PART 4 ANNEX:

THE SINGLES - A TRACK BY TRACK EXPLORATION

 

          Let’s get straight into this and not fuck around.  Because our first single is a KEYSTONE song.

// ~ I KNOW YOU HAVE A GIRLFRIEND ~ \\

          SOUND THE AIRHORNS, people.  This is a KEYSTONE song, a song that gives us new information, and can be used to contextualize other songs.  It’s also one of Carly’s hardest to pin down songs thematically, because the structure is almost deliberately confusing.

          One of the most interesting things about Carly’s shaping and presentation of her themes is the sincerity of perspective.  Because pretty much all of her songs are sung in 2nd person, a narrator speaking directly to a “you,” Carly’s lyrics often can seem intentionally misleading as she creates defenses and accusations around her own actions.

 

          It is this repeated narrative choice that allows her songs to have the “twists” I mention so often; an expectation is set up, that is then undermined and subverted by subsequent reveals within the song.

 

          This format allows for the most basic Jepsen Second Verse Twist (“hey why aren’t you in love with me I’m so in love with you oh man it’s driving me crazy” / “oh it’s because you have a girlfriend and just want to be friends and don’t like me that much”) to happen very naturalistically, with the chorus of most songs forming a catchy backbone to lay the heartbreaking message against.

 

          “I Know You Have A Girlfriend” is such a direct, unfettered and intense riff on this format that it almost becomes disorienting, touching on themes of TEMPTATION, OBSESSION, SECRETS, REJECTION, and MISERY/LONGING.

 

          Yep.  5 out of 7.  Let’s get in there and take a look.

 

“”

Baby I don't need to look far

Everywhere I turn there, there you are

Somebody should sound the alarm

Cause when you try to get me alone

You talk to me in riddles

You treat me like a crime

“”

 

          Again, Carly, like on Black Heart, is treated like a bad thing, or a crime.  This is presented contextless, so it seems like the guy is kind of being a dick; she perceives him as trying to “get her alone,” but then Saying Things Without Really Saying Them, speaking to her in “riddles” and acting like the idea of being alone with her is Bad/Forbidden.

 

          It is extremely worthy of attention to point out that this person is actually not expressing romantic interest in Carly explicitly.  His interest is only in her perception of him, and he has done nothing to confirm that he actually wants her.

 

          Which is good, because look at this fucking chorus:

 

“”

I know you have a girlfriend

So don't kiss me on the lips

I know you have a girlfriend

Oh don't you tell me what I did

I know you have a girlfriend

And every time you speak

You're lying through you're t-t-teeth

I know you have a girlfriend

And I hear she's kinda nice

I know you have a girlfriend

So don't give me those eyes

I know you have a girlfriend

Oh won't you let me be

I'm beggin' you, stop beggin' me

“”

 

          Okay, jesus christ.

 

          Even in that chorus, there’s a lot of accusations…and yet, no real proof that this guy is coming on to her through anything other than her own projections of intent on his actions and behavior.   She says he’s lying, but what is he lying about?  She says he’s begging, but whether that’s real, verbal begging, or just the way she’s interpreting “those eyes” is left deliberately vague.

 

          A second glance also reveals a really out of place, but important lyric: “Oh don't you tell me what I did.”  It almost seems like a non-sequitur, but is deceptively important in potentially clarifying the skewed narrator-perception of the song.  He “talks in riddles” and “treats her like a crime,” but one of the things he’s bringing up is something concrete that she did, or that he thinks she did, that fits into the infidelity equation.

 

          So of course, some of you are saying “No, she’s telling this creep to back off!”  Right, and I’d be with you, if this next lyric wasn’t in the song:

 

“”

You're sick with dreams about it

Didn't I, didn't I blush

I think, I think, I think

I want it way too much

“”

 

There’s Dreams, for those of you keeping track, but also, there’s the important admission: Even if this guy is flirting with her, she wants it too.  This is a song of, at best, reluctant fake-resistance to sleeping with a guy with a girlfriend, or, at most innocent, fake-reluctant resistance to sleeping with a guy with a girlfriend.

Sound familiar?  “This kiss, is something I can’t resist.”

 

// ~ ALMOST SAID IT ~ \\

 

          Friend.  Companion.  Fellow traveller on this Jepsen Journey we’ve found ourselves on.  We’ve been here before.  This is yet another KEYSTONE SONG.

