meta-scriptCyndi Lauper Is Still The Feminist Pop Star We Need |
Cyndi Lauper Is Still The Feminist Pop Star We Need

Cyndi Lauper

Photo: Gary Null/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images


Cyndi Lauper Is Still The Feminist Pop Star We Need

From her impactful 1983 debut album 'She's So Unusual' to the sparkly musical "Kinky Boots," Cyndi Lauper's music has always celebrated women and queer people

GRAMMYs/Mar 4, 2021 - 03:57 am

Ahead of the inaugural Women In The Mix virtual celebration during GRAMMY Week 2021, celebrates two-time GRAMMY winner Cyndi Lauper, one of the event's powerhouse participants.

The '80s are known as a decade of excess and extremes. These characteristics are certainly present in the musicians from that era—both male and female— who flamboyantly boasted big hair and shimmery makeup, whose shoulders were padded and accessories were of the quantity-over-quality variety. By today's standards, some lyrics of the time may read as problematic, as far as sexual politics are concerned. However, Cyndi Lauper's music remains uniquely empowering and inclusive in the 21st century.

On the surface, Lauper is a quintessential example of an '80s pop star: bubbly songs with narrative music videos, wacky clothes plus wild hair and makeup. Her 1983 debut album, She's So Unusual, spawned four Top 5 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 and hit the No. 4 spot on the Billboard 200 album chart. She was nominated for five GRAMMYs in 1985 and took home the coveted Best New Artist award. The memorable, colorful cover art also helped the project earn Best Album Package. It has gone six times platinum in the U.S. and sold 16 million copies globally in 1984.

At the time of the album's release in October 1983, Lauper was 30 years old and nobody's pushover. Lauper knew who she was and what she wanted to portray, which was not a sex toy, but rather, a fearless and outspoken feminist voice at a time when the Equal Rights Amendment still had not been passed.

She insisted on writing her own songs, and when she was presented with "Girls Just Want To Have Fun," written by Robert Hazard, she only agreed to record it if she could change the lyrics, which were originally about getting girls into bed. She flipped the song on its head and put her four-octave voice to work to shout girl power and the right to have the kind of fun you want to have.

This is reflected in the song's funky, punky video where a noisily clad Lauper with half-shaved orange hair declares that she and her gal pals—a vibrant multicultural group of women—wanted to do whatever they deemed fun, on their terms. The message can be a rallying cry for today's young women, who live in a society where porn and much of other media still depict the male point of view of what fun entails: pleasing the man.

<style>.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }</style><div class='embed-container'><iframe src='' frameborder='0' allowfullscreen></iframe></div>

If the message wasn't clear enough on "Girls Just Want To Have Fun," the tiny-yet-loud Lauper spelled it out in no uncertain terms with "She Bop." The song, with its nonsensical chorus: "She bop, he bop, a we bop/I bop, you bop, a they bop/Be bop, be bop, a lu bop," is all about masturbation. In it, Lauper makes fun of every masturbation cliché such as, "They say I better stop or I'll go blind." She double entendres the hell out of her nether regions with "I wanna go south and get me some more" and "I can't stop messin' with the danger zone."

The daring video for "She Bop" went over the top in its risquéness, taking the chance of being banned from MTV, upon which pop stars were deeply dependent. To start, Lauper is having a great time by herself in a car with steamed up windows and "the pages of a Blueboy magazine." When she gets out of the car to a biker dude and his revved up hog, she's more interested in "picking up the good vibrations" of the engine than anything the biker has to offer. When the video, now in animated form, shows them pulling up to "Fill 'Er Up" gas station, cartoon Lauper points to the "self service" sign. The closing scene shows a blind Lauper doing an impressive soft-shoe with a cane because, apparently, she bopped so much she actually did go blind—but she did it on her terms.

While it was not banned from MTV, the song set off the radar of the Parents Music Resource Center, the now-defunct committee led by Tipper Gore, responsible for the parental advisory labels on albums. "She Bop" is one of the PRMC's "Filthy 15," a list of songs the organization deemed most objectionable at the time of its forming. It should be noted that two-thirds of the list is comprised of sex-related songs, including three songs penned by Prince: his own "Darling Nikki," Sheena Easton's "Sugar Walls" and Vanity's "Strap On 'Robbie Baby.'"

