CYNDI LAUPER with SANDRA BERNHARDand JILL SOBULEat Massey Hall (178 Victoria), Tuesday (December 6), $38.50-$59.50. 416-870-8000.
Though she's had some incredible career highlights - serenading at the fall of the Berlin Wall, playing with Ryuichi Sakamoto at Strawberry Fields, singing down the ball in Times Square in 2004 - Cyndi Lauper insists her musical goal is to connect and "make change through vibrations."
Apparently the world vibrates in the key of B flat, and people are drawn together when they have similar vibrations.
"I know that sounds lofty and New Agey, but it's very simple," she says. Tossing back peanut M&Ms in a posh Four Seasons suite, Lauper looks fantastic, now a sophisticated platinum-coiffed dame instead of the Screaming Mimi whirlwind of yore.
"Just like if you're bleeding, the sharks come. If you're bleeding all this anger and whatever you've got, all the conflicts come."
Her desire to only work with like-minded people is how unlikely guests like Shaggy and Taking Back Sunday's Adam Lazzara ended up alongside more obvious choices like Sarah McLachlan and Ani DiFranco on Lauper's new album, The Body Acoustic (Epic/Sony BMG), which features new interpretations of some of her best-loved hits with tasteful acoustic arrangements.
"It's kinda like the hundred monkey theory," Lauper explains.
Like the monkeys with the typewriters?
"No, no. They did a scientific experiment once, where they forced these monkeys to drink water from a cup. After the first monkey was taught, he showed the other monkeys. When a hundred monkeys knew how to drink water from a cup on this one island, they went to another island and discovered that those monkeys automatically knew how to drink water from a cup. It survived - they connected."
Kinda how True Colors has become a feel-good anthem for, like, everyone.
"Music is vibrational. It changes the whole feeling in a room."
Two decades after Lauper first marched through a diner on MTV extolling the virtues of masturbation, not much has changed. There's a Republican making a mess of his second term in the White House, Bob Geldof's sanctimoniously trying to "help out" Africans, New Wave is huge and stonewashed denim is on its way out (again) - though Mr. Miyagi (R.I.P.) has waxed off for the last time.
With the current popcult wheel of fortune stopped in the mid-80s, it's not surprising that 1984's twin pop divas - Lauper and Madonna - are revisiting their roots. While Madge's return is a superficial stylistic choice, an attempt to win back disco queens turned off by her foray into Pilates rap, Lauper's retrospective venture is a more thoughtful affair.
Inspired in part by the stripped-down sets Lauper played at benefits, The Body Acoustic makes a remarkably strong case for the woman's talents as a vocalist and songwriter, overshadowed by her larger-than-life persona in the 80s.
"She Bop went through so many changes, but this is my most favourite version, cuz the backgrounds are very Nico - I always giggle and think, 'Lou [Reed] would like it like this.' He actually would."
Lauper may be all gussied up, but she still has that awesome Queens drawl, which makes even her most complex ideas sound like she's talkin' smack about some bitch on The Ricki Lake Show. And, as she recounts her decision to "stick two chords" together in one arrangement just because she knew it really, really bugged "a very prominent keyboard player, a master of piano stuff," it's clear she still has that playful streak of antagonism that led her to stage smackdowns with WWE personality Captain Lou Albano.
Her cartoonish sparring with Albano over his (fabricated) arcane beliefs about women was a brilliant way to mount a public feminist debate - and come out on top.
"That was the idea. To get them thinking about feminism at all was amazing," Lauper agrees. "My most favourite episode was when Roddy Piper interviewed us, and Captain Lou said women should remain barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, and I flipped the table, grabbed his beard, took my stupid little cotton purse and started hittin' him on the head.
"It was so much fun, and it helped break me when nobody else was really into it. But at some point, I wanted to become the artist I'm still on my way to becoming. And you'll be on your way to becoming it till the day you drop dead. Like Ella [Fitzgerald]. Ella was always goin' and goin'."