Saturday, June 10, 2006

A Song For You (1972) – The Carpenters

As one of the few singers who stopped stroking her ego to the sound of her own voice to actually consider how melody and fluidity could effectively convey lyrical meaning, Karen Carpenter displayed unadorned sincerity in this haunting Leon Russell classic which uncannily foreshadowed her premature passing.

Away from the grand spectacles in front of multitudes, her worldliness does not atone for the shortcomings in her personal life, so she comes clean with pellucidity about her feelings. True, she hasn’t always been the most forthcoming, but if eloquence eludes her, music effectuates a heartfelt disclosure.

Karen exhibits control over an extended vocal range, from soothing warmth in her lower register to earnest vulnerability in the upper. Equal credit goes to Richard Carpenter for his arrangement: along with the Beach Boys, The Carpenters perfected the multi-tracked choir of harmonies that became their trademark of benign pop for housewives on their supermarket excursions. A monasterial “ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh oooooh” transition ebbs into a frank avowal that this is as much an elegy as it is an encomium. Further bolstering this version’s unimpeachable distinction, a contemplative saxophone solo explores the tranquility of the moment, gradually feeling out a comfort level before shaking off inhibitions to display a little flair.

As of late, Christina Aguilera has been butchering this song with her histrionics and vocal runs which rob it of its melody and eviscerate its intended emotional impact. Other fine singers have also demonstrated an inability to comprehend—and/or an unwillingness to practice—the art of expression through restrained, subtle vocal flow and dynamics, preferring instead to disregard continuity with their pregnant pauses and hammer the listener in the face with their acrobatic vocal wank-offs. It says here, once and for all, this song should be regurgitated nevermore. [Peter Gallagher, how could you?] The question is, after hearing Karen epitomize its essence, why would you want to listen to others mangle it beyond recognition, sapping it of any sentiment?

  • Listen to "A Song For You" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
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