Cyndi Lauper is experiencing a midlife crisis, and that's fine by her. The effervescent, jangly redhead who totally spazzed on MTV fifteen years ago is now -- gulp! -- forty-five years old and the mother of an eleven-month-old baby boy. She's also, as of last month, a willing refugee from Sony Records.
"Merry Christmas. . . Have a Nice Life! is my last CD for Sony, hence the title. Now I'm gonna have a nice life," Lauper says with a cackle. "I want to find different people to work with that I feel are adventurous and that I feel I could have fun with. A lot of times you get thrown into one situation after another where you don't have that chemistry, you don't relax and it's not always your best work."
With that statement Lauper seems to acknowledge the thundering chart flops of her last two studio albums, A Hat Full of Stars (1992) and Sisters of Avalon (1997), which sold less than 200,000 copies combined. Late last year, however, Lauper's life became so crowded with rattles, diapers and other baby stuff that she could barely make room for recording rituals and studio stress.
In an effort to soothe both her wailing child and her fussy record label, Lauper proposed the very hands-on, low-maintenance Merry Christmas . . . Have a Nice Life!. After penning a handful of festive yuletide ditties and soft lullabies with writing partner Jan Pulsford, Lauper recorded most of the album at home with her infant son, Declyn, who is heard cooing on "New Year's Baby (First Lullaby)."
A Sesame Street-like album designed for restless children and weary parents alike, Merry Christmas rumbles into risque territory on "Minnie and Santa" and "Christmas Conga," then gets downright adorable on "Early Christmas Morning." Though "traditional" has never been a Lauper adjective, she does tip her hat to Christmas convention with songs like "In the Bleak Midwinter" and "Silent Night."
"'Silent Night' was a track I had done with my friend [keyboardist] Peter Wood before he passed away," Lauper says. "I always thought heaven and birth and death were very close. They say if you want to see heaven, you have to look into a child's eyes. I thought with the birth of my child, having children singing in the background of 'Silent Night' would be very special."
Motherhood has reawakened Lauper's adventuresome spirit. It was the birth of Declyn last November that convinced her to finally leave Sony and begin another career-affirming stanza elsewhere. Declyn also pushed mommy into an acting career that began with a cameo on Mad About You several seasons ago and may erupt into Lauper's very own NBC sitcom next year.
Yet, even as Lauper learns to abandon her former persona, that endearing, punky redhead of 1984 keeps poking her head up into the charts. "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" was recently heard in the trailer to the Dreamworks film Antz, Phil Collins has tacked a cover of "True Colors" onto his just released ...Hits compilation, and urban chanteuse Inoj's take on "Time After Time" has spent time hovering near the Top Ten on the singles charts.
"It's an odd time because just as I'm starting again, a song that I wrote years ago is going up the charts, and may peak at number one," Lauper says. "It's funny -- I'm not there, but I am."