A Warning From The Future
Welcome to the lost, alone and searching.
Welcome to climbers of trees, the stealers of bikes, the girl in the corner, the forgotten friends, the little black holes.
Welcome to the rejected, the unwanted, the despairing. The smell you smell is a blossom tree. The chill you feel is a cold breeze as you walk the streets alone at night. The emotion you feel is longing.
The voice you hear is Carly Rae Jepsen.
You might be reading this as a joke. Out of vague curiosity. You might’ve thought the person who claimed to have discovered a massive secret pattern in a popstar’s music was doing it ironically, or maybe just lost on a long hike up their own ass.
Welcome to you, too, the cynics and the disinvested. Come in, and find out, but first, a warning:
“Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.”
This Italian phrase from Dante’s Inferno translates to:
“Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here.”
What you’re looking at, what you’re about to read, is a living document. I wrote it as I researched, and it is not without growing pains. You are experiencing a living document; you will be discovering the phenomenon alongside me. As you proceed through the manuscript, you’ll see my formatting and song analysis evolve.
If you go through completely with this, you’re definitely going to see connections between songs that I missed. The Jepsen Pattern, once you understand its rubric, is about as subtle as a brick to the face. When I started my analysis of EMOTION in the fall of 2016, I had no idea that themes, ideas, and even specific lyrics would echo back over a full decade to Jepsen’s, unreleased, first EP. I was still just starting to engage with the scope of what was going on in Jepsen’s music.
So I want to apologize in advance. This is a big and clumsy YET SINCERE gesture, and there’s definitely some things I missed here and there. Sub-themes showed up before I had created a category for them. Individual lyrics and images popped back up later, when I had forgotten to take note of them, not realizing they’d be back. In retrospect, how could I know? I had no idea the scale of what I had found.
I want you to engage with this behemoth to whatever degree suits you. Just read the essays. Just read the song analysis annexes. Skip to the end and just read the epilogue. Certainly be sure to read the intro to Part 2. Or, fuck it., read the whole thing; because I promise you something:
If you give this your time, if you’re one of the brave souls who starts at page one and finishes at page done, you will be floored. Or, at the very least, you will understand why this was all worth it.
Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here.
- Max Landis, Thursday, June 29th, 2017.
The state of being infatuated or obsessed with another person, typically experienced involuntarily and characterized by a strong desire for reciprocation of one's feelings but not primarily for a sexual relationship.
Before you came into my life
I missed you so bad
And you should know that
A SCAR THAT NO ONE
ELSE CAN SEE
The (Barely) Hidden Pattern Within Carly Rae Jepsen’s Entire Discography
A track-by-track investigation of Carly Rae Jepsen’s discography nakedly reveals an undeniable, axiomatic, rigid, all encompassing, over-arching and strictly limited set of repeating themes and sub-themes, which, when examined, and could be construed as telling in three parts one single story, from one specific moment in a person’s life, again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again.
...Sometimes, with the exact same words.
I want you to picture something for me, in your head.
Imagine a world where The Beatles only sang about being a Paperback Writer. Imagine a world where the Rolling Stones only sang about having Sympathy For The Devil. Imagine a world where Beyonce only sang about being a Single Lady.
Imagine a world where pop artists each only chose to sing about one thing, or one story, and were somehow condemned to repeat that story endlessly again and again and again, in not only general theme, but in painful specifics, possibly recounting one incident from their own life, endlessly dramatizing each of its three acts, ad infinitum.
Now what if I told you I could prove that world existed, at least for one artist.
What if I told you, in the most sane, calm voice, making the most sane, calm face I could manifest onto the front of my head, that that artist was Canadian pop-star Carly Rae Jepsen.
Because that is what I’m telling you. I am telling you that.
And I can prove it.
I hope you’ll notice I didn’t say “argue.” I said “prove.” I can prove that Jepsen’s songs are connected. We’re going all the way here. This is not a half-measure.
We’ll be going to her unreleased first album. Her collaborations. Songs she’s chosen to cover. We’re doing pretty much everything.
Because only then will you understand the depth of the phenomenon I have uncovered. You cannot understand the scope of the ocean by standing on the beach. And you will, as the idiom goes, shit bricks. And shit more bricks. And by the end, we will together build a house in Canada, with those bricks, and live in it forever.
