PART 5 ANNEX:
TUG OF WAR - A TRACK BY TRACK EXPLORATION
This album sounds different than her later work. Carly even sounds different: more soulful, sadder, less cutesy and somehow older, even though she was years younger when she recorded it. It’s refreshing and exciting to hear this side of her voice; it’s got this kind of Tori Amos, Lisa Loeb, or more accurately, Michelle Branch type of thing going on. She sounds sweet, and small, and hurt.
Compellingly, this is also the only time Carly really talks about…well, Carly. Pretty much every single song we’ve looked at so far is about Carly’s relationship to someone else, almost always a romantic interest.
It could be argued that these songs, where Carly just talks about herself, could be viewed as form-breakers, anomalies within my proposed pattern, and I’d ask you to consider them on a case by case basis, because they do fit, just in a very specific and very rewarding way.
One of Carly’s major sub-themes concerns coming out of a period of feeling Lost And Alone before meeting Her Love, who gave her purpose and direction. I would ask you to indulge the idea that these scant songs document this period. Carly asks real questions on this album, in a less-flat, less flirtatious or fun style than she’d eventually evolve into.
The “I wonder who you’re screwing” on Tug Of War is NOT the voice of the later Carly, who would instead more innocently ask if someone “remembers” her.
Though this is very polished singer-songwriter pop, there’s still an edge here. And it’s that edge, that more hardened sadness, that makes this album special.
But I think the real crescendo here is that all the stuff I’d been positing, regarding the Narrative Aspect of being involved with a musician who’s already in a relationship and you travel with him and have this platonic back and forth thing with him where he ultimately rejects you, is like…exploding out of this album.
On Kiss and Emotion, Carly is sad, longing, yearning for this guy to come back, fantasizing about escapes with him and remembering the early days. She’s singing poppy, hopeful sounding songs with bleak, despairing messages. She’s sad, and obsessed, but in a very distant, harmless way. She’s a scar.
Not on Tug of War. Tug Of War is an open wound. A new emotion appears in Carly’s arsenal, one that won’t show up on her later albums.
She’s sad, yeah. She misses him, yeah. She wishes they could make it work. Wishes he was available to her. She’s always sad: on Kiss, on Emotion, on her singles, on everything except her Limerence songs, she’s sad, she’s SO sad.
Sad isn’t new.
But on Tug of War, she’s also pretty fucking angry.
1 - BUCKET
Carly Rae Jepsen’s first album’s first song appears to be about a pleasant day at the beach with friends, watching kids play and generally having a nice time. But after like four lines, surprise, it isn’t that.
It’s actually really fucking sad and portrays a relationship, or friendship, or romantic friendship, currently in flux. So here we are. First track of first album.
And it’s about MISERY.
I don't know how we're gonna build a castle now
Do you want to start again somehow?
I'll stay until the sun comes down, down down
'till the sun comes down
Something’s gone wrong in Carly’s relationship with this person; it’s ended, but she…drumroll…wants another chance. From a purely literary standpoint, on this first album, Carly uses more metaphors, similes, and emotionally descriptive imagery than on her later work. The simile of the relationship as a sandcastle, beautiful but inherently temporary and impossible to preserve, is a more elaborate metaphor than anything on Kiss or Emotion.
Even the LA Hallucinations were given literal form in the idea of credit cards and jet plane travel. This sandcastle, a beautiful thing gone too soon, is a great starting point tone-setter for everything on the record.
Look over my shoulder
See your laughter bubble over
Lately you've been working too hard
And I've been waiting to recognize
That sparkle that's in your eye
Those two dimples on your cheeks
The joy that lights the fire
Here, technically for the first time ever, we encounter a character who Carly will go on to sing about for the rest of her career, that of an unhappy or depressed man who Carly is pursuing, A Lover In A Bad Or Dark Place That She Can Save Him From. A guy who used to be happy but who has lost something, and who Carly imagines she could help.
The final lyrics are especially sad:
“”Sun's coming down, I'll stay
(Sun's down, here come the waves, and there goes the carousel)
Sun's coming down, I'll stay
(Sun's down, here come the waves, and there goes the carousel)
Sun's coming down, I'll stay
(Sun's down, here come the waves, and there goes the carousel)"
She’s in it for the long haul. Round and round. Tide in and out. She’ll stay.
