Bette Davis Eyes Song (Music Week #6)

Sorry guys I was on vacation where I couldn’t keep posting! Here goes!


Artist: Kim Carnes

Album: Gypsy Honeymoon, Bette Davis Eyes

Genre: Rock

Release Date: July 12, 1993

Record Label: Captiol Records

Rating: 7.0

Kim Carnes is a name that you bring up, and everybody nods in approval or recognition. Her reputation has been built up after her success from “Bette Davis Eyes”. There is no denying the boost the song gave to her brand name, after winning the Grammys for Record of the year and Song of the Year. Kim is also known for her rock, country experience and blue eye soul background. She has a distinct raspy voice and throughout this compiled album, it is heard well. Bette Davis Eyes is perhaps the best song on Gypsy Honeymoon. Written by Donna Weiss and Jackie DeShannon, and receiving praise from the Bette Davis herself, this already gave a good impression to listeners. When listening to it, we are introduced to the famous tune and it carried an odd feeling that makes you want to move around and dance.

The catchy riff begins and immediately we are immersed. Bill Cuomo created the keyboard arrangements, and he has proven himself to be a genius. The chord progression is not your common I IV V I, making it offsetting at first but, quite unique. Repeated a couple of times, and then Kim’s voice is introduced, slightly singing off harmony. The slightly off-key singing actually brings out a quite authentic quality. Her raspy sound is used especially in the chorus. Even before that, the beat starts to kick in, really giving the song a stronger boost, instead of a more acoustic atmosphere. Yet, the acoustic atmosphere would have worked well with this song. It would have enhanced the distant dream-like quality of this imaginary girl who entrances men. There is a subtle use of the drum, which makes up for that strong beat. The synthesizer is also used throughout the song vaguely heard in the background, but adding a unique texture that otherwise would have sounded flat. The synthesizer incorporates the distant quality to the song as well.

The lyrics of the song follow the story of an imagery woman and not actually Bette Davis. This woman is enticing and captures the attention of all men. She plays with them and then exposes them and turns on them. She uses love as a game. It’s a playful song that works with Carnes’s pronunciation and voice. When she starts off singing “Her hair is Harlow gold” it sounds like “Her hair is hallow gold”, as if this girl is a gold digger that meets these men who think they’re impressive, and then puts them into a trance. When Carnes sings the lines “She’s precocious and she knows just”, she sets her voice free, and uses the sudden strikes of her higher range.  It comes easily to her just as her raspy quality does. As the song carries on, Carnes becomes freer, losing restraint, and starts to play with the melody, singing a bit more off key or swinging her voice into her higher range. There could not possibly be another singer who could carry this song with such grace and casual accuracy.  For the rest of the song, the lyrics continue to be eloquent, such as “Her lips are sweet surprise, her hands are never cold, she got Bette Davis eyes.”

With the rhythms, there’s a bit of syncopation, but nothing that stands out as her singing is filled with staccato bursts. More use of rhythms would have taken the song to the next level. A slower tempo would have worked better as well.

A smart and witty song that lives up to its names, fans will love a slightly rock influenced song like this. The lyrics are witty, simplistic and perfectly crafted. The mystical mood and dream like feeling that Bette Davis had, and this song brings out. The story line it carries will never go out of style, and the unique atmosphere that was created will remain as why this song is a hit, unlike some of Carnes’s other works. “Bette Davis Eyes” is the track that we will all dance to on a laid back peaceful summer afternoon.

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