Single Review: Kim Carnes “Bette Davis Eyes”

Bette Davis Eyes
Album: Mistaken Identity
Year: 1981

1930s film star Bette Davis, known for her strong-willed, ballsy demeanor, fought for Academy Award worthy roles and spoke her mind about her co-stars.

Kim Carnes immortalizes the legendary actress by comparing her to a friend in the commanding “Bette Davis Eyes.”

Like Bette Davis, her girlfriend’s hair is platinum blonde, resembling Jean Harlowe’s color. Her lips are painted a delicious rouge. She has warm, inviting hands and mesmerizes people with her charisma by doing the most mundane activities. She’s unchaste. When people look into her eyes, they see a fiery spark. (“Her hair is Harlowe gold/ Her lips sweet surprise/Her hands are never cold/She’s got Bette Davis eyes/She’ll turn her music on you/You won’t have to think twice/She’s pure as New York snow/She got Bette Davis eyes”).

She likes to see people squirm, joking with them about issues they rather avoid. However, Carnes says people will find themselves oddly enjoying it. She’s cocky, swears like a sailor, and talks about sex in a graphic way. Even the most frank person will find themselves feeling prudish. She’s haughty like another famous movie star, Greta Gabor. (“And she’ll tease you/She’ll unease you/All the better just to please you/She’s precocious and she knows just/What it takes to make a pro blush/She got Greta Garbo stand off sighs/She’s got Bette Davis eyes”).

She’ll allow men to think they are dealing with a submissive waif and then surprise them with her aggressiveness once they are sleeping together. She’s unashamed of her sexuality and revels in it. (“She’ll let you take her home/It whets her appetite/She’ll lay you on her throne/She got Bette Davis eyes/She’ll take a tumble on you/Roll you like you were dice/Until you come out blue/She’s got Bette Davis eyes”).

She’s reveal people for who they are really are and fools people with expertise, leading people to be caught off guard. She’s ruthless and boys think she’s in diguise. (“She’ll expose you, when she snows you/Off your feet with the crumbs she throws you/She’s ferocious…all the boys think she’s a spy/She’s got Bette Davis eyes”).

The chorus is sung to end the single (“she’ll tease you…she’s got Bette Davis eyes”).

Kim Carnes’ rugged vocals give the single an authoriative, cunning tone. She’s aware of her friend’s strong personality and considered her equal. As she describes her, there isn’t any idolization of her. Carnes’ accepts her friend but it doesn’t fall under her spell. Carnes, inevitably, would know what buttons to push to make her sophisicated friend weaken.


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