Speaking of the song, Lauper told Vice in 2016, "I kept saying, 'Look, I don't wanna mention anything to do with hands.' I want little kids to think it's about dance and grown-ups to have a chuckle when they hear it. That's how I wanted it so that's how we did it."

Featured with contemporaries MadonnaPat Benatar and Joan Jett, all feminist symbols in their own right, in Newsweek March 4, 1985 story Rock and Roll Woman Power, it was Lauper who graced the cover. She is quoted in the story as saying, "I'm glad to have a girl following because I want to encourage them. I try to beget strength and courage and purpose. I want to show them a new woman."

She is not just an icon for women, but also a stalwart advocate for the LGBTQIA community. "True Colors," the title track from her second album, was inspired by the death of a friend due to AIDS. It was also her second No. 1 (her first was "Time After Time" from She's So Unusual). The song's legacy rivals that of "Girls Just Want To Have Fun." Lauper even named her non-profit, True Colors United, after it. The organization is dedicated to ending youth homelessness—which Lauper experienced personally—and which counts a large percentage of LGBTQIA amongst its numbers. Among True Colors United's efforts are Lauper's annual Home for the Holidays benefit concert. Lauper is also on the board of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which seeks to end hate crimes.

In 2013, Lauper's drag queen Broadway musical "Kinky Boots" was nominated for 12 Tony Awards and won six, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. The music and lyrics are wholly written by the pop queen. The following year, the Kinky Boots Original Broadway Cast Recording won the GRAMMY for Best Musical Theater Album. She has penned music and lyrics for the musical adaptation of the 1988 comedy Working Girl, set to take the stage after theaters reopen.

She's So Unusual was likely named as such because of Lauper's edgy, punk-inspired aesthetic. She was the person outcasts and outsiders could look to and see that it was not only okay to be different, but it could be celebrated. Later versions of her showed up in Katy PerryLady Gaga and even Billie Eilish. 40 years ago, no one could have predicted just how unusual, exceptional and lasting Lauper would prove to be.

The Recording Academy Announces "Women In The Mix" Virtual Celebration: Cyndi Lauper, Ingrid Andress, MC Lyte, Sheila E., Tina Tchen And More Confirmed

Teezo Touchdown, Tiana Major9 & More Were In Bloom At The 2024 GRAMMYs Emerging Artist Showcase
Musical group Aint Afraid

Photo: Unique Nicole/Getty Images for The Recording Academy


Teezo Touchdown, Tiana Major9 & More Were In Bloom At The 2024 GRAMMYs Emerging Artist Showcase

Part of the all-new GRAMMY House programming for GRAMMY Week 2024, PEOPLE and Sephora teamed up to highlight some promising new talent from around the country with the Beats & Blooms Emerging Artist Showcase.

GRAMMYs/Feb 7, 2024 - 12:00 am

Artists on the rise got their metaphorical flowers on Feb. 1, when GRAMMY House played host to the Beats & Blooms Emerging Artist Showcase. The performance-heavy event was produced in conjunction with PEOPLE and Sephora and hosted by comedian Matt Friend.

Some took the floral theme quite literally — like Texas rapper and singer Teezo Touchdown, who took to the stage clasping a giant flower bouquet, his microphone tucked somewhere inside. With his crisp white leather jacket and white gloves, Teezo looked fresh as he performed tracks from his recently released debut album, How Do You Sleep at Night? It wasn't hard to see how late legends like Prince and Rick James have influenced his artistry, and the audience appreciated his fly sartorial style.

Another dynamic performance came from Cocoa Sarai, a Jamaican-American singer/songwriter who has worked with artists such as Dr. Dre and Anderson .Paak (the latter of whom helped Sarai earn a GRAMMY in 2020 for her work on his Best R&B Album-winning project, Ventura). The Brooklyn-born artist — who is part of the new Music Artist Accelerator initiative presented by MasterCard, GRAMMY House’s primary sponsor — delivered an impactful set that included her bird-flipping anthem "Bigger Person" and was assisted by a great beatboxer named Fahz.

