“Time After Time” is a 1983 song by American singer-songwriter Cyndi Lauper, co-written with Rob Hyman. It was the 2nd single released from her debut studio album, She’s So Unusual (1983), with Hyman contributing backing vocals. The track was produced by Rick Chertoff and released as a single on January 27, 1984. The song became Lauper’s first #1 hit in the U.S. The song was written in the album’s final stages, after “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, “She Bop” and “All Through the Night” had been written. The writing began with the title, which Lauper had seen in TV Guide magazine, referring to the science fiction film Time After Time (1979).
Music critics gave the song positive reviews, with many commending the song for being a solid and memorable love song. The song has been selected as one of the Best Love Songs of All Time by many media outlets, including Rolling Stone, Nerve, MTV and many others. “Time After Time” was also nominated for a Grammy Award for Song of the Year at the 1985 edition. The song was a success on the charts, also reaching #3 on the UK Singles Chart and #6 on the ARIA Singles Chart.
Although “Time After Time” would eventually become one of Lauper’s signature songs, it was one of the last songs on her debut album to be recorded. While Lauper was still writing material for She’s So Unusual in the spring of 1983, her producer, Rick Chertoff introduced her to American musician Rob Hyman, a founding member of the Hooters. Lauper had by then already recorded the majority of the album, including the songs “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and “She Bop,” but Chertoff insisted that she and Hyman needed to record just “one more song”. Therefore, she and Hyman sat at a piano and started working on “Time After Time” (Cyndi Lauper, 1985)
The inspiration for the song came from the fact that both songwriters were going through similar challenges in their respective romantic relationships; Hyman was coming out of a relationship, while Lauper was having difficulties with her boyfriend/manager, David Wolff. One of the first lines Rob wrote was “suitcase of memories,” which according to Lauper, “struck her,” claiming it was a “wonderful line,” while other lines came from Lauper’s life experiences. The song’s title was borrowed from a TV Guide Magazine listing for the 1979 movie Time After Time, which Lauper had intended to use only as a temporary placeholder during the writing process. Although she later tried to change the song’s name, she said that she felt at some point that “Time After Time” had become so fundamental to the song that it would fall apart with a different title.
Initially, Epic Records wanted “Time After Time” as the album’s lead single. However, Lauper felt that releasing a ballad as her debut solo single would have pigeonholed her stylistically as a balladeer, limiting her future work and thus potentially killing her career. Wolff felt that “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” could become a successful pop anthem and was a better choice; ultimately the label agreed and released it as the lead single instead. “Time After Time” became the album’s second single, released on January 27, 1984.
Written by Cyndi Lauper and Rob Hyman and produced by Rick Chertoff, “Time After Time” is built over simple keyboard-synth chords, bright, jangly guitars, clock ticking percussion, and elastic bassline. Lyrically, the track is a love song of devotion. Pam Avoledo of Blogcritics speculates that, “In ‘Time After Time,’ Lauper believes she is a difficult person, unworthy of love. She runs away and shuts people out. However, her devoted boyfriend who loves her unconditionally is willing to help her through anything. The relationship is given depth. The couple’s intimacy and history is apparent. They’ve been together for a long time. They love and have seen each other through every tough part of their life.”
The song received critical acclaim:
- Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine praised the track, calling it “the album’s finest moment, if not Lauper’s greatest moment period.”
- Susan Glen of PopMatters also called it a standout track, naming it “gorgeous”.
- Bryan Lee Madden of Sputnikmusic simply called it “a masterpiece” and “the best and most significant song she ever wrote or recorded.”
- Brenon Veevers of Renowned for Sound labeled it “sentimental” and “gorgeous”.
- Pam Avoledo of Blogcritics described the song as “a sure-fire classic”.
- Scott Floman, music critic for Goldmine magazine, described the song as “gorgeously heartfelt” and “one of the decade’s finest ballads”.
- Chris Gerard of Metro Weekly summarized the song as a “beautiful and bittersweet ballad.”
“Time After Time” has entered many lists of “Best Love Songs of All Time”, “Best Ballads from the 80s” and others. Bill Lamb, also from About.com, placed the song at #21 on his “Top 100 Best Love Songs Of All Time” list. On Nerve‘s list of “The 50 Greatest Love Songs of All Time”, “Time After Time” was placed at #5, being called “Lauper’s most enduring masterpiece hits at the very essence of commitment,” with the article pointing out that “she captures real romance in the most simple and straightforward of lines: ‘If you’re lost, you can look and you will find me, time after time’.”
The song also entered the Rolling Stone & MTV‘s “100 Greatest Pop Songs” at #66. The song also entered VH1‘s “100 Best Songs of the Past 25 Years and “100 Greatest Songs of the 80s” lists, at #22 and #19 respectively. The song was also present on NME‘s 100 Best Songs of the 1980s, being ranked at #79. The website declared that “‘Time After Time’ was a change in tack for Lauper, whose musical persona had previously been unstoppably light and frothy. ‘Time After Time’ was demoed quickly in time for inclusion on her debut ‘She’s So Unusual’, and ended up being a key song for both Lauper’s career and the decade itself.”
The song was featured as an iconic scene in the 1997 film Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion. According to director David Mirkin it “was the only song that had the proper emotion” to fit the scene.
- 1984 – American Video Awards for Best Female Performance
- 1984 – American Video Awards for Best Pop Video
- 1984 – BMI Awards for Pop Award
- 1984 – Billboard Awards for Best Female Performance
- 1985 – Pro Canada Awards for Most Performed Foreign Song
- 2008 – BMI Millionaire Award for 5 Million Spins on US Radio
- 2009 – BMI Awards for Pop Award
- 1984 – MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist
- 1984 – MTV Video Music Award for Best Female Video
- 1984 – MTV Video Music Award for Best Direction
- 1985 – Grammy Award for Song of the Year
“Time After Time” became Lauper’s first #1 single on the Billboard charts, reaching the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart in June 1984. It also reached the top of the Adult Contemporary and Canadian Singles Chart. In the UK, “Time After Time” first peaked at #54 on March 24, 1984, while peaking later at #3, on July 14, 1984. In New Zealand, the song reached #3, in Austria it reached #5, in Switzerland it reached #7, in France it peaked at #9 and in Sweden it reached a peak of #10.
The video for “Time After Time” was directed by Edd Griles, and its storyline is about a young woman leaving her lover behind. Lauper’s mother, brother, and then-boyfriend, David Wolff, appear in the video, and Lou Albano, who played her father in the “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” video, can be seen as a cook. Portions of the video were filmed at the now-demolished Tom’s Diner in Roxbury Township, New Jersey, the intersection of Route 46 and Route 10 and at the Morristown train station at the end of the video. Portions were also shot in front of Betty’s Department Store in Wharton, New Jersey, which was a staple of the community in the 1970s. According to Lauper, “It was important to me that we were natural and human in the video. I wanted to convey somebody who walked her own path and did not always get along with everyone and did not always marry the guy.” The video opens with Lauper watching the 1936 film The Garden of Allah and the final scene, where she gets on the train and waves goodbye to David, has Lauper crying for real.