About The Song

“Top of the World” is a 1972 song written by Richard Carpenter and John Bettis and recorded by the Carpenters. It was released in 1973 as a single and appeared as the title track of their album named after the song. The song was a #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for two consecutive weeks in 1973.

Richard Carpenter co-wrote “Top Of The World” with John Bettis, a lyricist who worked with him on a whole lot of Carpenters songs. Like “(They Long To Be) Close To You,” it’s a broad and unconflicted love song, simple to the point of being simplistic. When they wrote it, Bettis and Carpenter figured they’d written an album track, and they didn’t have any plans to release it as a single. But after the Carpenters’ 1972 album A Song For You came out, the country singer Lynn Anderson had a huge hit with a cover of “Top Of The World” — something that the Carpenters probably invited when they put pedal steel all over the original. So the Carpenters made “Top Of The World” a single, and it hit #1 after the album had already been out for a year and a half.

Karen Carpenter had a way of finding a slight tinge of melancholy in songs that otherwise actively resisted the very existence of sadness. Her voice is warm and controlled, and there’s an intelligent sparkle in it. On “Top Of The World,” she sings about finding some transporting level of happiness: “Not a cloud in the sky, got the sun in my eyes / And I won’t be surprised if it’s a dream.” But Karen’s voice holds on the word “dream,” like she’s seizing on that as the likeliest possible explanation. And Karen also sinks her teeth into the central chorus hook, which is a lot more immediate than much of what her group was offering up.

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Almost everything about “Top Of The World” speaks to a basic, surface-level idea of sophistication. But Karen Carpenter’s vocal work is what ultimately saves “Top Of The World” from simper status. She’s what gives the song its richness. She doesn’t turn it into a masterpiece or anything, but she does what she can.


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