Lauper emerged on the mid-’80s music scene all Day-Glo hair and mismatched, secondhand duds, looking like the camp culmination of new wave’s visual excess (even though her music sounded more like pure pop). But when she started showing her true musical colors on 1989’s joyless A Night to Remember, a large chunk of her considerable following moved on.
She continues to move on herself. On Sisters of Avalon, her fifth album, Lauper bears little resemblance to the girl who just wanted to have fun on 1983’s star-making She’s So Unusual. Employing a weathered vibrato at the low end of her vocal range, she offers hip hop with a world beat (the title song), Eastern-inflected disco (“Ballad of Cleo + Joe”), edgy, riot grrrl posturing (“Love to Hate”) and some cutting commentary (“Fashion fascists out in droves/ Some with powder up their nose”). But for all her bold experimentation, Lauper seems to be trying too hard. Only the shuffling “Searching” and the slinky-sexy “Say a Prayer” hint at the unforced artistry and kaleidoscopic whimsy that initially made her so engaging. Avalon may be her labor of love, but sitting through it shouldn’t be such a chore. (Epic)