2 - TUG OF WAR
This is a really important song, and we’re going to go deep on it, because it is a signpost for so many things, and reveals just how early, and comprehensive, the phenomenon of the thematic and narrative choices in Jepsen’s work are.
The first album’s second track, and we’re already hitting MISERY, REJECTION, OBSESSION, and LIMERENCE, but much more directly than we will in her later work. As I said, this album feels angry, and lost. It’s a portrait of a person who was aimless and in a transitional period in their life, found a connection, lost it, and now bares a scar no one else can see.
We start off with some Classically Vintage Jepsen “I Really Like You”/“Super Natural” type “how is it possible you’re this wonderful, it is probably an illusion or something dangerous, I love you but I’m not sure about this” type stuff.
You seem too good
To good to be true
You're holding me stronger
Stronger than I'm used to
I’m sure, since this behemoth has now been released into the world, I’ll have Jeptics (get it, like skeptics? I’m hilarious!) saying that my read of Super Natural isn’t fair, or presupposes a dire or sinister outlook on Carly’s flirty, hesitant song about a new relationship. To these naysayers, I point to this song (and many others), as representative of a pattern.
The idea of a new relationship being unfamiliar and overwhelming in a positive but tenuous way is an unspoken overarch of many songs that address Act I of the Carly story. “I can’t believe I can feel this way, I haven’t felt this way before and I am suspicious of it” is a common Carly thematic variable, plugged into many different configurations of other themes.
This next part is REALLY interesting, because it’s so much more direct than Carly is on her later stuff, and is a wonderful signifier of what’s to come:
Don't go out with the boys tonight
I won't sleep a wink
Wondering what you're doing
Don't go out with the girls tonight
I will turn to drink
Wondering who you're screwing
Well, there you go. This guy is NOT HER BOYFRIEND. They are not in any kind of committed relationship. In fact, they’re so not together that his schedule is entirely out of her control, much less who he sleeps with.
So the idea of him as a fuck-buddy who she’s fallen in too deep with presents itself pretty naturally; they had a casual thing she wishes she could control, that appears to be the scenario. Well, maybe things will still turn out okay. Maybe this isn’t doomed.
Tug of War
Sweet as sin
I let go
I fell in
Feel the pull
Call your name
Oh, no, sorry, it’s doomed. And again, the “sweet as sin” implies that the love is Bad/Forbidden somehow, and yes, of course, she ends up alone, endlessly pining after someone who doesn’t want her. It actually brings up the question of if she ever expressed wanting to be with him in the first place, or if that was just for us, her confidants.
Tug of War being the title track of this album says so much, I can’t even tell you. It’s a spotlight on the overarching narrative of the album. The push-pull of wanting someone you’ll never have, asking them to be with you, being refused, ending up just getting dragged along, and of course, most of the songs on this album, and ALL of the songs on her later albums, will be about exactly that.
So that’s the hardline Carly-science of this song and this album. That’s the provable 1+2=3 of it all.
But if you want to get speculative, if you want to do some Quantum Raechanics, I can give you another interesting, if unprovable path to follow.
Tug Of War can also, if you’re so inclined, and want to be imaginative, be used to contextualize the other album titles, and the songs chosen to be the title tracks, in an interesting way. The album “Kiss” surely takes its title from the track “This Kiss;” and keep in mind, “This Kiss” isn’t simply about kissing, it’s about a specific, forbidden kiss, possibly one single kiss between two people who probably shouldn’t be kissing.
Similarly, “Emotion” takes its title from the song “Emotion,” a song all about the specific emotion of romantic longing for someone you can’t have. Emotion is another one of those Jepsen tracks, if you recall, that urges/begs a lover who spurned her to think about her, and desire her, even though he “calls her his friend.”
All of these songs are Track 2 on each album.
And here’s the kicker, if you haven’t figured it out: They chronologically fit each of the three acts I have identified.
1 - Tug of War - wanting, not having
2 - This Kiss - having, but knowing it’s wrong
3 - Emotion - loss
I mean…that’s just crazy. A crazy coincidence. Except maybe it isn’t a coincidence.
3 - THE MONEY AND THE EGO
Okay so I’m really excited, because this one is really special. I’ve been waiting to get to this track since I first heard the album, even if it doesn’t directly fit into the theoRae of Jepsen, because it still kind of does, and gives us a wonderfully articulated perspective on everything.
