• Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

A reflection on Carole King’s seminal album Tapestry

Carole King

I first stumbled across Tapestry as a cult Gilmore Girls fan who couldn’t get enough of the show’s opening theme, ‘Where You Lead’. There was a sense of ease that my 14-year-old self felt watching the soundtracked montage of the characters growing up as the seasons passed and credits rolled. Now at 21, the song feels like slipping into a sweater that’s perfectly worn in, comfort that is sown in at the seams.  Much to my surprise, I preferred the original track far better. The song comes across as more honest, broken, intentional and passionate. Opening lyrics, “Wanting you the way I do”, had a conviction completely different to the revised lyrics, “Loving you the way I do”. I was hooked, my finger pulling back the dot at the end of the red line on YouTube to start the song over and over again.

Carole King’s second album Tapestry is a testament to independent songwriting, sincerity in performance and artistry with a purpose. There she is on the cover, with natural hair, in a baggy jumper, sitting by her window with her knitting, her Tabby grazing at her feet; she is a portrait of domestic bliss, finally at ease, finally home. Simple, yet symbolic. The first track, ‘I Feel the Earth Move,’ opens with a pounding piano groove that always stops me and forces a spontaneous boogie. King uses the imagery of forces of nature to claim her love. With her voice loud and dominant, rather than drowned in production like in her previous albums, she sets the tone for the album. With similar confidence, she belts out affirmations in ‘Beautiful’ supported by expressions of vulnerability, the theme of lessons learned the hard way begins.

Tapestry‘s lyrics read like intimate and honest conversations between friends. Moments of weaknesses, self-affirmations and hard realisations. ‘So Far Away’ has been playing in my kitchen regularly. It is “one more song about moving along the highway” and wondering why we can’t just stay. It captures the essence of the preemptive grief I am sure a lot of us feel about our university experience ending.

 With a stronger sense of grief, ‘It’s Too Late’ talks about a relationship that has ended long before the people in it have left. She sounds rational yet heartbroken: the worst! A shared ache is felt as King sings ‘Home Again’ in search to feel a sense of belonging where she doesn’t have to prove herself. ‘Way Over Yonder’ is a place we all dream of, and once again, King’s voice is the instrument that brings across the core message from song to song. When Carole sings ‘You’ve Got a Friend’, I can’t help but trust I do. There truly are not enough songs about platonic love, the mess that brings us together, devotion and depth. It reminds me of Maggie Rogers’ ‘I’ve Got a Friend’, a real and beautiful depiction of female friendship that always brings a tear to my eye. I wonder if King was an inspiration.  

There are two covers on this album. ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow?’ was written with King’s ex-husband for The Shirelles, and ‘You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman’ was recorded by King after Aretha Franklin’s take on the song.  She really isn’t competing to be the most popular remake, but rather using her voice to incorporate them into the story of her life. When it comes to ‘Smackwater Jack’ and “that shotgun in his hand”, despite the incredible R&B influence, I can’t help but feel it is out of place for an album so focused on a personal journey. The track reads more like a show-tune production and usually is one I sadly skip. I hope one day, I will actually come around to it.

‘Tapestry’ as a title track couldn’t be more perfect. On the cover, we see King holding a piece of knitting that is a work in progress, just like herself. Albums like Tapestry are how I learnt about good music made by women as someone that didn’t grow up in a house that listened to western songs. Tapestry encapsulates the larger fear of getting older and growing into yourself. King was 29 releasing this album, with middle age looming. It’s a coming of age that has come and gone. She is the tapestry, the thing that she is creating and putting out into the world, the songs are pieces of her tribulations that validate the experience of being a human alongside a performer. And somewhere in between these tracks, all your mundane moments of heartbreak or self-actualisation feel genuine and permissible. You, too, can sit by your window, hair undone and reflect and weave your story together.

Illustration ‘Carole King Portrait’ by Chloe Anderson

By Karishma Balasubramanian

Karishma Balasubramanian is a 4th year Finance and Business student who joined the paper in September 2019. She is currently the president and resident agony aunt of the paper, holding positions of treasurer and social secretary in previous years. She has a keen interest in lifestyle journalism and writes about life, love, skincare, fashion and held the position of lifestyle editor from November 2020 - March 2022.