Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Superstar" (1971)

64. Carpenters, "Superstar" (Sept. 11, 1971, #2)

Nearly 30 years ago I got myself into a bit of a pickle by uncharitably making light in print of Karen Carpenter's death. The lingering guilt for that may or may not account for my including a Carpenters song on a list like this at all—me and Karen, we also shared the same birthday as well, Pisces 2getha 4eva. But then I listen to this and the mysterious aether in which it moves, with all of its astonishing power and poignance and dignity, the way it entirely transcends anything else in the Carpenters catalog—nothing is even close, this is the kind of song that clarion voice of hers was surely intended for—and I know I'm not handicapping anything. Sure, it's overly orchestrated. What from this pair ever wasn't? Forgive that. My own theory about the profound effect of this song is that it stems from so directly addressing the experience of hearing a song on the radio, alone in one's room, further aided by the fact that the object of desire is the guitar player rather than the singer in the band, all of which somehow lends it a veracity that surpasseth all understanding. It's entirely possible, in fact, that the singer of this song has no relation whatsoever with the guitar player, is rather only a fan who thought she caught his eye once at a show, or maybe they shared a night or a moment, and now she has mired herself down into a fantasy so intensely real that she could well be on the verge of a psychotic break. On the other hand, she could as well be a lonely girlfriend with her guy out on the road. Either scenario works, that "I love you, I really do" could mean anything, but various other hints here make the former appear to be most likely.

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