This is one of only two songs in all of the Carly Rae Jepsen tracks I’ve listened to that’s mainly ABOUT Carly; her relationship to her own life, her career, her anxieties about the future. It’s introspective, and even though it’s sung in second person and probably still pointed at Her Love, it gives incredible insight into the person actually singing.
She sounds sad. Confused. Lost. And she says all this, in no uncertain terms; it’s rare that Jepsen’s tendency towards literal lyrics is turned inward this way.
Many times, on many songs, Carly references Being Lost Or Unhappy Before She Met Her Love. On a much later track, “Higher,” Carly will open the song by saying “I was lost, alone and searching.”
What’s amazing, and remarkable, and for lack of a better term: mind-bending about Jepsen’s work, is how certain songs can be seen as direct linear references to other songs. Like I’m sure someone somehow even crazier than I am could actually take all of her songs and list them linearly from the top of ACT I to the end of ACT III, because so many of them appear to directly reference specific moments and emotions across all albums.
It’s ultimately about MISERY/LONGING, and you could make an argument it’s about ESCAPE too, but the truth is, this one’s a real outlier. Mostly. Sort of. This, along with a later song, Worldly Matters, are two songs that appear to chronicle the dark period in Carly’s life, when the future seemed uncertain.
Make my house of bricks and I'll stick here
When the world comes crashing down around me
Make your arms a willow tree
And you can bend with me anywhere I'm going
So we’ve got much more poetic symbolism than we usually see from Jepsen here, whose lyrics usually very directly, and in no uncertain terms, state what she’s doing, what she’s feeling, what she wants You to do, why she wants You to do it, how she wishes You felt, and direct communication about why she’s feeling that way.
But even within this, we see the leitmotif of Being In Someone’s Arms.
Sometimes it's hard to see anything lovely
All the people around me
Going for the money and the money and the ego
How can you ask me why I need to know before I try?
I've got to be sure there's more
Than the money and the money and the ego
Keep your eyes on me
And I'll look to you so I can see what I am here for
Pull the wool over my eyes
Please kiss this day goodbye, only you can get me going
So there are two ways to view this song; one is as a message to her fans, almost directly addressing the listener. Carly’s career is starting to blow up, and she wonders what’s next, very literally asking her audience to stay with her and help guide her in her time of doubt.
The other way, the way that’s more likely the intent, is that this is to a specific person, perhaps a mentor figure. This read of the song is bolstered by the “make your arms a willow tree” line; the idea that this is a very specific person, who she’s asking for help.
And please take the time to note the wording: she’s not relying on this person already. She’s asking them to be this for her; she’s, as usual, proposing a situation in which the person she’s singing to will be there for her. She’s saying “please be there for me,” with no guarantee that the Money And The Ego won’t catch up to her.
So this one is unique, in that way, and kind of moving. Which is good. It’s good we finally hit one that bends the theory a little.
Because the next track is as blatant and haunting and thunderous a proof of concept as we’re going to get.
4 - TELL ME
What’s that sound? Is that an approaching ambulance? Is that Godzilla making his way into Tokyo? Is that a tsunami siren? Is that the noise signaling the beginning of The Purge?
No, it’s a KEYSTONE SONG. And oh boy. Oh boy, imagine me bouncing up and down in my seat while I type it. This one is what we call a “doozy.”
This is a song about TEMPTATION, MISERY, SECRETS, but mainly and more openly than ever before and ever after in Jepsen’s work, this is a song about REJECTION.
We encounter sub-themes of Saying Things Without Actually Speaking, Being In Someone’s Arms, Love As A Fatal Or Dangerous Thing, Begging for Affection/Love, and interestingly, Rooms/Hotels.
So there, it fits the theory, with this song, that’s easy to prove.
But I want to get deeper into the narrative side of this, because there’s a lot to unpack. So, in rare form, I’m just going to leave the entire lyrics here for you to read, and then, you and I will pour a glass of wine and get into their place in the over all JepSaga.
Baby is it yes or no
You've got a face that just don't show
What's going on inside
I swear I'll take it on the chin
Don't sugar-coat where I fit in
Whats going on
Inside you there’s a room,
A room with a door
I finally come knocking
And I've been here before
Oh I've got this love for you
But what is if for
If you can't hear me then
Hold me in your arms and say
if you want this love to walk away
Tell me and I'll say goodbye
Inside you theres a room,
A room with a door
I finally come knocking
And I've been here before
Oh I've got this love for you
But what is if for
If you can hear me then
I'll make it easy
I'm counting to 3
Am I something you want or someone you need?