As many attendees got glammed up at Sephora's makeup station, the event co-sponsor also presented one of the night's performers. Sephora Sounds highlighted twin sisters Inah and Yahzi of the viral group Ain't Afraid, whose energetic performance hit home. During their charismatic set, which featured the sisters both singing and rapping, the pair told the crowd that their lighthearted stage presence is a way to turn some of their trauma into positive art.

Inah and Yahzi weren't the only sibling duo to take the stage at Beats & Blooms. Brandon and Savannah Hudson — aka BETWEEN FRIENDS — first got national attention as quarter-finalists on "America's Got Talent" in 2013, and have since racked up millions of monthly plays on Spotify for what they like to call "laptop dream pop". BETWEEN FRIENDS performed songs from their 2023 album, I Love My Girl, She's My Boy.

Tiana Major9 closed out the event with an exciting performance that featured a song debut and a sing-along. After premiering a new track called "Braids," the Motown artist got everyone to join together for an exquisite cover of Faith Evans' smoldering "Soon As I Get Home". 

GRAMMY House's three days of events are a place for a diverse array of music industry professionals, musicians and social creators to immerse in the pulse of culture, take the torch and carry it forward — and Beats & Blooms was a powerful example of just that.

The Rise Of Ice Spice: How The "Barbie World" Rapper Turned Viral Moments Into A Full-On Franchise

A Celebration Of Women In The Mix Inspired With Tales Of Tears, Tenacity & Triumph
(L-R) Melody Chiu, Marcella Araica, Carly Pearce, and Jordin Sparks at the 2024 A Celebration Of Women In The Mix event.

Photo: Jerod Harris/Getty Images for The Recording Academy


A Celebration Of Women In The Mix Inspired With Tales Of Tears, Tenacity & Triumph

Featuring appearances by Carly Pearce, Jordin Sparks, Emily King, and an emotional keynote by Ty Stiklorius, the Feb. 1 GRAMMY House event also included professional hair and makeup touchup activations.

GRAMMYs/Feb 3, 2024 - 11:05 pm

Ahead of the 2024 GRAMMYs, women from across the recording industry gathered at GRAMMY House in Los Angeles' Arts District on Feb. 1 to celebrate their achievements and to remind the music world that there's still much work to be done.

A Celebration Of Women In The Mix Presented by PEOPLE and Sephora brought together musicians, agents, producers, engineers, managers, and more for three hours of food, drinks, speeches, and general revelry. 

Hosted by People Magazine Editor-At-Large Janine Rubenstein, the event featured a keynote speech by Friends At Work CEO Ty Stiklorius — best known for her years managing John Legend, among others — as well as performances by Sephora Sounds' artists Beth Million and Rawan Chaya, and 2024 GRAMMYs Best R&B Album nominee Emily King

"We wanted to make sure that we were driving representation and providing opportunities for all women in music from studio professionals to artists and beyond," said Tammy Hurt, the Chair of the Board for the Recording Academy, while detailing the creation of Women In The Mix in 2019. She noted that her team set a goal of recruiting 2,500 new women members to the voting body of the Academy by 2025.

An event Presenting Sponsor, Sephora had makeup artists set up next to the stage, giving guests some glam. Participating sponsors Dyson and The Hartford also had activations for guests to enjoy; Dyson provided styling stations for hair touch-ups and curated an immersive listening experience with the Dyson Zone™ noise-canceling headphones, while The Hartford hosted an interactive, augmented reality graffiti wall.

As Sephora's SVP of Personalization, Anna E. Banks explained on stage, the brand is committed to creating "the world's most inclusive beauty community." She added that Sephora supports individuals' creativity and ingenuity — whether it's through the products they choose to sell or the looks they feature in their campaigns. As one of the brand's new programs, Sephora Sounds will work to "continue to push for more diversity and representation" across the industry, "breaking down barriers and ushering in marginalized voices."

