Song 330: Carly Rae Jepsen, “Call Me Maybe” (2012)

the big shots - carly rae jepsen - call me maybe

I know, I know, talking about “Call Me Maybe” is very 2012. But the song has withstood the test of time (a year in pop music is like a century in reality), and I’ve never gotten tired of it. I think that’s because of its layers: the pulsing synths, the string flourishes, the palm-muted guitars that push the song along.

But those are just the parts. The sum of those parts is a big, fun jam about having a crush on someone. In a lot of ways, it’s the perfect example of a pop song (it’s not the perfect pop song—keep your hands off my Jackson 5!), but a kind of archetype for the format’s strengths. Beat you can dance to? Check. Melody that will never leave you alone? Check. Lyrics about wanting someone else to be your one true love, however temporarily? Check.

Another thing I love about “Call Me Maybe” is how much Carly Rae Jepsen is tries to sound nonchalant despite the fact that she’s head over heels about the person in question. Of course, that’s the song’s great twist on the standard pop song: the chorus is intentionally misleading, because we all know that the narrator isn’t the casual flirt that she’s trying to be. As the song’s goofy video explores, Jepsen is all awkwardness.

If Wikipedia is to be believed, “Call Me Maybe” was originally written as a folk song, which is a confounding thing to try and imagine. Given the song’s great melody, I don’t doubt that it was a good folk song, but I can’t possibly fathom what it sounded like. Regardless, it could never have been as great as the pop/disco single it became, because the pop/disco format makes that chorus funny: underneath Jepsen’s assurances that she’s only kinda interested, the soaring synths and strings tell another story. An acoustic guitar wouldn’t have been ironic, or exciting, enough.

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