Carly Rae Jepsen. She's pretty, she seems nice enough, and by all accounts she's probably quite charming at dinner parties. For the uninitiated, Carly Rae 1) is a former Canadian Idol contestant, and 2) has a name typically reserved for space hillbillies from future times. And now girl's done got an international smash hit on her hands.
Call Me Maybe is a sickly-sweet bubblegum pop tune that's taken over the planet. It's incredibly obscenely impossibly popular. To most, the sensory assault is a pleasant diversion; a harmless summer feel-good ditty. Closer to the truth? It's playing a key role in furthering our society's not-so-untimely collapse. These would be a few reasons why...
It's Making Us Confuse 'Infectious' With 'Enjoyable'
Let's cut straight to the chorus, shall we?
Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy
But here's my number, so call me, maybe?
And all the other boys, try to chase me
But here's my number, so call me, maybe?
Hoo boy, that certainly ain't good. And the melody that goes along with it? Permit me to momentarily over-punctuate: It. Is. Really. Annoying. Nonetheless, everyone on Jah's green Earth has been compulsively singing it into the ever-loving ground, from your six-year-old niece to Axl Rose  to former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell [citation not needed].
"Call Me Maybe is so infectious!" people keep saying. "It'll stay in your head for days." This cannot be denied. The tune's insidiousness stems from its ability to tap into that low-level OCD most humans possess, effectively holding our brains hostage for agonizing stretches of time.
Mistaking this experience for 'enjoyment' is a slippery slope, and a nasty one at that. If it pleases the court, allow me to submit another ditty very capable of remaining in people's heads for days.
That's right: the jingle for the mid-late 1970s Snoopy Brusha Brusha Toothbrush commercial. And I assure you as a fellow sentient human being, having once had this sloshing around my cerebellum for 72 hours was far from pleasant; it was a serious Guantanamo Bay kind of experience. So believe me when I say embracing Call Me Maybe's 'earworm' phenomenon only further blurs the line between the things we love and the things we hate. And as that goes, so goes society, Grasshopper.
It's Setting Music Videos Back To The Stone Age
As I'm writing this life-changing article, the Call Me Maybe video has been viewed 170 million times on YouTube alone, making it one of the most popular vids in the history of ye olde internets. This number doesn't include the remake video (feat. Justin Bieber -- 52 million views so far) or the countless -- literally, countless -- tributes that continue to pop up like cyber-weeds.
Sometimes great songs have awful videos. Everlong by Foo Fighters is a prime example, what with Taylor Hawkins in unconvincing drag and Dave Grohl's giant freaking hand. And sometimes awful songs have great videos (see the mid-'80s-inspired Just Want You to Know by Backstreet Boys). These scenarios can be trying on the psyche, leaving the viewer with feelings of ambivalence. It'd be akin to losing your legs and winning the Powerball on the same day -- not so easy to reconcile the emotions.
Mind you, there's little ambiguity when a truly awful song is paired with a truly awful video. When combined, they create a codependent synergy far more powerful than the sum of their parts. For several years, Taylor Swift's Teardrops on My Guitar had been the gold standard on this front, marrying dreadful music and lyrics with cringe-worthy visuals. Courtesy of Call Me Maybe, the torch has been passed, the ante decidedly upped.
The premise of the Call Me Maybe video is as such. While taking a break from performing the titular tune in her garage, Jepsen notices a hunky neighbor engaging in various hunky neighbor chores: mowing the lawn, working on his hot rod (not a euphemism), removing his shirt, putting it back on, etc...
Carly Rae swoons ad infinitum, replete with hot flashes typically reserved for post-menopausal suburban hausenfraus. At the urging of her bandmates, she attempts to make an impression on Hunky Neighbor by 'sexily' washing her car. This proves to be ill-advised, as she quickly slips off the soapy hood, knocking herself unconscious on the driveway below. She's a bit klutzy. You know, like Gerald Ford or the Hindenburg.
One Harlequin-inspired dream sequence later, CRJ comes to, only to see the ultra-concerned Hunky Neighbor leaning over her. Mission accomplished! He helps her to her feet and plans are immediately made to grab a drink or, you know, whatevs. Mind you, this needs to wait until she and the band crank out another Call Me Maybe chorus in the garage. Hey, it was stuck in their heads.
And in a twist ending M. Night Shyamalan would either love or hate depending on your opinion of M. Night Shyamalan, Hunky Neighbor proceeds to jot down his phone number and hand it over to... Ms. Jepsen's guitar player. Who's totally a guy! And boy does Guitar Guy look shocked!
Yep, Hunky Neighbor's unexpected sexual preference is the punchline, folks. Can you believe Carly Rae spent all that time and energy just to impress some silly gay fellow? What a waste! Aren't ambiguously attractive men supposed to make their predilections known to the neighborhood upon moving in? You know, like Jehovah's Witnesses or registered sex offenders? It sure would help prevent a lot of crazy mishaps!
