What she has done in the 25 years since "She's So Unusual" is experiment, stretch her skills, and thumb her nose at an industry that loves its talent delivered in easily definable boxes. Admittedly, that isn't always a recipe for commercial success.
"Bring Ya to the Brink" is Lauper's first album of original material in 12 years, and a world apart from the moody, raw covers on "The Body Acoustic" or "At Last." It's full on, sweaty, gritty dance. Not the overly electronicized version one generally hears from pop divas of a certain age, but a kind of sound that says "retro" in a good way. "Into the Nightlife" will wear a groove into your iPod as you click play again and again, transported to the Limelight circa 1995. It's infused with dry ice and beer stains, like the club scene before it was wrapped in velvet.
The album won critical praise and a Grammy nod.
Lauper's a contender this Sunday in "Best Electronic/Dance Album," more than two decades after winning the Grammy for "Best New Artist" in 1985. What follows is an e-mail interview.
1. How do you go from covering "La Vie En Rose" to a full-on dance album?
I have been lucky enough as an artist to be able to shift gears easily and jump into various genres, so I don't really see it as a stretch. I think Grace Jones did a great dance-ish cover of "La Vie En Rose" back in the day, so it's one big circle of music…lol.
2. Was it tough to sell an album of original material to "the suits?"
No, I had made two records that were either covers of classics or reinterpretations of my own hits. We were all in the same mind set as to doing original material.
3. I read somewhere that you were particularly fond of Hat Full of Stars, because that album "was really you, uncensored." Have you felt censored on other projects?
I've had my share of creative arguments over the years, some I've met in the middle and others I've stood my ground. I like to collaborate but I don't like to be dictated to. That's what was fun with this latest project--for the most part it was a great sense of collaboration. I'm an artist, and any real artist is going to fight for their way.
4. You are famously supportive of gay rights. Does it disappoint you that President Obama has stopped short of supporting gay marriage?
He's light years ahead of the Bush administration. You'll see changes within minutes of his administration coming into power. The language on the White House website had GLBT inclusive language on it. I think he will be a great ally for the GBLT citizens of this country.
5. How has the music business changed since 1983?
There are so many changes. I just hope as the old model falls apart that the new business ideas can be embraced. There is a revolution underway on all fronts in regards to how music is made, manufactured, monetized, and collected. At the end of the day, no matter what the platform is or the sales model is, it still comes down to the artists and the talent. Great artists and music will always be at the root of it.
6. How has New York City changed?
The club scene could definitely use a smack in the ass. Having made a dance record, I spent a lot of time in the clubs and you can just see that the nightlife edge has been eroded somewhat. There are still a lot of great live musician spots but dance clubs have taken a hit. As for the actual city, it's so expensive that these days I don't know how any starving musician or producer could make it. Even the low rent places are high rent
7. There is no shortage of young artists, including Grammy nominee Katy Perry, who say your work has influenced them. Which current artists do you admire?
I am a big fan of Lady Gaga. I've spoken to her a few times and she is definitely doing her own thing and is really a performance artist and that's how I have always identified.
8. Do you ever get tired of singing "Girls Just Want to Have Fun?"
I try to reinvent it as much as I can. I don't look at it as an albatross hanging around my neck. As long as I can play my new stuff with the classics I'm fine. I'd be crazy not to honor my past, and I love seeing the way the song continues to carry on through to the younger generations that are just hearing it.
9. If there has been a moment in your career that you would freeze, or press between the pages of your favorite book and keep forever, what is it?
I'm fortunate to have had so many of these moments and continue to have them that I have volumes of books of pressed moments. I'm very lucky.
10. Let's say we're at a karaoke bar. It's your turn. What song would you sing? Note: It can't be one of your own.
The only karaoke bar I would want to get up and do something is one that has something other than hits. I'd probably get up and sing some obscure Appalachian bluegrass song... LOL.