A Reasonable Conversation About Carly Rae Jepsen’s New Song, Which is the Best Song Ever
Hu: JENNNNNNNN. We meet again.
Vaf: Yes, Jane, for a GOOD REASON.
Hu: So, this morning, when I logged onto Gchat, I had no idea that you would be blessing me with this:
Jen, I really really really really like this song.
Vaf: ME TOO. I had no idea that we, the world, would be blessed with it.
Hu: Apparently, one of my friends listened to it last night? Without FW-ing it to me? #notmyfriend
Vaf: Um, I sent it to you immediately after listening to it. Just saying, I’m the greatest.
Hu: All I know is that the last time CRJ came out with a single — ”Take a Picture” — I forced you to put on your headphones and listen to it ASAP. Actually, there’s some nice continuity between that last song and this one: our girl looooves to sing about the moon. Also special deep cuts mention: the line “Wake up moon we spend the night alone together” in “Your Heart Is A Muscle.” And there’s a whole comparative essay to be written about that song and Britney Spears, but I digress.
OK, so first impressions: Carly DOES IT AGAIN. Also, have you heard about this rumor where her publicist apparently doesn’t let her release songs that aren’t going to be guaranteed hits??
Vaf: Well, not again again, right? This isn’t “Call Me Maybe Part II.” It’s slightly older? But not by that much. She’s still 13 going on 30, bless her. Yes, I’ve heard that rumor, and it’s kind of delicious, in that Hitsville U.S.A. sort of way, like there are a bunch of horny monkeys with typewriters working on the new Carly Rae Jepsen single.
Hu: I know she got really far in that little talent show Canadian Idol and everything, but there are times where I really have to sit back and think: why exactly do I love CRJ? I don’t really think it’s her voice! And she’s kind of an awkward performer? Is it all in the production? Those monkeys are doing the lord’s work!
Vaf: Great question. Why do we like her so much? She’s more of a cipher than most pop stars these days. Really really really really, etc., a cipher.
Hu: But you’re right. Even though the title and import of the song is, by all accounts, kind of juvenile, this song does feel like a fuck you to all the critics who keep hating on Jepsen’s age.
Vaf: Go on!
Hu: Well, for starters, there was that whole confusion about Jepsen looking younger than she is. Whatever that means. (I cannot believe it is 2015 and women are still getting shit for this. Ladies, look your age!) But that whole assessment also slides into this presumption that Jepsen is singing for a younger cohort than the one she “belongs” to — that her songs are themselves adolescent. I sort of see a song titled “I Really Like You,” with a hook that goes “I really really really really really really like you,” to be both playing into that, while also signalling that, like, Jepsen really really reaaaaally gets it! She’s marketing herself! And by all accounts, she’s winning. Plus, the music is divine.
Vaf: Fully agree. Do you know what Carly Rae often reminds me of? “NTR 2 Win” by Bryan La Croix, Nick Kroll’s Canadian teen idol character on Kroll Show. The marketing is blatant, but the song is so catchy that the appeal to my wallet/heart is sweet comedy. “You’ve got to NTR 2 win a chance to be with me / so I can enter you and lose my virginity.” That’s poetry, Jane. I mean, CRJ isn’t auctioning off her virginity, but she is playing with that not-so-cool, frustrated pop that is somehow still light and easy. Dance floor fillers that make you fork over your money and your love in equal measure.
Hu: Ooooh, such a good analogy. And we shouldn’t forget the intertextual implications of your reference. The whole Bryan La Croix aesthetic basically screams Justin Bieber without naming him outright, and guess who CRJ toured with upon the release of Kiss?
Vaf: That’s RIGHT. And Biebs and Selena were all about “Call Me Maybe” on social media, just like my dad and the rest of the world.
Hu: Speaking of Bryan La Croix’s virginity and all, can we please take a moment to appreciate that Justin Bieber is currently 21?
Vaf: Okay, so I’m really confused by that. Because how old is 21 really, Jane?
Hu: EXACTLY. Like, who is even running this show?
— Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) March 2, 2015
Vaf: The guy who wrote “I Really Like You,” Peter Svensson of The Cardigans, wrote this saccharine, PG-rated song for CRJ, a 30-year-old woman, months after writing a raunchy (in a Fifty Shades sort of way) song for 21-year-old Ariana Grande. Ariana’s song is about loving “harder” (oof), whereas Carly Rae’s song is about watching teevee after midnight.
Hu: Speaking of this song’s lyricism, I love that its premise basically resides in the fact that the speaker is kind of inarticulate? The way “And I want you” bumps and hiccups into “do you want me, do you want me too?” Or how “I need to tell you something / Yeah, I need to tell you something” that ends one stanza bleeds into the “Oh, did I say too much?” that begins another. On the one hand, the speaker’s stalling and backpedalling might be a sign of immaturity, sure, but it also exemplifies the roundabout seduction of a lot of great pop songs!
Vaf: And the way she does a little “My Generation” stutter whenever she sings “revelation”! Therein lies Carly Rae’s charm. You should call her, maybe, if you want, I guess.
There’s another song I keep thinking of when listening to “I Really Like You”: “Teenage Dream,” which always sounds to me like a woman past middle age giving a private show. Both songs hint at some deeper nostalgia; whenever either speaker is inarticulate, it’s fine because, in pop like this, that dumbness is more honest. They’re saying, “You know what I mean, right? This is what it feels like to be totally stupid over someone. You just like them. It’s a dream.”
Hu: Wow, you are giving me a whole new way of thinking about Prism. Does “Double Rainbow” totally sound like a woman past middle age giving a private show? Yes. Are “Double Rainbows” the epitome of inarticulateness? No comment.
Vaf: “Birthday” certainly sounds like some kind of show. I think Carly Rae Jepsen and Katy Perry share a pitch-perfect affectlessness that everyone strives for these days. Maybe one of the only differences is their record collections? Katy listens to Dirty Mind, and Carly Rae leans heavy on that first Cars album. They both listen to the first Madonna record though. “Burning Up” especially.
Hu: Totally! And even though “Good Time” (ft. Owl City #neverforget) is about as benign a song as they come, there’s still a Prince reference in it!! I love those little ways CRJ signals her savvy. But just to touch on your brilliant Madonna insight! As with “Burning Up,” a lot of CRJ’s songs (including this most recent single) totally play with the dialectics of desire. Like, “I’m beggin’ you, stop beggin’ me” from “I Know You Have A Girlfriend” or “I’m not over you, are you over me?” from “More Than A Memory.” My favorite pop song example of this might be “Hang With Me” by Robyn (also an influence on “I Really Like You,” no?) where the lyrics are saying No, but the music is wholeheartedly saying yessssss, fall in love with me.
Vaf: That’s such a good trick. Charli XCX does that too, and it’s a rush.
Do you feel like lots of people act like they’re making concessions when it comes to liking Carly Rae’s big songs? I feel this way. It rings false to me. As if we aren’t always listening to sugared garbage 24/7, in the bodega or the gym or the cab. What world are these people living in? Are we not expected to eat up songs that recall our halcyon, never-was adolescence? When this song was announced, I was like, thank god, stick it in my veins. I was feeling really depressed, I won’t lie, and I needed that shot in the arm.
Hu: Totally! Why can’t I just, like, take pleasure in sugar or “bubblegum glee” or just whatever. It’s going to be a sad day when I don’t want to listen to this song on repeat tbh. Maybe it won’t be the song of the summer. Maybe it will. I don’t really care about that? I’m really enjoying it right now.
Vaf: Yes. No one knows what the song of the summer is until they go to a wedding in October. I’m not looking forward to the small span of time where I hate this song because I keep hearing drunk girls sing it at the karaoke bar. But I’m very much looking forward to when I love it again because of those same drunk girls. I love you, drunk girls. I’m probably one of you.
Jane Hu is an English PhD living in Oakland. She listened to this song 20 times yesterday.
Jen Vafidis is a writer living in Brooklyn. She got to this song first, so she listened to it a lot more than 20 times.