She's So Unusual was an appropriate title for Cyndi Lauper's 1983 debut record: From her electric-orange hair and colorful flea-market wardrobe to her squeaky, giddy voice, Lauper hardly appeared an odds-on bet to become one of pop's premier vocalists.
Nor are many of the songs selected for She's So Unusual conventional. "She Bop," a seductive account of female masturbation, "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," an uncut statement about sexual freedom, and "He's So Unusual," a short but sweet taste of a 1929 tune that recalls comedienne Gracie Allen, weren't the kinds of songs that typically add up to a hit album. But that's precisely what She's So Unusual became. The multiplatinum disc and its four Top Five singles made Lauper an instant star.
Before embarking on a solo career, Lauper sang with Blue Angel, a group she cofounded in 1978. The band's debut album, released in 1980, bombed, and Blue Angel broke up.
Lauper signed a record deal with Portrait, and with producer Rick Chertoff at the controls she began work on She's So Unusual. Chertoff brought in Rob Hyman and Eric Bazilian of the then-unknown Philadelphia band the Hooters to play on the record. Together they opted for a synth-heavy sound that evoked the girl-group era of the early-Sixties and deftly played Lauper's vocals against thick arrangements.
Not yet an accomplished songwriter (although she co-wrote "She Bop" and the touching ballad "Time After Time"), Lauper looked outside for material. She interpreted the Brains' "Money Changes Everything," Prince's "When You Were Mine" and Robert Hazard's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" with wit and conviction.
That she was able to integrate her zaniness into She's So Unusual without sacrificing the underlying seriousness of the songs or her vocal delivery also meant something to Lauper's career. Few solo artists have been able to balance such a delicate dichotomy the first time around. Fewer still have made it seem so easy — and so much fun.