Tell me, darling won't you tell me
I'm begging you to tell me,
Tell me and I'll say goodbye
Throughout Jepsen’s work, there are references to her Saying Something She Regrets, often with the implication that this had the effect of isolating her from the love she wanted. It shows up as individual verses, like on “Never Get To Hold You” and “When I Needed You,” but also functions as the backbone of entire songs, like Almost Said it.
The things Carly seems to have said, from context clues, is some sort of ultimatum, some sort of grand dedication of devotion to her Love that was ultimately rejected. Are you seeing what I’m saying here? Are you reading the writing on the wall?
What’s unique about “Tell Me” is that it appears to document exactly such a moment as is hinted at in all the previous work and work to come in her archive. It’s a romantic ultimatum, being made to someone who pretty clearly is going to say no; a guy who perhaps loved her enough to hook up with her, but now that she’s asking “am I something you want or something you need,” is avoiding the question to the point that she’s “counting to 3” and also “begging” him to tell her.
It’s rare we get as clean and perspicuous a song as this; the lyrics, which read more like a monologue, are her very directly confronting Him. What’s most interesting is that, as they go, Carly loses power in the situation. She starts with uncertainty, asking where she fits in, and saying don’t sugar coat it, but as the song goes on, she begins to lose hope.
Until finally she’s basically just asking him to tell her he doesn’t love her so she can “say goodbye.” Inside him, there’s a room (his heart and innermost desires) where she’s come knocking.
The idea of a room as representative of a connection between two people will return several times, but never more notably on “Curiosity,” where Carly sings “I know, I know, I know you’ve got the key,” without clarifying what the key is to.
I’d say, juxtaposing these two songs, it becomes clear the the key is the room inside her. It’s her heart. He’s the person who can unlock her love.
And here she is knocking at his door. But it’s not opening.
And by the end of this, it’s likely she regrets bringing it up.
Like, really regrets it.
Like three albums and two EPs worth of real regret.
5 - HEAVY LIFTING
Here’s a song about LIMERENCE, and what could be considered Carly Rae Jepsen’s most straightforwardly affectionate and romantic song. It’s lovely, and intimate, and appears to describe a burgeoning sexual relationship between two people who were formerly friends, because, of course it does.
This song is unique in a couple of ways, but the most notable to me is the nature of the sexual encounter described. Carly generally talks about physical intimacy as something she WANTS to happen, or something that has already happened, is finished and over. On her Limerence songs, she always describes the ongoing relationship as new, and in need of further exploration, but here, it feels like she’s describing a specific event, which triggers a specific need.
It’s interesting because her describing the nuances of a moment is so alien to her later work. I mean, think of the lyrics you’ve heard (or read) so far, and then look at these opening verses:
You undo me
I'm a happy mess
My dress slips to the floor
And I pose, what an amateur
To be like this! “exposed"
I mean, dang, she’s right there nekkid being all goofy and innocent about it. But this project isn’t called “A Happy Mess No One Else Can See,” and Carly sneaks a hint of some kind of internal conflict or darkness pretty quickly:
You deny the other side of me
That strips good love away
And you kissed my reflection
When I looked at me today
So here we are introduced to the idea of “seeing yourself and interacting with, or someone else interacting with your reflection” that will return two albums later on the song “Warm Blood.” But that’s not the headline here. The eye catcher is:
"The Other Side Of Me That Strips Good Love Away.”
What the hell does that mean, exactly? This lyric is worth closer examination.
Carly occasionally positions herself as a dark, out of control, or unstable figure. This direct name drop of an unhappier, romantically insatiable and destructive Carly on her first album, now contextualized within her entire oeuvre, is huge. This self awareness of an emotionally destructive capacity within will return again and again over her next two albums, most notably on “Black Heart.”
I see a side of you
I never saw before
We can work it out, let's talk it out
I want to know you more
A side she never saw before, I would assume, because they’re (subtheme buzzer) Friends Upgrading To Lovers. But look, there’s already a problem brewing. “We can work it out, let’s talk it out.” The thrilling connection with him has made her want more, and it’s being implied there’s something in the way of that happening.
