"Time After Time" is the second single by American singer-songwriter Cyndi Lauper from her debut studio album, She's So Unusual (1983), with Rob Hyman (co-writer and founding member of the rock band The Hooters) 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 number 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).
"Time After Time" is composed of simple keyboard-synth chords, bright, jangly guitars, clock-ticking percussion, and elastic bassline. Lyrically, it is a love song of devotion. 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, becoming her first number-one single on the US BillboardHot 100 chart on June 9, 1984, and remaining there for two weeks. The song reached number three on the UK Singles Chart and number six on the ARIA Singles Chart.
Rob Hyman (pictured) co-wrote and sings background vocals on the track.
While writing for her debut studio album, in the spring of 1983, Cyndi Lauper was introduced to American musician Rob Hyman, who was recommended by Rick Chertoff, the album's producer. Lauper had already recorded the majority of the album, including the songs "Girls Just Want to Have Fun", "She Bop" and "All Through the Night", 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". The inspiration for the song came after both songwriters were going through similar situations in their respective relationships; he was coming out of a relationship, while she was having difficulties with her boyfriend, 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. The song's title was inspired after Lauper started writing for the song and needed a fake title as a placeholder for the time being. Thus, Lauper was looking in the TV Guide and saw a lot of movie titles, with the 1979 science fiction movie Time After Time being chosen. Although trying to remove the title later, Lauper claimed she couldn't take it out without the song falling apart.
Initially, Epic Records wanted "Time After Time" as the album's lead single. However, Lauper felt that releasing a ballad first defines an artist in a certain way, noting that she could have been known as a balladeer and that it could have killed her career. Her manager Dave Wolff was convinced that "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" could be an anthem, and ultimately her label agreed and released it as the lead single. "Time After Time" eventually became the album's second single, being 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 tickingpercussion, 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."
"Time After Time" is written in the key of C major with a tempo of 130 beats per minute in common time. Lauper's vocals span from G3 to C5 in the song.
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 80's" and others. Steve Peake of About.com listed the song at number 6 on her "Top Songs of the '80s", writing that the song "stands tall among the music of the entire rock era as one of its all-time great timeless ballads," noting that "it probably still functions impeccably as a properly emotionally wrenching slow-dance favorite." Bill Lamb, also from About.com, placed the song at number 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 number 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 number 66. The song also entered VH1's "100 Best Songs of the Past 25 Years and "100 Greatest Songs of the 80s" lists, at numbers 22 and 19 respectively. The song was also present on NME's 100 Best Songs of the 1980s, being ranked at number 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."
"Time After Time" became Lauper's first number-one 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 United Kingdom, "Time After Time" first peaked at number 54 on March 24, 1984, while peaking later at number 3, on June 16, 1984. In New Zealand, the song reached number 3, in Austria it reached number 5, in Switzerland it reached number 7, in France it peaked at number 9 and in Sweden it reached a peak of number 10.
The video for "Time After Time" was directed by Edd Griles, and its storyline is about a young woman leaving her lover behind when she becomes homesick and worried about her mother. 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-closed Tom's Diner in Roxbury Township, New Jersey, the intersection of Route 46 and Route 10 and at the Morristown train station. Portions of the video 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.