Where to begin.
The tradition of the “torch song” goes back to the 1920s, to the first “pop” music ever to exist. Torch Songs are less of a full genre of music than a content specific niche: a singer, usually female, bemoans a lost or unrequited love, and proclaims their dedication in spite of the absence of their lover.
You know these songs; usually catchy but downbeat ballads, they’re the sort of song that evokes strong emotions of loss, sadness, and desperation. Songs like “And I Am Telling You,” “I Will Always Love You,” and “Cry Me A River” stand out as classics, while recent examples of torch songs include the occasional Taylor Swift track, and of course Adele: who has made an entire career out of singing about painful past break-ups that she’s still clinging onto, sometimes implicit decades later.
Of course, Adele sings about other stuff too. Almost all singers do. No one sings about the same thing on every song. That would be ridiculous.
This is what makes Carly Rae Jepsen’s work so idiosyncratic, and utterly unique: though not one of her five released records is a “concept album,” the songs on them follow a pattern that, once observed, cannot be denied or disregarded.
It’s not just the lyrics, it’s a specific and undeniable guideline within the subject matter, and the way in which topics are addressed. The story itself is not linear, but once made aware of the pattern, it takes very little effort to draw lines between songs and find a kind of loose, repeated three act chronology, the repetition of which spans fifteen years of Jepsen’s career.
Before we go any further, I should say that I love Carly Rae Jepsen’s music. I’ve now listened to literally all of it; every single song she’s put out, as well as all of her covers and many of her unreleased tracks. You’re talking to Post-InJeption Max right now, the guy who just finished a 150 page dissection of her music, and I’ve got to say: Carly Rae Jepsen is an actual genius.
In interviews, Jepsen comes off as charming, intelligent and likable. And I hope you understand that where I’m taking you does not come from a place of disdain. If anything, I feel more reverence for her than ever.
Jepsen appears to repeat one of three acts of a tonally rigid narrative, again and again and again, in nearly every one of her songs.
And that narrative, though it’s told in bright pop colors, is deeply sad, a maybe a little creepy, and ultimately dark as fuck.
With a cursory glance through her lyrics, one becomes aware that Jepsen is either consciously portraying a character, exorcising a very specific and identifiable personal demon, or, although I don’t see how this would be possible, subconsciously addressing and readdressing a very specific and identifiable incident, and then unintentionally and painstakingly documenting each stage of this incident in her art.
The set of themes seems to imply a specific story runs through all of her albums, through tracks co-written by dozens of producers. It becomes more and more evident the longer you look, like one of those Magic Eye pictures.
Okay. I’m aware how this sounds so far.
You’re probably having the same initial reaction I did; this is the same sort of conspiracy-theory apophenia that once led to stoners insisting on a real and salient connection between Pink Floyd’s The Wall and The Wizard of Oz, or in modern days, the kind of wishful thinking clickbait of “hidden easter eggs” that connect the Pixar films.
It’s not. This is real. It’s so real that after we get into this it’s going to be SO self evident as to become brutally repetitive, and even then, I’m going to keep going, because I’ve never seen a phenomenon like this in anything before, and I want to just absolutely bury you with it. And we’re going down together.
There’s going to come a point, if you keep reading, where you are set up, by the premise of what I’m proposing, to play the cynic, and say “Well you’re just reading into it” or “All pop songs are like that” or something to that effect.
I would suggest not taking this stance until you finish. If you finish at all. As I said, once the Jepsen Pattern becomes evident, the song-by-song is going to be the cartoon equivalent of a character repeatedly smashing themselves in the head with a hammer.
We are taught Occam’s razor, that being the theory that the simplest explanation is usually the truth. And in this case, Occam’s razor is in my hand, slashing open my brain to reveal a thunderous tidal wave of Carly Rae Jepsen lyrics hidden within.
For me, the revelation started in Canada, coincidentally Carly’s homeland. It started as a joke, and then bloomed into an archaeological deep dive you’ll see in the coming pages. So grab your maple syrup and hockey stick, and I’ll show you how deep this rabbit hole goes.
Because Carly Rae doesn’t just sing about love, or sex, in general.
She sings in startling, crystal clear specificity.
And what she sings about isn’t fun, fulfilling, or stable.
Carly Rae Jepsen is in Hell.