieces’ and ‘Walkin’ After Midnight’) are admirable but lacking in depth. Rather than ushering in a new wave of substance, ‘You’re The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly’ sees Lauper and Vince Gill colliding over a microphone like Cinzano Rosso-sodden grandparents at a wedding. Her vocals are still knockout in places, but are largely outshone by overproduced, karaoke/Christmas album cushioning.
Poorly executed covers can be excruciating (See: Hilary Duff - ‘My Generation’), but no track on ‘Detour’ comes close to that. In fact, it would do well to rouse any emotion whatsoever. Each song is structured reasonably similar to the original and while she’s brazen in her efforts towards authenticity, for the most part it’s pretty unconvincing. Sure, there’s melodic efficacy, but then she didn’t write the melodies. The lyrics are wistful and alive with narrative, but of course she didn’t write those either. At the very least it was her task to adapt and rework so that the end product amounted to more than just collection of ditties that don’t stand up next to the original. What she’s produced is an album that could’ve been made by anybody else.
Less breaking ground and more cutting a rug across it in someone else’s boots, it feels a lot like Lauper has stalled her own career. It’s impossible to say whether this is premature or not when there’s no recent evidence of artistry to go by. Her history and significance is rooted in rebellion — but that’s easy to overlook with a record this diluted.
Words: Maya Rose Radcliffe
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