For better or worse, her voice defined my childhood. Though I loathe nostalgia, hearing her music brings back — not memories, but a sense of what that moment in time was like: the light in our living room on Saturday afternoons, the smell of the hallways in my elementary school, the sensation of laying in the sun in the back of an Oldsmobile station wagon and reading for hours while dad drove us to Disney World.
I don’t miss those moments, I certainly don’t long to relive them, but I feel like I understand that slice of time. I remember it at a sideways glance.
I love “Superstar”. It’s a haunting, beautiful melody paired with shockingly bleak lyrics. If you’ve never really paid attention to the masochism and desperation in her voice, have a listen:
But of all The Carpenters’ songs, the one that made the biggest impression on me is probably “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft”. It shows off Karen’s voice, which was simultaneously airy and powerful, and the jazz/pop break in the middle always makes me dance a little dance (on the inside). And as with “Superstar”, the lyrics are nine kinds of fucked up.
I always forget, though, that The Carpenters’ 1977 version is actually a cover of a Klaatu single that debuted a year earlier. Each has its share of merits, but I have my own feelings about which group wore it best.