It also does Carly’s always necessary work of establishing this as a thrilling, new, limerence type thing, rather than a more emotionally involved relationship.
Oh, look at me the way you do
Look at me the way you do
Look at me the way you do
Oh, look at me the way you do
Look at me the way you do
Look at me, look at me the way you do
Seems like a pretty reasonable request, even if it slightly dips into the Saying Something Without Actually Speaking subtheme. But he’s only going to look at you for so long, before you come knocking at that locked door inside him.
At this point, when I hear the “omigosh i’m in love with my friend!” Carly tracks, the Act I tracks, I get a little depressed. I want to reach through time, to young Carly, like the Ghost of Christmas Future.
I can’t help thinking that whatever this was, it started here.
6 - SUNSHINE ON MY SHOULDERS
So this is a John Denver cover, written years before Carly Herself was even born. But, like her other covers, last Christmas and Part of Your World, it still somehow manages to fit the Carlyverse quite cleanly. So the question becomes: How? Why? Why THIS song?
Sunshine On My Shoulders was originally released by Denver in 1971, but didn’t become a hit until 1974. Denver has said he wrote the song in a “melancholy state of mind,” and indeed, the song’s success is somewhat attributed to the bittersweet coincidence of it being released in the midst of the Vietnam War, wishing for better times.
This happy-sadness, so familiar in Carly’s work, belies an interesting factoid: this cover was Carly’s first single as a solo artist, post-Canadian Idol. This was the tone they chose to set; a cover from the seventies, rather than anything of her own. Something familiar, but something not quite pop.
Oh, and it’s an ESCAPE song.
Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water that is so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high
So I recognize these are someone else’s lyrics, and I’m not going to go too deep into them, but let’s take a moment to notice the idea of getting High. The equation of “love” equating with “highness” is its own mini-theme in Jepsen’s work, that comes into full bloom on EMOTION Side B, on easily her “happiest” song, but we’ll get to that.
What’s fascinating is that the leitmotif appears here, as a cover. I suppose you could wonder if this isn’t where she, as a songwriter, caught that bug.
7 - WORLDLY MATTERS
This is an ABERRANT SONG. It’s also the ONLY ABERRANT SONG. Because it features an eighth theme: UNCERTAINTY.
Granted, Carly has featured “uncertainty” in various ways on many of her songs, but here, it takes center stage. I’ve discussed at length Carly’s implications that she was lost, sad and confused at a point in her life, searching for meaning, before she met Her Love.
The Money and The Ego seems to chronicle the end of that period, when she found her feet in her career, but Worldly Matters would be, chronologically, the first song of Act I, with a young Jepsen documenting an introspective day when she walks home, wondering about the world.
This is a beautiful little song, and very notable in this project for specifically the following lyric, which is as aberrant as the song’s theme. Check this out, and tell me if you recognize what I’m referring to.
My best friend she lives up the road
Haven't talked to her in weeks
Did you see that??? LOOK! READ IT AGAIN DO, YOU SEE IT? This is, other than on Boy Problems (where she’s talking to a girl about a guy), THE ONLY CARLY RAE JEPSEN SONG WHEREIN SHE REFERENCES ANOTHER WOMAN AS A FRIEND, or even as ANY KIND OF OTHER CHARACTER, RATHER THAN SOMEONE ELSE’S GIRLFRIEND OR LOVE INTEREST.
In my exhaustive interfacing with Jepsen’s work, this line, about Carly having any kind of friend, indeed, any kind of other female character, stands completely alone. Compare this casually to the work of Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga or Beyonce, and you’ll see how idiosyncratic Carly’s work truly is.
In all of her released work, this is one of only two references to a female friend. The other is of course “Boy Problems,” which centers around frustration and the end of female friendship, via a relationship with a boy. But here, there’s a friend, a BEST friend, who lives up the road.
She “hasn’t talked to her in weeks.”
You gotta give it to her: The consistency is startling.
I keep on walking I stop
Ditching all my plans
I want to climb that cedar tree and leave me in good hands
What happened to me on the way to something higher
What will be left when I have all that I desire?
Getting High again. The desire to escape, appearing early here, this time alone, and worse, a somewhat dire pondering that having what she wants isn’t actually good for her, and will leave her empty and lost.
