Kim Carnes Bats Her Bette Davis Eyes

Singer exposes you and snows you in this week's road to the 53rd GRAMMY Awards edition of Forgotten Videos
  • Kim Carnes in "Bette Davis Eyes"
January 19, 2011 -- 5:28 pm PST
GRAMMY.com

Welcome to Forgotten Videos, the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards edition, showcasing past GRAMMY winners. For some, these videos are forgotten, for others just filed away, and for others still, a totally brand-new discovery. Whichever category you fall into, each week until the GRAMMY Awards on Feb. 13, we'll feature a video from a GRAMMY-winning artist that's possibly been collecting dust when what it really deserves is a fresh look. Or, just for old times' sake. We just want to take you on a little trip down memory lane. Yep, you'll remember when hair was really that big, when drums were that up front in the mix, when video was young(er) and so were you.

Kim Carnes
"Bette Davis Eyes"
1981

Prior to "Bette Davis Eyes," singer Kim Carnes was quickly becoming the queen of polite duets in the late '70s and early '80s. With country/pop singer/songwriter Gene Cotton, she scored a Top 40 hit with "You're A Part Of Me" in 1978. Then she hit big in 1980 with "Don't Fall In Love With A Dreamer," a No. 4 duet with Kenny Rogers. But after "Bette Davis Eyes" she was, well, the girl who sang that Bette Davis song.

"Bette Davis Eyes" was so pervasive, such a huge part of the pop culture lexicon (it was the GRAMMY Record Of The Year winner in 1981), that it was the kind of song that could make a career and kill it at the same time. While Carnes had a couple of Top 40 hits after (notably the Jim Steinmanesque "Crazy In The Night [Barking At Airplanes]"), "…Eyes" became a signature that overshadowed everything Carnes did before and after.

No doubt that was because the song was so striking, an unexpected synth-driven power pop gem about a powerful woman, one mysterious enough to be both frightening and alluring in her ability to control you. In fact, unless we miss our guess here, it may have been the first pop hit about a dominatrix (Madonna would follow with many more).

The song had a big head start in the pedigree of its writers — Jackie DeShannon, in her own right a trailblazer for women in pop and arguably the founding mother of folk-rock; and Donna Weiss, whose credits include the Brill Building-style burner "Stay With Me Baby" (covered by everyone from the Walker Brothers and Terry Reid to Duffy). The video included just enough of a nod to the growing new wave phenomenon (note her backing group's striped shirts and pirate outfits and the big, mechanical percussion sounds that become the basis for the clip) to give the song an ultra-current sheen, along with lyrics that tantalized: "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."

Nobody ever looked at someone with Bette Davis eyes the same way again. 

 

Do you have Bette Davis eyes? Got a Forgotten Video recommendation? Leave us a comment. And don't forget to tune in to the 53rd GRAMMY Awards on Sunday, Feb. 13, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.

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