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Music Review

Cyndi Lauper: 'Brink Ya To The Brink'

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Cyndi Lauper: 'Brink Ya To The Brink'
Released on Monday, Jul 21 2008

The clichéd view of Cyndi Lauper is that she's kooky, out there, a bit of an eccentric. To be fair, Lauper has done little to dismiss these assumptions, calling her debut album She's So Unusual and taking a career path that's often favoured eclecticism over consistency. Just look at her discography over the last decade: a Christmas album, a Japan-only release featuring songs about the Madonna Whore complex and Anna Nicole-Smith, an album of pop standards, and an acoustic reinterpretation of her greatest hits on which Lauper played an instrument called the "Appalachian dulcimer". Now, 25 years after 'Girls Just Wanna Fun', she's releasing her first dance album.

Brink Ya To The Brink was apparently inspired by nights spent boogying with Alan Cumming after they trod the boards together in a Broadway revival of Brecht and Weill's Threepenny Opera. But actually this project makes a lot of sense for Lauper, an artist with a large, loyal gay fanbase who clearly has no intention of growing old sensibly. In typical Lauper fashion, her choices of collaborator are kooky, out there, more than a bit eccentric. Timbaland is nowhere to be seen. Instead we get productions from Basement Jaxx, Robyn's 'With Every Heartbeat' buddy Kleerup, Richard Morel from Deep Dish, Canadian electropoppers Dragonette and a handful of trendy DJ/producers called things like Scumfrog and Digital Dog.

Despite the sizeable cast list, and the fact that Brink tips it cap towards everything from deep(ish) house to squelchy electro to shiny neo-disco, offering nods to Ray of Light and Erasure along the way, this album never feels disjointed. Nor does Lauper sound overwhelmed by her producers, stamping her inimitable personality and still-powerful voice on every track. Brink Ya To The Brink never really operates at the cutting edge, but it does sound fresh and contemporary - except, it has to be said, on 'Lyfe', a dated R&B workout that's as irritating as its spelling suggests.

Lead single 'Into The Nightlife', with its terrific, arms-in-the-air chorus and pledge to "make ya body blister", is the album's most immediate moment: a joyous, carefree celebration of going out and shaking your rump in a club full of "shirtless wonders". But elsewhere Lauper has plenty to get off her chest, railing against a hypocritical lover on 'Same Ol' Story', dishing out social commentary on 'Raging Storm', offering a tender declaration of love on 'Echo' and, in all honesty, sounding faintly unhinged on 'Rocking Chair'.

Not that Brink doesn't work as a straight up, forget-your-troubles-and-dance record, mind. The likes of 'Give It Up', a cracking electro-house tune, and 'Lay Me Down', a Kleerup production that has a similar urgency to 'With Every Heartbeat', would fill any open-minded dancefloor. In fact, this is track-for-track a more creative, vibrant and exhilarating dance-pop album than recent records by Kylie, Donna Summer and, yes, even Madonna. The moral of the story? It never pays to underestimate someone you consider a kook.

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