8 - SWEET TALKER
This is a song Carly wrote completely herself; in fact, it was the song she sang in her audition for season 5 of Canadian Idol, that she only gets about a quarter of the way through before the judges, blown away by her obvious talent, unanimously welcome her to the show. One of the judges comments that she looks 14. Another urges her to reject the offer of Canadian idol, and sign with him and start her career immediately.
It’s a lovely little YouYube video.
Carly, then 21, in her introduction, says “I’m a free spirit.” Then, after a moment, adds: “Maybe too much of a free spirit.” What she means by this is left completely vague.
At first, this song appears to be about a pleasant, sexy seduction, Carly pitching a desired romantic scenario as she so often does. It’s a TEMPTATION, LIMERENCE and SECRETS song with maybe a subtle ESCAPE overtone, like a lot of the ones on this album, but has a weird kind of angle that shows up midway through.
Sweet talker, I'm not gunna stop you
You talk so sweet and it's dribbling like honey
It's just one taste
I see what your tryin' to do, oh oh, yeah yeah,
Its hot, stakes are getting higher
See here, the idea of the stakes raising, thusly implying the “just one taste” is wrong or forbidden, making it part of the Bad/Forbidden Love subtheme category. Also, though it appears in a different context, there’s that word “Higher” again. Not making anything of it. Just pointing it out.
Lazy lover, oh, you slide me through your
Slide me though your
Lazy lover I will slide me through your window
And I'll give you, oh, the sweetest dreams you ever had
Make your early morning not so bad
I can see just what you're tryin' to do
So already here we have the “pitching a sexual/romantic relationship bit,” along with sub-themes of Dreams/Sleep/Beds and Saying Something Without Actually Speaking. So far, fairly innocent.
But of course, it cannot ever be left at that.
Here’s an early appearance of the Carly Rae Jepsen Re-contextualizing the Jepsen Second Verse Twist:
Don't you ask for more that wave
Just tumbles me round till I'm lost somewhere
With baby, I just can't make a sound
It's so unfortunate
But I've already been through this
And I can see just what your tryin; to do
I can see just what you need to do
There it is: Carly is resigned to the failure of even this casual sexual encounter, intimating it will leave her Lost And Alone. And noting as well, the idea of a “wave that tumbles her around.” We are drawn endlessly back to the idea of emotions, particularly the Limerence and excitement associated with sex, as a dangerous and destabilizing force.
9 - HOTEL SHAMPOOS
This is possibly, next to “Tell Me,” the most fascinating artifact on the album. As we get further in, I’ll discuss its relevance to the larger whole, as Hotel Shampoos could have significance beyond measure to the Jepsen Pattern.
But for now, let’s look at the pieces that make it idiosyncratic, special, and most hauntingly, specific, amongst all her other songs.
For once, Carly only very briefly talks to a “you.” Instead, she’s telling a story, a VERY SPECIFIC STORY about ONE MAN, a HE, a HIM. A man who was her friend and her equal, but fulfilled her worst fears for him once he became successful.
Sound familiar? It should, because this man is, in context, very possibly the same man discussed 8 years later on the Emotion track LA Hallucinations, who she says she knew early in her career. The same guy who wrote a song for her on Almost Said It, the Guitar String Wedding Ring guy.
Context clues from both of these songs strongly point to that being the case.
Hotel Shampoos is the mother-load. Hotel Shampoos is the string that connects everything on my precious wall of printed-out Carly lyrics, scribbled on in crazed handwriting and crayons I found in the dumpster where I now live.
I mean this figuratively.
I don’t actually have a Carrie Matheson-style Carly wall. But I do badly want one, and often I feel like the act of me wanting one is honestly as bad as me actually having one, or maybe even worse.
What I’m trying to say is: Hotel Shampoos is a KEYSTONE SONG, focusing on TEMPTATION and MISERY, that plays a huge role in the Narrative aspect of the theory.
One of the first songs Carly ever recorded details in inarguable specificity a doomed relationship with a friend who ultimately abandons her. The first time I heard this song, I was deep into my Raesearch, and it hit me like the t Jepsen Second Verse Twist wist at the end of Sixth Sense.
Let’s take a look.
I survive on hotel shampoos
I'll be runnin' out soon
You've gone away again
Gone to collect some more
Your hands pressed hard into me
I thought this summer you'd be gone away again
Oooo he's gone away again
For possibly the first time, we’re with Carly Rae Jepsen, specifically Carly Rae Jepsen of 2007, a twenty two year old touring musician, who had just placed third on Season 5 of Canadian Idol. She’s living life on the road, from hotel room to hotel room, but she’s found someone to care about her.
