FFWDing to the Best Part: “I Drove All Night,” Cyndi Lauper (1989)

Why is Cyndi Lauper so unusual? Because she’s just genuinely awesome and universally adored by the world’s good people.  She’s smart, compassionate, philanthropic, sassy, and a consummate professional. One of my favorite recent stories — and by “recent,” I apparently mean nine years ago — was how Cyndi was performing outside, had a bird defecate INTO HER OPEN MOUTH, and just kept right on effing singing.

Those divas in Kings of Leon could stand to learn a lesson or two.

And quite frankly, I don’t think Cyndi is recognized for her sheer vocal talent as much as she should be. Probably because her biggest hit is her stupidest, and was part of every bouquet-tossing spectacle until “Single Ladies” emerged. (Does Cyndi resent Beyonce, or thank her, one wonders.)

Sure, “True Colors” and “Time After Time” get their due commendations, but to me, her pipes have never sounded better than on “I Drove All Night,” from her third studio album. The song was intended originally for Roy Orbison (if he’s considered a crooner, then he’s my favorite crooner of all), so you know there are some challenging vocal runs inherent in the thing.

Best part? 4:13 – 4:38. There are a lot of good demonstrations of Cyndi’s skillz here. The progression out of the final pre-chorus, the sheer octave range from fore and aft, and her controlled dynamics throughout.  But what gives me pause — and a scorching case of envy — is that note she holds into the fade-out.  For a full 25 seconds.  It’s possible that they looped it, but I don’t think Cyndi would have such shenanigans.  Roy would be proud.  Celine Dion would cover it later — OF COURSE SHE WOULD — and well, it sucked in that sterilized but still-very-pretty way that most Celine music tends to do.



Top Summer Songs of the Decade (In Which I Try to Remember Hoobastank)

Last week’s lyric quiz, in advance of Labor Day, focused on so-called anthems of summer.  Those infectious ditties that roll onto the pop scene when the weather starts to brighten and fail to drop off the charts until the kids are back in school.  As promised, here’s my own opinion of what I ruled the songs of all summers going back to 2002, when American Idol was brand new (as was the Department of Homeland Security).

Without further ado…

2002: Hot in Herre, Nelly.  St Louis’ pride and joy busted forth with this first single from his second album, Nellyville.  The hook is just catchy enough that we’ll all-but forgive the slightly misogynistic undertones.

2003: Crazy in Love, Beyonce (f/ Jay-Z).  Let’s be honest.  This song would be nowhere without the horn-charged Chi-Lites’ sample. With it – and with Jay-Z’s assistance in the intro and the bridge – it was a summer power-anthem that extended way past August 2003.

2004: The Reason, Hoobastank.   Really?  Song of the summer?  This drippy, lackluster, near-whiney pseudo-ballad from the moderately promising alt-rockers who brought us “Crawling in the Dark?”  Come on guys, really?  A modified infinity symbol in your band name? It was either this or one of about seven Usher songs, and their respective votes cannibalized one another.  But an honorable mention would be “Yeah!,” which Mr. “Ursher” Raymond did alongside Ludacris and Lil Jon.  Take that and rewind it back.

2005: Hollaback Girl, Gwen Stefani.  Fundamentally annoying, sure, but it reignited the pop-culture landscape’s interest in Toni Basil’s “Mickey” and brought “bananas” back into the lexicon as a synonym for “nuts.”

2006: Crazy, Gnarls Barkley.  Gnarls Barkley is the coupling of hip hop producer Danger Mouse and performer Cee Lo Green. Gorillaz, meanwhile, is the coupling of Blur frontman Damon Albarn and British illustrator/writer Jamie Hewlett. You can of course see why I always confuse the two. Gorillaz had a winning song-of-the-summer in 2001, “Clint Eastwood,” which I like much, much, much better than “Crazy.”  That said, “Crazy” was inescapable five summers ago and had to make this list.

2007: Umbrella, Rihanna (f Jay-Z). Speaking of inescapable, nary a reality show on the air between March 2007 and December 2008 failed to use “Umbrella” – or some folksy/emo/punk version thereof – on its soundtrack. It’s a pleasant enough tune about a sweetly strong relationship, but it’s just about two choruses too long.    

2008: Just Dance, Lady Gaga. We saw both Gaga and Katy Perry bum-rush the charts in 2008 with this cut and “I Kissed a Girl,” respectively.  Little did we know that they would remain the biggest pop stars on the planet three years later. What’s more, “Just Dance” was one of the first songs in the new genre of “See how adorably screwed I am when I drink?” (non) cautionary tales. So thanks for that, Stefani. 

2009: I Gotta Feeling, Black-Eyed Peas.  This song has no substantive lyrics.  This song includes a random and somewhat jarring “Mazel Tov” shout.  This song’s title, when broken down grammatically, means “I got to feeling.” This song is unrepentantly repetitive. This song was arguably the best pop song of its year.

Wordle couresty of Flavorwire.com

2010: Your Love is My Drug, Ke$ha. God help us all, this white-trash ho puts out some catchy freaking nonsense pop. This is no exception. May we never tire of her “rapped”-verse-plus-punchy-chorus formula.  I like your beard.

2011: Tonight Tonight, Hot Chelle Rae. Possibly my favorite song on this list, but maybe that’s because it’s the newest. The carefree chorus lyric is betrayed by the pre-chorus … “Whatever … it doesn’t matter … oh well” and the lyric “I don’t know if I’ll make it, but watch how good I’ll fake it.”  It’s an existential crisis wrapped up in  a power-pop beat. Cheers to you, boys.  Hope to hear a lot more out of you.

Phew! And that’s that! What have been some of your favorite “summer anthems” of years past?