PART 4 -
LOVE LIKE A DISEASE
Let’s take a brief detour, here. Or maybe not a detour, but certainly a detox. I think you and me are both on a bit of a Carly overload right now, and pretty mad that this guy won’t ditch his girlfriend, wake up from his dream to take us away and kiss us in secret.
The linear line-drive backwards through albums has been fun, but before we go down into the deep dark well of Carly Rae’s first album, Tug Of War, let’s take a little safari off-record to talk about Carly’s singles, several of which are collabs.
As we get into the singles, you’ll see that we are barraged again and again with the same ideas and emotions and themes and even specific images. It almost feels like the video from the horror classic The Ring; like Jepsen has been cursed to endlessly relive the same feelings, the same painful memories, happiness haunted endlessly by a shadow of rejection and despair.
It brings to mind several different things, to me, and if you can’t tell, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this. The one that sticks out most is the idea of Jepsen as some kind of beleaguered pop Sisyphus.
For those of you who don’t know, Sisyphus was the king of Corinth in ancient Greece. The Greek Gods thought he was a lying egomaniacal asshole, and when he died, cursed him to forever roll a huge boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down right as it got to the top. And just do that. Forever. Just push the boulder all the way up the hill and then right before it reaches the top, down it goes.
Infuriating. Agonizing. On and on forever.
There is some deviation from the overall Jepsen Topography in one or two of the collabs, but honestly, not much. The covers Jepsen released even fit the bill; “Part Of Your World,” from Little Mermaid, a song about being geographically separate from someone you love who doesn’t know you exist, and “Last Christmas,” a song about being rejected on Christmas.
So, as a refresher, let’s hit that one more time, and add a new element, informed by our now overflowing war-chest of research.
The Seven Themes:
TEMPTATION LIMERENCE OBSESSION ESCAPE
SECRETS REJECTION MISERY
A shy girl who’s unhappy in her current situation meets and befriends a boy in a relationship, falls in love with him, has an affair with him, fantasizes about running away with him, and then the boy terminates the affair, says they’re just friends, leaving the girl pining over him, heartbroken.
The Three Acts. This is the new element, and worth having in your head. So I hope you guys did all the homework, because if you don’t have all this memorized there’s no way you’re going to pass the 500 question SAT-style multiple choice SCANTRON test I have waiting at the end of this.
I’m just kidding of course. I’d never do that to you. I’ll fill it out myself. If you’ve read this far, you’ve suffered enough. But let’s suffer some more, as we notice that all of Carly Rae Jepsen’s songs fall into one of these three acts:
ACT I - LIMERENCE/TEMPTATION - Many songs fit into this; you’ve just met someone, and they might just be a friend, but not for long, as feelings are starting to happen and you can’t get them out of your head and are so excited…Even though it might be morally wrong or for some reason forbidden or a “mistake” to engage the person in this way.
Usually, within this, there will be some mention of the feeling you’re experiencing being “new” and uncertain, different from anything you’ve experienced before. Often, there’s a contextualization of this person waking you up from a cynical, depressed or “lost” state.
ACT II - OBSESSION/ESCAPE/SECRETS - This is the bulk of Jepsen’s music; it’s almost always on some level slightly frustrated, but still optimistic, as a relationship has formed from a platonic friendship, and even if that relationship must be kept secret, you “can’t get them out of your head” and are going “crazy” for them.
This is where a lot of the “pitching” and “fantasizing” happens; explanation and re-explanation of you and your lover being the only ones for each other, and the only ones who can save one another from a dark, upsetting world.
Cause you want them bad and you know this is meant to be. To the degree you might just show up where they are physically out of nowhere and be like “yo.”
ACT III - REJECTION/MISERY - CURSES, FRIEND - ZONED AGAIN! Something’s gone off the rails and it’s ending, or ENDED, the person you loved has stepped away from you, often via geographical distance, and you’re left alone, miserable, wondering if they even remember you and praying that they don’t forget you, forever wanting them back and letting them know you’re still available. You will never get over it or them.
Every song Carly Rae Jepsen has released, as well as all the unreleased songs I’ve heard,, fits into one of these three acts, with only two sort-of-kind-of exceptions (“Worldly Matters” and “Store”). Songs occasionally take place in the transition between 1 and 2 or 2 and 3 but never 1 and 3.
So many different songwriters have worked with Jepsen on so many different songs. But on some level, as an artist, she’s choosing to sing about the the same thing, again and again and again.
Don’t believe me yet, somehow? Still a doubting Thomas? Have you started skimming this yet? Don’t, you’ll miss all my neat jokes about how wacky I am for doing this; they seem indulgent, but they’re coming from a deep place of personal alarm about the way I’m using my spare time.
“It’s only two albums!” You say. “Little Mermaid? Max, come the fuck on.” You say, in that tone you always use with me when I’m being ridiculous about Carly Rae Jepsen, which I always am, because I’m like that.
I roll over in bed after a bitter silence, and look deeply into your eyes. And I say:
“Hey. The first single we’re going to look at is called I Know You Have A Girlfriend.”
Your eyes widen. Your jaw drops. You are moved.
“Holy shit, she actually has a song called that?”
“Yes. And remember how I talk about the subtheme of her saying something she regrets, or almost saying something she regrets?”
“I do,” you say, nodding eagerly. “I do remember that.”
“Good. Because the second single we’re going to look at is called Almost Said It.”
Your face says everything. You can’t believe it. Your heart is pounding in your chest and you trust me completely. We are together on this journey, you and I, and there is no looking back now. We are headed directly into Carly Rae Jepsen’s black heart.
Take my hand.
And follow me into the dark.