Not many pop artists survive as a credible proposition a quarter century into their careers. Most would be lucky to be doing a cash-in revival tour by that stage. But three long-lived artists that one might reasonably mention in the same breath have all released albums in the past year: but whereas Kylie’s X and Madonna’s Hard Candy were both lacklustre affairs, Cyndi Lauper’s Bring Ya To The Brink is a superior offering of disco pop.
Madonna and Kylie have taken to blowing half their production budgets making their voices sound like themselves. Lauper’s ability to sing allows the producers she works with to give her something interesting to do with her voice: from the breathy, controlled dance vocal of High And Mighty, to the broken New Yoik inflected reggaeton of Rocking Chair.
The Basement Jaxx collaboration Rocking Chair is a kickass paean to a nice sit down, combined with a track that would have even the most aged blue rinser creaking their runners back and forth in time. The humour in this song makes it the undeniable highlight of the album, and this partnership could have legs. The track also serves as a reminder of the influence that Lauper has had on some of the more credible pop acts of recent years – but both CSS and Gwen Stefani could still learn a thing or two from this.
Whereas other ’80s pop alumni spend their time chasing trends, but end up sounding six months (or let’s face it, a couple of years) behind the times, Lauper’s erratic path to this point in time – who else has learnt the mountain dulcimer in the past decade – sees her serendipitously arrive bang on target. The Peer Astrom collaborations Into the Nightlife and Echo could be slipped into a DJ set alongside Hercules and Love Affair or Lykke Li without breaking step.
After the euphoric glory of earlier tracks, the album loses steam about midway through. Lyfe, Raging Storm, and others are little more than dancefloor fillers, that at best sound like early ’90s Billie Ray Martin. But Lauper rallies towards the end of the album with help from Dragonette and Axwell on a couple of superior pop songs that nod to the classic, uncomplicated, buoyant ’80s pop that launched her career.
Bring Ya To The Brink is not a groundbreaking album by any measure. But while her peers seem to be flagging in the race to keep up with the present, Lauper has stumbled upon the here and now as if by accident. And what’s all the more charming is that while you can’t imagine running into Madonna at 3:30am in some dingy club where the cutting edge music she claims to love is being made, you can certainly imagine Lauper there, or in a provincial disco the next night, having a riot to her own uplifting songs.