Keynote speaker Ty Stiklorius brought much of the room to tears with tales of sleazy record execs, thwarted dreams, and how she took the road less traveled to decades of success in the music industry. Donning a stunning maroon suit, Stiklorius detailed how she became not only John Legend's manager, but also his film and TV producing partner, his business partner in several companies, and the co-founder of several social impact groups working to reduce incarceration and level the playing field in terms of universal opportunity. 

"It's literally impossible to be a woman," Stiklorious said, quoting America Ferrera's powerful speech from the Barbie movie. She expressed frustration at the fact that women are always expected to be extraordinary — whether it's as a wife, a mother, or in the workplace — and dismissed antiquated notions that women can't be leaders in the music industry while having a family. To wit, Stiklorious created her company, Friends At Work, to give more women and more marginalized people a place to thrive in the industry, to be appreciated, recognized, and paid appropriately.

After all, Stiklorious reminded the room, women still have a long, long way to go to achieve any sort of parity in the music industry. While women dominate the major categories at this year's GRAMMY Awards, a recent study by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that, while women make up more than half the population and the market for music, they only take up about 35 percent of the Billboard Hot 100. Only 6.5 percent of music producers are women, and less than 20 percent of the songwriters of last year's top songs were women. In fact, Stiklorious said, "nearly a quarter of the most popular songs of the last 12 years were penned by just 12 men." 

"Think about how those 12 men are shaping audience perfections and beliefs about romantic relationships, wealth, health, and any number of topics," Stiklorious said, before referencing a story she recently wrote for the L.A. Times in which she makes the case that, if the top women performers added just two women songwriters to some of their sessions and some of their songs, we'd reach gender parity in the songwriter space in just four years. 

"It's not that big of an ask, actually," she said. "With the growing power of female performers, those who routinely top the charts can change the lives of women songwriters and our culture, because the status quo isn't good for anyone, regardless of their gender identity, we all lose out on untapped and underappreciated talent."

The end of Stiklorious' speech was met with a rousing standing ovation.

After performances from Beth Million and Rawan Chaya, People Executive Editor Melody Chiu took the stage for the event's panel, which featured recording engineer Marcella Araica, GRAMMY winning country artist Carly Pearce, and GRAMMY nominee Jordin Sparks. They talked about role models, the barriers they've faced in the industry, becoming mothers, and how they learned that "no" is actually a complete sentence.

Singer/songwriter Emily King won the room over with tracks like "Medal" and "This Year." After King's set, Ruby Marchand, the Recording Industry's Chief Awards and Industry Officer, wrapped up the event by thanking members of the Recording Academy staff and board in the audience for their hard work on the event and in driving new membership. 

Diving into her thoughts on the concept of trust, Marchand said women in the music industry "have to learn to trust each other, because we're here to help and guide and support, and sometimes even help somebody through some critical thinking and get back on track." 

Women in the industry also have to learn to trust themselves, Marchand said. If women can all learn to be fearless and to trust in themselves, their decisions, and their strength, the sky's the limit. 

The Recording Academy's GRAMMY House Returns For GRAMMY Week 2024; Immersive Pop-Up Experience To Feature The Third Annual #GRAMMYSNEXTGEN Party

NE-YO To Headline 2024 GRAMMY Celebration, Taking Place Feb. 4 In Los Angeles
Ne-Yo performs onstage during halftime at the game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Atlanta Hawks at State Farm Arena on February 26, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia

Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images


NE-YO To Headline 2024 GRAMMY Celebration, Taking Place Feb. 4 In Los Angeles

The Recording Academy will close out GRAMMY Week 2024 with the 2024 GRAMMY Celebration, the official after-party to celebrate Music's Biggest Night, immediately after the 2024 GRAMMYs on Sunday, Feb. 4, in Los Angeles.

GRAMMYs/Jan 10, 2024 - 01:59 pm

The Recording Academy has announced three-time GRAMMY winner NE-YO as the headliner of the exclusive 2024 GRAMMY Celebration — the Recording Academy’s Official After-Party for the 2024 GRAMMYs, which honors the winners and nominees of Music’s Biggest Night. As well, current GRAMMY nominee SuperBlue: Kurt Elling and Charlie Hunter will perform in the GRAMMY Celebration Jazz Lounge; Ben Bakson will be the evening’s DJ.  