Or, in Carly’s typical sexualization of romance, “press his hands hard into” her. And, as always, she doesn’t have high hopes for where this affair is going: he’ll be gone by summer.
We were poor, yeah, we were dream chasers baby
Sky scrapers are not too tall
He's gunna to prove me right 'til I'm wrong
Craving all the gold and the riches
I don't want to wash my own dishes
He's gone away again, hmm he's gone away again
Driving in a sweet brand new car
Living the life of a superstar
I got my way again, hmm I got my way again
On “Black Heart,” off Emotion, Carly bemoans that Her Love will cry to his “generation,” but won’t cry to her. This idea of an emotionally unavailable, unhappy, but successful musician is touched on here, where Her Love has become successful, a “superstar.”
It’s very hard for me not to draw a direct line between this song and LA Hallucinations, which, when lyrically placed side by side, appear to describe the same situation, the same relationship, in two slightly different tonalities. Two young artists, new to Los Angeles, slowly being pulled apart by the realities of show business.
LA Hallucinations appears to be a kind of prequel to this song; the “Young freaks just fresh to LA” described in that song exist as the same couple in this song, which gruesomely details “the teeth come out when the cameras flash” and the “little black hole” in Carly’s golden cup.
Songs and songwriting only occasionally are referenced in Carly’s work, and almost always in reference to a lost lover. This “superstar” with the “new car” seems to fit that bill quite nicely.
It’s also interesting that Carly says, “I got my way again.”
She got her way…”Again.” This appears to be a reference to an unspoken hypothesis of hers that was proven: If this man became successful, he would reject her, no longer be interested, no longer see her as an equal, and no longer be interested in her romantically.
Where's his love
Where's his kisses
He says 'sorry babe, this has got away from me'
He's gone away from me
I often end Carly song analysis with an “ouch” or a “yikes” of some kind, and I feel that would be appropriate here. But just this once, since Sour Candy is up next, let’s leave it at: Sorry Carly.
10 - SOUR CANDY
Oof. This is as openly unhappy as Carly gets, and surprise surprise, it’s about a brief failed relationship she regrets being in. Jarring here is the open expression of despair and loss, planting this song squarely in the MISERY/LONGING category, with vague undertones of TEMPTATION and REJECTION.
We start off with the always distressing Lost and Alone sub-theme, this time contextualized by a what sounds like a hangover:
Sour candy endings
Coffee stains but where?
Oh I'm so tangled up in my
Big sunglasses and bed hungry second day fare
What’s up with Carly? What’s got her so sad? Could it be because a Lover Who Seemed Like A Bad Idea Has Abandoned Her?
No we went under
The weight was too much to carry in
I felt the thunder
Mr. Don't look so scared
I never knew, I never knew
That I could be so sad
We went under
Again, these lyrics are way more specifically devastating that the more reliable hidden despair in Jepsen songs. “I never knew that I could be so sad” is a very frank statement; Carly usually couches her current misery or sadness in some kind of pop “but maybe…” Many of her songs, while grim and depicting a sad, frustrating and disappointing situation, make some kind of bouncy hope out of it, or observe it from a canted angle.
Not this time. This time she’s just hungover and outright bummed. The “Mr. Don’t Look So Scared” is interesting, too. It seems to imply that this relationship is potentially a Bad/Forbidden Love or even Love As A Fatal Or Dangerous Thing.
I've been very cautious
Trying numbness instead of pain
All your humour makes me, makes me nauseous
What a twisted twisted twisted game
It’s so rare to see Carly just go in on someone like this. Again, her usual depiction of anger or romantic frustration is framed more as longing, hoping they’ll remember her, run away with her, or somehow concede that she was the one for them all along. Here, she’s outright salty and angry; “trying numbness instead of pain” is straight up Fiona Apple type shit.
Ohhhhh get your self home
You leave him alone
On second thought I regret the pink stiletto
Soo ohhh, oh ho
Sour Candy... endings
And I was barely even there.
Something ended before it began. Which is sad, because, so beautifully and poetically articulated here, Carly had put on pink stilettos to try to capture his attention. Almost like she was Partying With An Ulterior Motive.