Monday, April 16, 2012

Will Someone Please Explain the Popularity of Carly Rae Jepsen's 'Call Me Maybe'?

I like to think that I'm above begrudging the success of others, though I'm only human, so I'm probably not. For the past seven weeks, I've held my tongue as Carly Rae Jepsen's single "Call Me Maybe" has ascended Billboard's Hot 100. Now that it's sitting at No. 10 in the U.S. and perched atop the UK singles chart in its debut week, I can no longer contain myself.


Nothing against Jepsen, who seems like a lovely person. She has a great name (though it's probably better suited to the country charts), and it's interesting that Canadian Idol can help launch an international star when American Idol now seems unable to. (Jepsen came in third in the 2007 season.)

But at 26, shouldn't she be singing something that sounds more emotionally advanced than the romantic ramblings of a high-school girl? She's been compared to early Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, which, like so much of the commentary in her glowing reviews (Allmusic: "Call Me Maybe"... an irresistible slice of cutesy teen pop which combines anthemic stabbed synth strings which a chorus that just about straddles that fine line between sugary sweet and sickly") is kind of a back-handed compliment. After all, Spears and Aguilera were actually teenagers when they had their first hits.

It's not that "Call Me Maybe" is awful. It's just so spectacularly ordinary, so twee, so 1999. It makes Taylor Swift sound like Joni Mitchell. Jepsen reminds me of one of the countless comely upstarts that record-label publicists used to trot through the Teen People offices back in the day (circa, 1999, of course), hoping to jump start their careers and get them their first national coverage. Some girls (Pink, Alicia Keys, Michelle Branch) became big stars. But most, we never heard from again. Seriously, though, does Jepsen really have anything that Angela Via didn't?

I'm tempted to blame her success on her connection to fellow Canadian Justin Bieber, whom she kept out of the top spot in the UK and who has publicly endorsed his BFF. But that hasn't really done much for Selena Gomez, Bieber's girlfriend, whose "Love You Like a Love Song" has been in heavy rotation in Bangkok discos for nearly a year but still hasn't risen above No. 22 on the Hot 100.

Or maybe it's her connection to Bieber's manager Scooter Braun, to whose label, Schoolboy Records, Jepsen is signed. Or perhaps it's just another international lapse in good taste. The song has already topped the singles charts in Australia, New Zealand and Canada, so I'm just glad that for once, among most of the world's major English-speaking countries, the U.S. is coming out looking the best.

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