Taking place at the Los Angeles Convention Center immediately following the 2024 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 66th GRAMMY Awards, on Sunday, Feb. 4, the GRAMMY Celebration will bring the industry together to commemorate a year of musical milestones and honor the GRAMMY nominees and winners who shaped the year in music.

“The GRAMMY Celebration serves as the perfect finale to Music’s Biggest Night, uniting the nominees and winners of the 66th GRAMMY Awards to revel in their year’s worth of accomplishments,” Recording Academy Chief Operating Officer Branden Chapman said. "As an Academy committed to serving, uplifting and advancing the music community, we look forward to the GRAMMY Celebration each year — a momentous occasion where our shared passion for music is celebrated and meaningful connections are made."

Levy, the hospitality partner at the Los Angeles Convention Center, will present this year's chef-curated menu. Following the event, the Recording Academy will once again partner with the charitable organization Musically Fed — whose mission is to mobilize the music industry in the fight against hunger — to repurpose leftover food to feed those in need in the local community. The organization works with artists, promoters, management, and venues nationwide to donate unused backstage meals to community organizations that feed the unhoused, hungry and food insecure. Musically Fed will also repurpose food from this year's GRAMMY Awards and the MusiCares Person of the Year Gala.

The 2024 GRAMMY Celebration is a private, ticketed event.

The 2024 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 66th GRAMMY Awards, will air live from the Arena in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 4, from 5-8:30 p.m. PT/8-11:30 p.m. ET, broadcasting live on the CBS Television Network and streaming live and on-demand on Paramount+. (Live and on demand for Paramount+ with SHOWTIME subscribers, or on demand for Paramount+ Essential subscribers the day after the special airs)^.

^Paramount+ with SHOWTIME subscribers will have access to stream live via the live feed of their local CBS affiliate on the service, as well as on demand. Paramount+ Essential subscribers will not have the option to stream live, but will have access to on-demand the day after the special airs.

Stay tuned for more updates as we approach Music's Biggest Night!

How To Watch The 2024 GRAMMYs Live: GRAMMY Nominations Announcement, Air Date, Red Carpet, Streaming Channel & More

The Recording Academy's Producers & Engineers Wing And Songwriters & Composers Wing To Host First-Ever "A Celebration Of Craft" Event During GRAMMY Week 2024, Honoring Leslie Ann Jones
“A Celebration of Craft,” an official GRAMMY Week 2024 event, takes place Wednesday, Jan. 31, in Los Angeles

Graphic courtesy of the Recording Academy


The Recording Academy's Producers & Engineers Wing And Songwriters & Composers Wing To Host First-Ever "A Celebration Of Craft" Event During GRAMMY Week 2024, Honoring Leslie Ann Jones

“A Celebration of Craft,” the first-ever event presented by the Recording Academy’s two craft wings, will kick off GRAMMY Week 2024 and salute producer/engineer and seven-time GRAMMY winner Leslie Ann Jones and the creatives behind the music on Jan. 31.

GRAMMYs/Jan 9, 2024 - 01:59 pm

The Recording Academy’s Producers & Engineers Wing and Songwriters & Composers Wing are joining forces to host “A Celebration of Craft.” Taking place Wednesday, Jan. 31, at the GRAMMY Museum in Downtown Los Angeles, the inaugural event, the first-ever joint GRAMMY Week event for the Academy’s craft Wings, will honor seven-time GRAMMY winner Leslie Ann Jones for her prolific work as a recording and mixing engineer and record producer. The event will also salute the year-round work of the Producers & Engineers and Songwriters & Composers Wings and shine a light on the people working behind the scenes to create the year’s best musical works, including this year’s Songwriter Of The Year nominees. The premiere celebration kicks off the official start of GRAMMY Week 2024, the Recording Academy’s weeklong celebration comprising official GRAMMY Week events honoring the music community in the lead-up to the 2024 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 66th GRAMMY Awards.

