A little over a month ago, the Nass ran an article titled “Who the &#@% is Lana Del Rey?” To be honest, I didn’t know either. After reading the piece, however, I now know that Lana Del Ray, “a self-styled gangsta Nancy Sinatra” according to one Guardian writer, is an Internet singing sensation whose disastrously awkward Saturday Night Live television debut made her one of January’s hottest news items. And I know that several Nass writers were convinced enough of her significance within the landscape of American popular culture that they insisted she be featured in our “Blue Ivy League” issue.
To the average college student eagerly awaiting the warm-weather delights of the spring semester, however, the fixations of January now seem like an aeon ago. The Internet community’s fascination with Lana Del Rey has melted as fast as the winter snows, only to be replaced by a new, and just as exciting, YouTube musical phenomenon: Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.”
The story of how Jepsen’s video went viral is an interesting one. It starts at the end of 2011 when Justin Bieber, home in Canada for the holidays, decided to catch up the local radio hits that he misses out on when he’s giving concerts in Malaysia or sneaking off to Maui with his cougar girlfriend. Upon hearing “Call Me Maybe” Bieber made a fateful announcement to the Twitter world that proved life-changing for Jepsen: “Call me maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen is possibly the catchiest song I’ve ever heard lol.” Following Bieber’s tweet, Jepsen’s transformation from Canadian Idol runner-up mediocrity to international pop stardom occurred practically overnight. Her single skyrocketed to the top of the digital charts and she received a call of interest from the record label owned by Bieber’s manager. Bieber’s next friendly gesture to his fellow Canuck was to film a video of him lip-synching to “Call Me Maybe” and post it on YouTube. The film also stars Disney Channel actresses and pop singers Selena Gomez and Ashley Tisdale, as well as a group of inexplicably mustachioed male friends. Boasting around 20 million more views than Jepsen’s original music video, the Bieber spoof is the vehicle by which most people have discovered Jepsen’s song.
In the past few weeks, “Call Me Maybe” has emerged as a musical staple of college campuses – on dance floors, in dormitories and beyond. Princeton girls, freshmen and seniors alike, aggressively request it from the DJ’s who operate the eating club turntables. USA TODAY College reports that MIT kids listen to “Call Me Maybe” as a study break. And a group of Vanderbilt students on an “Alternative Spring Break” service trip to a South Dakotan pine reservation choreographed a jolly dance to it and posted the video on their blog.
“Call Me Maybe” has more going for it than just a tweet from the omnipotent Justin Bieber, however. To be sure, without Bieber’s leg-up, it is possible that Jepsen’s song would never have left Canada, and that we’d all still be grinding away to the grimy beat of “Rack City.” But there are intrinsic features of Jepsen’s song that also deserve credit for its popularity. One is the song’s infectious hook. For lack of a more original phrase, the song is “hopelessly catchy.”
“Call Me Maybe” also appears to have achieved guilty pleasure status because of its unabashed simplicity. Jepsen’s song is all about her throwing wishes into wells, trading “pennies and dimes for a kiss” and, of course, hoping that her latest romantic prospect will overlook the fleeting nature of their recent acquaintance and…“call [her], maybe?”
The lyrics are so basic that I was immediately suspicious of an ulterior motive the first time I read them. Convinced there had to be some unsavory hidden meaning behind all those wishing wells, pennies and dimes, I scrutinized the lyrics for some way in which Jepsen had managed to turn a neutral concept like loose change into a horrifically vulgar metaphor.
But no! Jepsen appears to have intended her words to be taken entirely at face value. Her mention of “ripped jeans” is perhaps the closest the song comes to breaking social taboos. Additionally, Jerpsen repeated nervous request of “call me, maybe?” can be viewed as a refreshingly honest display of self-consciousness. Her hesitancy to make the first move in brokering a relationship, which she stresses four times every times she sings the chorus, is rather endearing.
At the same time we acknowledge her wholesomeness, we would do well to remember that Jepsen, like Ashley Tisdale, is 26 years old, and thus it is inevitable that her music video might be infused with content that is ever so slightly more mature than the lyrics of “Call Me Maybe” suggest. Sure enough, Jepsen’s original video features her in a car-washing segment, although this scene has to be the most unerotic soaping of a vehicle ever to have graced American television screens. Or computer screens, as seems to be the fashion nowadays … Jepsen literally must be dragged over to the car by a band mate and forced on its hood in order to impress her boy-next-door gardener love interest.
However, even Jepsen’s halfhearted attempt to live up to Whitesnake music videos may have been a bit too risqué for her image. The video posted by the Bieber gang, which, as previously stated, is the video most commonly associated with “Call Me Maybe,” is as innocent as can be. Instead of a bodice ripper, Jepsen clutches to her chest whilst ogling through the window at her love interest in the original “Call Me Maybe” video, the participants of Bieber’s video brandish a children’s book called The Hunger Games to the camera. In fact, Bieber, Gomez and Tisdale look more like a bunch of enthusiastic 10-year-olds playing a game of dress up at their first sleepover than some of the most powerful figures in young Hollywood. In addition to the false mustaches they sport, Bieber’s crew makes use of playful sartorial appendages such as brightly colored sunglasses and hooded sweatshirts as they mug good-humoredly at the camera. The whole video has an informal, Photo Booth vibe to it that seems to promote the message that these ambassadors of the young money set still know how to goof around like regular kids. Though Jepsen herself does not appear in the video, it is clear that the cheerful tones of “Call Me Maybe” have inspired Bieber & Co to take a break from their busy schedules and enjoy her bubbly confection with plenty of entertaining conga lines.
If Jepsen’s whirlwind success story speaks anything to the values of approaching life with a carefree honesty, then perhaps there is reason to believe that employing an attitude of straightforward candor in one’s romantic endeavors might not be a bad idea.
Who knows? Maybe that special someone will call you back.