Friday, January 8, 2016

Perfect Songs - Caramel


There are as many ways to describe desire as there are desires. There are also many ways to describe smoothness. When those two things merge in a song and somehow combine to make you literally feel and taste desire and silk at the same time, then something otherworldly has just occurred. One such perfect collision happens in Suzanne Vega's "Caramel."

The sense of longing in this song drips slowly and sweetly from the smooth groove of the bass line and velvety guitar. Vega's voice is a lonely call of unhealthy, forbidden desire in a sea of melted caramel, restrained only by the stickiness of the whole affair. And by the way, I wonder if it is about an affair or what exactly makes this love forbidden to her, but at the end of the day, the details don't matter. I love how this evokes a slightly Parisian cafe sound, with the accordion, but several acoustic versions also make clear that there is a bolero foundation here as well, of the kind I grew up listening to, which might explain why I respond so much to the basic melody of this.

I think these combinations of exotic sounds at the heart of it give this a deeply soulful and almost archetypal sensuality that works beyond the lyric. But then the lyrics, this story of a love - a lust - that cannot be, should not be, told in minimal detail, but still rich in flavor, adds a bittersweet sadness that elevates every individual part of the song. It's just perfect.

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