 

          We’re again at one of those Carly Rae tracks where the inception of this fanatical deep dive into a popstar’s oeuvre, that all of her songs are connected by themes and sub-themes, is validated flatly like someone punching your parking ticket.

 

          The ocean is deep, the earth is round, and all of Carly Rae Jepsen’s songs are connected thematically.  I mean this is just a fucking beat-down at this point, but I can’t stop here.  TEMPTATION, OBSESSION, MISERY/LONGING, and REJECTION.

 

          So you know how we’ve talked a lot about the subtheme of Carly Saying Something She Regrets, implied occasionally to be a declaration of love?   The notion is brought up enough that it begins to feel like a single, specific incident, which comes up on “More Than A Memory,” and is then directly referenced again on a later Jepsen track from Emotion Side B, “Fever,” where she defines it as “three little words that meant a lot to me.”

 

          This is a whole song just about that.

 

I always want more, I’m never gonna get it

You're gonna be the one I never got that got away

 

          This lyrical couplet could basically be used to summarize the romantic message of Carly Rae’s entire body of work; the idea of losing someone you never actually had.

 

And I'll regret it

Just a moment in time

But I can't forget it

Yeah, we almost said it

 

          So here’s Being Unable To Forget/Haunted By Memories, coupled with an interesting little nuance of a change to the title: “we” almost said it.  As I’ve mentioned before, projection is a huge part of Carly’s work, and the truth of the singular regret of the title set against the communal nature of this lyric could be a very clear demonstration of this.

 

If this is love, ooh

I should be dying

But I'm going downtown like I still care

Like I'm still trying

I said I was over you but I'm lying

There, I almost said it

 

          Ah, yes, here’s the sub-themes of Partying To Forget/Distract Yourself, along with Partying With An Ulterior Motive, and also the inevitable idea of Love As A Bad, Dangerous or Fatal Thing.

 

“”

You wrote me a song

I often play it

Depending on where I am with you

I either love it or I hate it

We were just this close but we couldn't say it

We were this close

“””

 

          Here’s another confirmation of Her Love as a musician or songwriter; again, the idea of “we were this close,” of being close to a relationship, is stated but it seems like it could entirely in her head, on her side of the equation.  This is as totemic as a Jepsen Anthem as you could hope for.

 

// ~ MELT WITH YOU ~ \\

 

           “I’ll stop the world and melt with you” is an iconic lyric you’re probably familiar with; it’s from the 1982 smash hit “I Melt With You” by Modern English.  Its lyrics are a bit hard to parse; there’s a bit about being in love, then a section about making a pilgrimage to save the human race…

 

          Notably, this song by Carly Rae Jepsen sounds literally nothing like that, despite the title automatically evoking the 80s alt rock classic.  It also shares no thematic crossover.

We’re in forever familiar territory: MISERY/LONGING, OBSESSION and ESCAPE.

 

“”

If I could melt with you, I would

And find our way back to good

Tell the world to wait outside, just you and I

If I could hold on to your edge, and fall to your deepest dent

We would come true, if I could melt with you

(if I could melt with you)

“”

 

          Unrequited love, lost opportunities, and a desire to run away and be Alone With Someone, as per usual. The line “We would come true, if I could melt with you” is the patented Carly hat tip to the idea that this escape she’s talking about is a PROPOSAL, rather than a REALITY.  This is someone she’s not actually with, and she’s fantasizing about how things would be better if only they were together.

 

          But they’re not, and as implied by these lyrics, they maybe never were.  Something went wrong that brought them away from “good,” but their starting point wasn’t a romantic relationship.  They’ve gone from “not being together” to something worse.

 

I've been thinking about it, I know something's wrong

Fading out in the distance, we've been lost in the songs

Best turn the clocks to somewhere

we won't ever stop, don't ever leave

 

          This again invokes the period in which Carly and Her Love used to “stay up all night, filling up each other’s pages.”  The idea that she was in a golden era of artistic collaboration, that fell apart due to an emotional misfire, is commonplace at this point in Jepsen’s music, and the desire to escape from the emotional situation, and stay forever isolated in Perfect Love with her lover, is a trademark as well.

 

// ~ GOOD TIME ~ \\

 

          Carly’s bubbly collaboration with Owl City is one of her relatively few American radio hits.

 

          Frustratingly, if you’re a casual fan, or a true fan…or perhaps some kind of combination Fan/Forensic Anthropologist/Ad Hoc Music Journalist who writes upwards of fifty thousand word essays about her songs all being connected by a tightly focused group of themes, Carly is only featured in one verse on the song.