“A Celebration of Craft” also debuts during a major development for the production and songwriting fields at the annual GRAMMY Awards. For the first time ever, the Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical and Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical categories will be awarded in the General Field of the GRAMMY Awards at the 2024 GRAMMYs next month. The Recording Academy announced these significant additions last June after they were voted on and passed by the Recording Academy’s Board of Trustees last May; relocating these categories allows all GRAMMY voters to participate in the voting process for these non-genre-specific categories and recognize excellence in the important fields of producing and songwriting.

“Songwriting and producing are some of the fundamental building blocks of our industry — in addition to, of course, performing and recording,” Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr. told about the GRAMMY category changes." “We feel this change is an opportunity to allow our full voting membership to participate … We are excited that our entire voting body will be able to contribute to such important categories like Songwriter Of The Year and Producer Of The Year. Again, these are such important parts of our Awards process. But bigger than that, they're an important part of the music ecosystem. Since these categories are not genre-specific, and they are across many different genres, we felt it was responsible to put them in the General Field so everyone could vote for these important awards.”

A recording and mixing engineer and record producer for more than 40 years, Leslie Ann Jones has held staff positions at ABC Recording Studios in Los Angeles, the Automatt Recording Studios in San Francisco, and Capitol Studios in Hollywood. Now at Skywalker Sound, she continues her career recording and mixing music for records, films, video games, and television, and producing records primarily in the classical genre. Over the course of her career, she has worked with artists from Herbie Hancock, the Kronos Quartet, Holly Near, and Michael Feinstein to Santana, Bobby McFerrin, Charlie Haden, BeBe & CeCe Winans, ConFunkShun, and many more.

The first woman Chair of the Recording Academy’s Board of Trustees (1999-2001), Jones is the recipient of seven GRAMMY Awards, including four for Best Engineered Album, Classical and one for Best Immersive Audio Album. She serves on the Advisory Board of Institute for the Musical Arts, the Board of Directors of the Game Audio Network Guild (G.A.N.G.), and she is an Artistic Advisor to the Technology and Applied Composition degree program at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Jones was also inducted into the NAMM TEC Hall of Fame in 2019 and is a Heyser lecturer. She was also the recipient of the 2022 G.A.N.G. Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Jones chaired the committee that wrote “Recommendations for Hi-Resolution Music Production,” published by the Producers & Engineers Wing of the Recording Academy, and is also a member of the Library of Congress’ National Recording Preservation Board.

“I’m so excited for our Producers & Engineers and Songwriters & Composers Wings to come together for ‘A Celebration of Craft’ later this month,” Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr. said in a statement. “Both Wings are a critical part of our mission at the Recording Academy to create spaces for music creators to thrive, and I look forward to joining with music people from both of these communities to kick off our GRAMMY Week celebrations.”

“From her decades-spanning recording career to her work as former Chair of the Recording Academy’s Board of Trustees, a co-chair of the P&E Wing, and much more, Leslie Ann Jones has always been committed to the music community and to excellence in recording,” said Maureen Droney, Vice President of the Producers & Engineers Wing, in a statement. “It’s a privilege to convene our national network of creatives and technicians to salute her at ‘A Celebration of Craft’ with the Songwriters & Composers Wing, an essential collaborator in our effort to recognize the people behind the music.”

“‘A Celebration of Craft’ will mark the first GRAMMY Week event for the Songwriters & Composers Wing since our Wing was founded in 2021, and we could not be more enthusiastic to come together with our community for an evening dedicated to celebrating their creativity,” said Susan Stewart, Managing Director of the Songwriters & Composers Wing. “We’re thrilled to co-host this event with our friends in the Producers & Engineers Wing and pay tribute to the diverse creative professions in our industry together.”

The 2024 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 66th GRAMMY Awards, will air live from the Arena in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 4 (8 -11:30 p.m. LIVE ET/5-8:30 p.m. LIVE PT) on the CBS Television Network and will stream on Paramount+ (live and on demand for Paramount+ with SHOWTIME subscribers, or on demand for Paramount+ Essential subscribers the day after the special airs).

How To Watch The 2024 GRAMMYs Live: GRAMMY Nominations Announcement, Air Date, Red Carpet, Streaming Channel & More