Grammys 2014: Behind the soaring Carole King-Sara Bareilles duet

Carole King, left, and Sara Bareilles perform "Beautiful" and "Brave" at the 56th Grammy Awards at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday.
Carole King, left, and Sara Bareilles perform “Beautiful” and “Brave” at the 56th Grammy Awards at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

One of the highlights of Sunday’s Grammy Awards ceremony was the meeting of singer-songwriter generations with the teaming of Carole King and Sara Bareilles for a medley of King’s “Beautiful” and Bareilles’ “Brave,” her Grammy-nominated anthem of empowerment. Without a single pyrotechnic effect, King and Bareilles sparkled in one of the night’s most enduring musical moments.

As the segment came together at rehearsals at Staples Center, Bareilles received a master class in song arrangement and delivery from King, who tapped the invaluable training she absorbed as a member of New York’s famed Brill Building school of songwriting in the 1960s.

During the first pass at the song, King harmonized below Bareilles as the medley segued from “Beautiful,” which was taken from King’s Grammy-winning 1971 album “Tapestry.” Rather than simply cut and paste verses of the two songs together, King wrote a new bridge out of “Beautiful” that stitched together the messages of both.


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On the second time through, King tried a different tack, then threw out the question: “Should we sing unison or in harmony there?” Bareilles, and many in the small crowd near the small stage where the two singers faced each other, replied, “Harmony.”

Then King, handling the lower part, found the perfect interval for her alto below Bareilles, seamlessly matching her timbre and phrasing on “Brave.”

The arrangement then jumped into a reprise of the chorus of “Beautiful” before returning once again to the sing-along “Brave” hook, which King sang (“Say what you wanna say/And let the words fall out”) while Bareilles soared with high notes over the top.

After the third run-through, the two stepped off the stage and King told an onlooker who complimented the blend of their voices, “Our souls blend. . . . I feel this bond with her, like I have with James Taylor. I feel like she’s my granddaughter. When we first met at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, we had this instant connection. I feel like this is the beginning of what will be a long relationship.”



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