Frankie Valli – Can’t Take My Eyes Off You

An impassioned confession if I ever heard one, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You sounds fresh and attractive when its lyrics make me wonder what is the difference between the universal and the banal. When it comes to emotions, the difference is highly subjective, which is in a way ironic: what we consider universal is still subjective. Certainly “I love you baby” isn’t the most original line, but in the song’s context it sounds heartfelt and genuine, thanks to Frankie Valli’s delivery and the sound of the orchestra.

In addition to vocals, the composition and arrangement play a huge part in making this a classic. There is constant tension created with the use of triplets and borrowed chords, namely inserting parallel minor chords after major. Also notable is the rhythm section, how it creates tension with the dotted notes in the bass and the well-placed snare hits in the verses. Even when the melody is staying in one place, these compositional tricks make the music interesting, particularly in the booming brass before the chorus.

And what about the lyrics? Well, there is another source of tension, that between the confidence of the chorus and the fragility in the verses, the certainty of one’s own feelings and the slight disbelief in the reality of the situation. It is appealing because love is the engine and the motivation for most people, yet seems rare. Among all the people we meet, only a few turn out to be compatible, and yet when love becomes real, it seems instinctive, flowing with ease. It is a sudden realization that seems like a miracle, too good to be true.

But of course the rarity of love is also just another perspective, a prejudice and the romantic notion that rejects the whole of humanity in the thought that this one person among all the people in the world is unique. Yet the differences that people have, especially among those growing up in the same culture, as actually very small. All guinea pigs are cute, but looking at our peers we see endless variations and emphasize small differences, discerning attractive and unattractive qualities, thereby determining who is supposedly compatible.

Meanwhile there is nothing else to do but wait, wait for the permission to stare, the permission to share all the pent-up feelings of affection and desire. When it actually does happen, let the horns play, let the drums boom, the chest swell with pride and passion. It is real, it always was, and that is the most exhilarating realization of all that transforms the whole world, the past and the future, this one moment in the present, a touch, a gaze. It’s quite alright.