'Bette Davis eyes' Kim Carnes (1981)

Taking the prize as the best cover ever, just listen to the original by Jackie DeShannon from 1974 (or try to, I couldn't finish it the first time I tried to listen) with its offputting country swing feel, this mega-hit by Kim Carnes could also take the title as the 'perfect pop song'.

Even if my resident 10 year-old dj-in-training (musical prefs: dubstep and trap, apparently this is what 'all the kids are listening to these days') tells me to turn down the enthusiasm-meter when talking about music (not another classic he intones) here my wonder is warranted. Did Kim Carnes have any success after this, don't think so, doubt it, but here in these few minutes she (and the production team) created something approaching genius.

Consider the elements: Carnes's raspy, three thousand packets of cigarettes a day voice which is often flat, missing the high notes, but perfect for this song, especially the way she emphasises certain words 'precocious' that flows into 'knows ...' (and later 'ferocious') - that too-basic beat and the various effects, including the exaggerated hand-claps effect (found also in this 80s era slice of pure kitsch by Billy Idol). 

This song by Carnes though is not just something I like/love for its tackiness quotient, I like it for the perfection of its shape, the way it's put together - and I do sincerely. The lyrics too, I think are really nice (offering up a pathway to young women, a version of how they might be, a US version of the femme fatale). 

Her hair is Harlow gold, her lips sweet surprise
Her hands are never cold, she’s got Bette Davis eyes
She’ll turn the music on you, you won’t have to think twice
She’s pure as New York snow, she got Bette Davis eyes

And she’ll tease you, she’ll unease you
All the better just to please you
She’s precocious
And she knows just what it takes to make a pro blush
She got Greta Garbo standoff sighs, she’s got Bette Davis eyes

She’ll let you take her home, it whets her appetite
She’ll lay you on the throne, she got Bette Davis eyes
She’ll take a tumble on you, roll you like you were dice
Until you come up blue, she’s got Bette Davis eyes

She’ll expose you, when she snows you
Hope you’ll feed with the crumbs she throws you
She’s ferocious
And she knows just what it takes to make a pro blush
All the boys think she’s a spy, she’s got Bette Davis eyes ...

And each time that brief, sweet melodic shift comes in at around 44" (then one minute later and then around two minutes after that) I feel like there's a kind of burst of pure happiness, opening up in the music.

For me this is the music to play when things are working out, to heighten a mood like tonight. When I went out before to the streets of Paris half-empty, as always but there's still a late summer feel here, with the community guys sitting in their robes, near TATI or under the trees talking to friends, smoking and the mothers are collecting their kids from school, or going to buy some bread for dinner. 

There's an enormous depth and simple purity to this song and I appreciate it for this reason - perhaps listening to it now, when walking around my neighbourhood here, I'm also remembering my little-girl self (a version of my - sometimes - censorious son) ... who when hearing this for the first time on a TV music show thought, wow, what kind of world is there, outside of this room and this space, separate to me and all that I see.