I love Cyndi Lauper to bits but At Last is a very bland CD. Her CD booklet says that the collection of oldies that Ms Lauper covers on this CD are music that she listened to when she was a kid in Manhattan. I guess Ms Lauper is still searching for artistic credibility that she is desperate to have since her True Color days, but the cover art – she climbing out of a manhole decked in an evening gown to look over Manhattan – is more accurate as an inside joke than one would hope.
Two things struck me while I am listening to this dreary CD. One, Ms Lauper’s vocal range is completely wrong for many of the tracks here. Two, a serious Cyndi Lauper is deadly dull to listen to. I want that she-bopping fun-loving trashy woman with ten different neon colors in her hair back.
Her voice is either too limited or completely unsuitable to many of the tracks here. Her cover of Etta James’s At Last actually makes Celine Dion’s version sounds really good in comparison. Her duet with Tony Bennett, Makin’ Whopee is flat because Lauper sounds tuneless and nasal. Ms Lauper’s Unchained Melody is a total massacre, with her butchering the melody in an attempt to show off her high notes. The thing is, she is shouting on this CD instead of hitting a high note. There’s a big difference between singing high and screaming like a bloody nose-blocked pug dog, and Ms Lauper is skirting the latter territory here.
It is only when she lets loose and sings without any pretenses on Elvis Castello’s Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood and on On the Sunny Side of the Street that she almost kick-starts the party back to life. Tori Amos would be proud of Ms Lauper’s almost violent rendition of the former, with the piano being furiously banged on in the background. Heck, forget Tori Amos – the late Freddie Mercury will be proud of how she delivers the angry stormy vocals on this one. On the latter track, she follows Louis Armstrong’s rendition instead of Barry Manilow’s, and she pulls it off beautifully. But these tracks are located at the end of the tracklist, and by then it’s been a long and painful episode of horrid karaoke.
Maybe I would appreciate it better if Ms Lauper does a CD filled with covers of unconventional hits. But in At Last, she sticks to safe and predictable crowd-pleasers that she is unable to pull off decently. Dare I wish that she will stop trying so hard to become a bland classy pastiche like Natalie Cole and return to making fun and unorthodox music? Ms Lauper’s too old to do that Girls Just Wanna Have Fun gig anymore, definitely, but that doesn’t mean that she has to abandon everything fun about her music, surely?
At Last is so dreary that it comes off more like desperation and midlife crisis in one awkward mix rather than a statement of artistic credibility.