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Carolee Rainey’s “Baby”

The piano purrs with emotionality as Carolee Rainey’s “Baby” starts to play, but its brittle melody pales in size compared to the epic harmony that it’s preparing us for just around the corner. Enter Rainey, who is hesitant in her execution at first, as if to imply a reticence to admit the things that she’s about to say in these next few verses. She describes life beginning anew, childlike wonderment, and reflections that seem to transcend the limitations of barebones pop poetry, and through the music that joins them in this ballad, we’re able to understand everything that she’s feeling in this moment.

In the first chorus of “Baby,” Rainey doesn’t go after the verse with quite as much intensity as she will in the second, but this churning lead-in to the fireworks in the middle of the song is essential to making the climax as incredible as it can be. The music video for this track is similarly tense but stops short of frustrating us with elusive visual riddles that would have ultimately made it much harder for us to stay focused on the harmonies and the words that they contain.

Close to halfway through this single, the energy starts to pick up, and around the three-minute mark, when Rainey starts in on the most emotive element of the song, her vocal breaks from its normal role as a translator of emotion and becomes embedded in the fabric of the instrumental melodies in the background. She is one with her backing band, and they’re conveying everything that’s inside of her heart without ever having to utter a single syllable. It’s an inspiring fever pitch, and in both the video and the song, we’re left in awe of Rainey’s unadulterated swagger.

There’s nothing wrong with indulging in a vocal when you’ve got the voice that this star has, and to me, this track might have been the perfect excuse to go all out behind the mic. Rainey has a lot of confidence in this performance, and scarcely is there a moment – even when she’s pushing herself to the creative limit – where she sounds like she’s about to get in over her head. The swagger is important, but more than this, it’s the way she carries herself against the backdrop, no matter how daunting it might seem to the audience.

“Baby” fades to black amidst one last strum of the guitar strings, but I’ve discovered that the trail of reverberating melodies that it leaves in its wake tends to linger in the air like a faint fog that you would see at the start of a brisk fall morning. Even if you were to take away all of the pop ribbonry that was used to package this track and music video to be as radio-friendly as anything currently topping the play count on Spotify, “Baby” would still be an urbanely designed work of art, and that’s not often the case with singles from artists who have not yet broken out of the underground and into the mainstream spotlight.

Mindy McCall



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