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On her True Colors Tour, Cyndi Lauper still just wants to have fun — but with a purpose

Jon Bream
Star Tribune (Minneapolis) (MCT)

Cyndi Lauper wanted to talk about serious things like photorealism, beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and the consequences of the presidential election.

Wait a minute, Cyndi. What do girls - and guys - do if they just want to have fun?

Lauper has two suggestions: Attend her True Colors Tour and buy her new dance-obsessed album, "`Bring Ya to the Brink."`

Lauper, ringleader of the secon annual True Colors - a gay-friendly, pro human-rights tour - promises more fun than a Rosie O'Donnell telethon, featuring well-known and should-be-known newer rock acts (plus O'Donnell herself).

"You can laugh and dance and sing, and you can have information and feel empowered because really this tour was meant to empower people," said Lauper, who has long been active in gay issues (her sister is a lesbian).

"I am excited about the show. Did you hear the Tegan & Sara stuff? Have you heard the Cliks' album? It's fantas-tic!" she continued in that unmistakable Edith Bunker-on-helium Queens accent. "The B-52s' new CD `Funplex' is rockin'. And Rosie is hilarious and so is Carson (Kressley). So for me, I'm going to have a great night."

Would you expect anything less? She got to choose all the performers and the information booths, including the Human Rights Campaign.

As for her own headlining set, Lauper will alternate new songs and old ones, including "Time After Time," "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" and "True Colors."

The new numbers are mostly club-oriented because she thought her last two albums had been "all that soft stuff" - a collection of standards and acoustic renditions of her hits - "and I needed to get back to making modern music again."

Lauper, 54, wanted to venture from her "little haven" and "rediscover my voice as a poet." Her concept was that beat poetry could go hand in hand with dance music.

So when she was in Sweden working with producers Peer Astrom and Johan Bobeck at hitmeister Max Martin's studio, she asked them to help change her approach to singing.

"Peer is such a wonderful drummer, so I said, `Why don't you show me how to sing like a drum?' So that's what `Echo' became."

She also traveled to England to work with Basement Jaxx, the U.K. house-music hitmakers.

"We started from scratch, and I wasn't sure how it was going to go and they weren't either," she said. "But we had a lot of fun and I laughed a lot."

Lauper has explored club music before, especially on 1997's "Sisters of Avalon," but never so extensively. Thus far, she can take `Brink' to the bank. It's already big in Japan, where the song "Set Your Heart" has been featured in a car commercial.

The New Yorker's inspirations come from many places. For example, Prince's rain-pelted performance at the 2007 Super Bowl sparked the first verse of her new song "Same Old Story."

"I saw him slipping in the rain, and I saw him give it up to nature and then work with it," she said recently from Manhattan, with her 10-year-old son in the background. "It was like nature's light show. It became otherworldly and extraordinary."

Photorealism, which she studied in college, inspired the painting-like cover photo of her new album. And she says the poetry of Ferlinghetti always inspires her.

She explained that the title for her new song "Into the Nightlife" was taken from a Henry Miller play of the same name, which "was inspired" by "Brooklyn of the Mind" by Ferlinghetti.

Only in the Queens mind of Lauper.

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