 

          The song itself is, interestingly, very probably about a friendship, rather than a romantic relationship. A friendship with a man, who, in his lyrics on the song, does nothing to imply the relationship is sexually charged whatsoever; instead, the song is more about just getting drunk and having a wild time with a homie.

          But even here, Carly can’t escape her sub-themes.

Freaked out, dropped my phone in the pool again

Checked out of my room, hit the ATM

Let's hang out if you're down to get down tonight

'Cause it's always a good time

 

          Did you see it?  It happened quick; it seemed like just a random fun Katy Perry/Ke$ha-esque lyric about having a wild night.  But surprise surprise, here’s Carly sneaking a reference in to Rooms/Hotels.

 

Good morning and good night

I'll wake up at twilight

It's gonna be alright

We don't even have to try

It's always a good time.

 

          There’s an implied Staying Up All Night here, but let’s not get fanatical.

 

          So again, I wanna say that Good Time, other than its funny shoehorned-in sub-theme, is pretty loose with the Carly Branding.  But the subtheme is STILL THERE.  It’s songs like “Good Time”, and the song coming up next: “Super Natural,” that sort of paradoxically push me further into feverish belief that this is not a coincidence, or a phenomena, but actually, on some level, an intentional choice by the artist herself.

 

          It’s worth saying, this song and the next one are the hardest to qualify within the Jepsen Pattern.  But even so: they’re not that hard.

 

// ~ SUPER NATURAL ~ \\

 

          This one is legit very deceptive.  When I first heard it, I thought it represented a break in the formula; granted, one break at this point, on a collaboration for a single, didn’t seem like a deal-breaker on the Carly Campaign I’d launched.  I figured there had to be an exception somewhere, and if this twee, poppy tune was the rule-breaker, then by its contrast, the thematic content in rest of the songs would be even more noticeable.

 

          But then I listened to the lyrics again, a little more closely.  I googled them and put on my CSI pop music investigator goggles and shined a blacklight on this shit, I took it seriously, and lo and behold:  It’s an ACT 1 song.

 

          It’s not an exception at all, even a little bit.  The sub-themes suddenly popped up like neon signs; they’re just a inch or two subtler this time.

 

          Because this song isn’t about having a boyfriend.  It’s about LIMERENCE.

 

You can show me your favorite streets

Late at night

We lay in bed, fall asleep, side by side

 

          Have you been reading my treatise on Carly straight through?  Because these lyrics should ring some alarm bells in terms of sub-themes:  Streets/Walking The Streets At Night/Staying Up All Night, and Dream/Sleep/Beds.

 

Cause when I'm with you anywhere

Baby, it doesn't matter

I, I just don't care what we do

Baby, it's all us

How I feel, so unreal

 

          Initially, this is the lyric that made me nervous.  It sounded like Carly was in a happy, loving relationship, and that was fairly form-breaking for the narrative I was proposing.  I wondered about the choice of the word “unreal;” it characterized the relationship described as fundamentally different from what she was used to.

 

          It was this thread that led me into the chorus.

 

You gotta believe in me

This isn't normal, not at all

It's just like we don't try

We just fit, you and I

We are supernatural

This is easy love

Every day euphoria

It's just like we don't try

We just fit, you and I

We are supernatural

 

          Ahhh, yeah.  Okay so you either already see it or you’re gonna have to hold my hand through this one: Carly is contextualizing this relationship as new.  “You gotta believe in me” is a key lyric here; she’s talking to the guy, in disbelief that they’ve found this connection.

 

          It continues with her charmed-alarm of “I love this, but it’s not normal,” again contextualizing the You in this song as a new lover, not a long term boyfriend, and it continues into “Every day euphoria,” a weirdly specific lyric that again evokes the initial manic rush associated with LIMERENCE.

 

          There’s that phrasing again, too, like on “Good Time,” about “trying,” and the idea that liking or loving or connecting with someone usually requires troublesome effort.  Looked at literally, the songs express frank,

and frankly distrusting and anxious, surprise at finding a connection with someone.

 

          And it’s through this lens that we can revisit the lyric “You gotta believe in me.”

 

Carly isn’t making a dedication of love; as always, she’s making a pitch.  You and I are meant to be together.  Please believe me.  Please believe in this.

 

          You and I are meant to be together.

 

          Whether you like it or not.