There are a million and one reasons for me to hand in my Man Card at reception. I cry at non-sporting movies (and don't especially like sport movies) I'm not fascinated by cars and what makes them go and I don't think Cameron Diaz is attractive. But today, the main reason for my expulsion from the He-Man Woman Haters Club is the playlist on my MP3 player. It's not packed to the gills with hot, loud 'rawk' or so-called classics like Zeppelin and the Stones. No, my player (not an ipod, and I feel uncomfortable using that as the catch-all name for them) contains not just the hits, but the album tracks of The Carpenters.
So now that you're done throwing things at the monitor and questioning my sexuality, let me explain. Karen Carpenter is, for me, everything a female singer should be. Now, whilst certain vocal styles have their place, I find that you can't go wrong with KC. There's a purity to the voice, it's uncynical and seemingly untouched by the ravages of drugs and alcohol. The reason that made Janis Joplin so interesting is that it sounded like this spastic midget had lived a hard life, and you could hear it in her voice. The same in negative is true for Karen Carpenter, with her smooth and untarnished pipes. But it's not just the voice, it's the delivery. There is no point in any Carpenters song - love songs especially - that I don't believe she means what she's singing. Citing the most familiar example, could you ever imagine anyone else singing "Close To You" with as much sincerity? Some have tried, all have failed. If anyone else tries it, it just seems to come out sounding sarcastic.
So what, you may ask, is a grown man doing listening to love songs and elevator music? Well, if I were an emotionally stunted buffoon with no appreciation of good music or a job well done, I would probably ask the same question. There are two ways to look at the music of The Carpenters (or indeed any outfit tarred with the 'elevator music' brush); there is the easy shot of 'it's calming to listen to and inoffensive, therefore worthless' and then there's slightly more trend-bucking 'it's calming to listen to, it's been produced by people who believe in the product and have real talent and is therefore priceless.'
I'm well aware that arguing the value and merits of the music of The Carpenters to an unbelieving world is like farting against thunder. But if it makes you feel any better I put some Ice Cube in my MP3 player too.
Gene Wilder: American Comic Acting Genius
9 months ago