Sure, cliché-heavy narratives, head injuries, and sugar-coated homophobia are excellent ways to set music videos back several decades. And rest assured, Call Me Maybe succeeds here at a PHD level. If anything, it's way ahead of its time at being way behind the times. Plus, 170 million viewers -- and counting -- can't be wrong. So try to act surprised when this style of video becomes the go-to option for a buttload of recording artists in the future. Um... Yay?
It's Making Us Dumb And Shallow
Ever notice when people want to wholeheartedly embrace something kinda lame and insipid, they preface it with this old chestnut, "With the (blank) being how it is these days, it's just nice to have such a fun distraction."
Let's compare this perspective to that old word game, Mad Libs. Simply fill in the (blank) with any of the following: "war in Afghanistan," "economy," "winter," "questionable tuna salad I just had." It's a bit of a cop-out: one that suggests in challenging times, the human condition dictates we should -- nay, must -- find comfort in the trite and mundane.
As a society, we've now crowned Carly Rae Jepsen the reigning queen of the 'With the (Blank) Being How It Is' cop-out. And rest assured, a benevolent queen she shall not be. You see, here's something our newly-crowned monarch doesn't want you to know. When the going gets tough, society still has the option of finding solace in songs, movies or TV shows that are both uplifting AND high in quality.
Sequestered at home with a stomach bug? Surely an Arrested Development marathon could serve you equally well as multiple viewings of Whitney. Handcuffed to an air marshal on a transatlantic flight from Dubai? No reason an iPad screening of The Big Lebowski won't take your mind offa the pending prison beatings just as well as Adam Sandler's Jack and Jill.
Would Queen Carly Rae allow for such urbane substitutions? Not on your life, buddy. Just as Pol Pot's tyrannical reign eradicated those who sought out culture and education, the 2012 Jepsen regime may not take kindly to those searching for depth and meaning in their entertainment choices. Best to just lather up the ol' I.Q.-mobile and slide head-first off the hood onto the driveway.
My analogies used to be better; this song's already making me dumber.
It's Totally Got Big-Time Satanic Overtones No For Real Guys OMG
Okay, stay with me on this. That chorus you read before? As grating as it is, you can't accuse the lyrics of being anything short of full-metal innocent. That is, until the layers of the entire song are peeled away like a godless onion of spiritual emptiness. Let's start with the first verse:
I trade my soul for a wish, pennies and dimes for a kiss
I wasn't looking for this, but now you're in my way
Yep, our so-called 'virtuous' Carly Rae is primed and ready to trade her eternal soul for a heaping dollop of physical intimacy. She's not just thinking it, she's singing it. Loudly. To any imp, demon, or assorted pitchfork-wielding entity within earshot. And will her wish be granted? Duh, totes! Moments later, actually...
Your stare was holdin', Ripped jeans, skin was showin'
Yep, a mere second after Carly Rae gives up her everlasting spirit, guess what? Fries are up! Her soul(less)mate appears as if out of nowhere. And right out of the gate, it's obvious this netherworld mail-order hombre is one heck -- sorry, HELL -- of a bad boy. Torn denim? Check. A steely, dead-eyed gaze? Sho'nuff! Is he some kind of messenger of El Diablo himself? Let's take a look at the next couple of lines. Parentheses below are mine.
Hot night (because of Satan?)
Wind was blowin' (because of Satan?)
Where you think you're going, baby? (is totally what Satan would say right after you'd agree to hand over your soul! Holy crap!)
Then we're back into the chorus, which seems a whole lot more sinister now:
It's hard to look right, at you baby (gazing directly unto the Dark Lord probably wouldn't be easy, amirite?)
But here's my number so call me, maybe? (Satan has her number. And she now has his. Spoiler alert: his number has a whole buncha sixes in it, baby.)
Later in the song, Carly Rae cops to the error of her ways, no doubt realizing this Faustian pact will be her existential undoing:
You gave me nothing at all, but still, you're in my way
What we can learn from this line is that nothing good will come from selling your soul (although a well-drawn-up receipt will at least save you from getting plowed on your taxes). Because in the end, Beelzebub will be in your way, cockblocking you from that evil-free life you once cherished.
Am I suggesting Call Me Maybe is a dark musical tale of a woman damning herself to an eternity of hellfire for lusting after some hot guy-on-girl action? Of course not. Although I'm not NOT suggesting it, either.
And to play Devil's advocate (pun!), do you really think men, women and children of all ages, creeds, and colors should be singing the Call Me Maybe lyrics -- en masse -- across the world? 'Cause they most certainly are. But hey, what's the likelihood this collective chanting might summon a malevolent, all-powerful, otherworldly presence the likes our dimension has never seen? One in five? Maybe one in six? That's, uh, not so bad, right?
How about we call it off, maybe?
Follow Steven Shehori on Twitter: www.twitter.com/stevenshehori