PART 7 ANNEX -
CARLY’S FIRST SONGS
These are songs from Carly’s first EP, written when she was 16 and 17. They received no official release, and are only available to listen to on YouTube. No big surprise that they’re fucking great; Carly’s talent and cynical brand of sweetness are already hugely apparent even in her earliest work.
This is the final step now. If Tug Of War was Ground Zero, then this is the Big Bang. This is where it all started; not just the career of Carly Rae Jepsen, but the introduction of the themes that would form a phenomenon within her music for over a decade, the first pieces of silken thread that would eventually hold together the web of Jepsen’s infatuated, yearning bravura symphony of self-inflicted emotional torture.
A point that’s been raised to me occasionally by casual fans as I try to proselytize the Sermon of Carly to people is that perhaps Jepsen is totally divorced from the themes in her music, and that in fact she’s just “singing what sells to teenage girls.”
This is of course obviously bullshit to anyone paying attention, but it is a truly magnificent epic brand of bullshit when consulting these three songs.
These are written BY a teenage girl, who once worked as a barista and a bartender, playing on a guitar given to her by her parents, or so says Wikipedia, my only source for this information. It’s fun to note that I think this is the first time I’ve checked Carly’s actual Wikipedia Page since starting work on this project.
This is not a shaped image. This is a Carly that played with a family band. This is is as close as we’re gonna come to the real her. And of course, The Pattern is Present. Looking at that Wikipedia page, I felt a lot of different things.
I found myself staring at a picture of Carly, singing, resplendent, passionate. The picture was just color, shapes; it could’ve been a picture of anything to me. Because really, the only information my brain took in from the image was a question, one that I’d found myself asking again and again:
Does she know?
// ~ DEAR YOU ~ \\
This song is so rare it has barely 1,000 views on YouTube. This is an OBSESSION and ESCAPE song, with an undercurrent of REJECTION, but gosh if it doesn’t sound romantic at first listen. It would be a sweet love song, but for the implication, as ever, that something has already gone wrong.
Jepsen’s voice is really the star here, as she pops out a cornucopia of sub-themes on the first song she ever released.
I’m still thinking ‘bout you,
And I can’t seem to get you from my mind
So there’s Stuck In My Head, alongside the implication that this guy has already to some degree left her life, romantically.
It’s true I imagine us together,
And I won’t pretend it doesn’t feel just fine
So there we have the fantasy element, introducing the idea that this is an ESCAPE song.
I want to share your flannel shirt
I want to share my joy and hurt
With you alone
There’s the very specific subtheme of Wearing Someone’s Clothes, specifically the involvement of a shirt. Dear You is, in many ways, a prototype version of “Your Heart Is A Muscle” from Kiss, which also mentions the shared ownership of a shirt, and entreats a lost lover to come back and be together again.
There’s more, of course, cause there always is: on The One, Carly mentions wearing Her Love’s socks and slippers, and on the unreleased track “Wildflowers,” Carly includes the lyric “I wore your shirt as I was running away from you.”
There is some baggage attached to wearing someone’s clothes; it’s a sense of intimacy Carly is chasing, with someone who isn’t giving her what she needs. It’s fascinating to see this theme show up on Carly’s first ever song.
Oh, and also being Alone With Someone, duh.
If you taught me to knot your tie just right
Could I maybe keep it for the night
With you attached
Spending The Night Together, obviously, but also: What kind of age appropriate love interest for a 17 year old girl is wearing a tie regularly? Could this perhaps be the same older, more mature figure referenced on “Talk To Me”? Just a thought.
My dear dear dear you,
I’m aching to be near you,
Could I slip into your arms,
Just like a puzzle piece,
We fit so perfectly
So there’s In Your Arms…
Would I melt under your hidden charms
And close my eyes
And fall so desperately
For my dear you
I’m waiting to be near you
So this concept of being desperately in love and waiting endlessly for someone to come around to the idea that you’re meant for them, despite them not being interested in you, is a totemic representation of Act III of Jepsen’s narrative. The idea that you end up alone, not over it, totally dejected but somehow still endlessly waiting.
This image, of Carly waiting for a disinterested lover to want to be with her, is constantly implicitly painted, but most specifically on “When I Needed You,” “Curiosity,” “First Time” and “Black Heart.”
You are the only for me
No one else can win each game
And still have my heart
There’s All The Other Boys, even on her first song.
You’ll see I’m so abstracted by your smile
I’m so attracted all the while
It’s hard to speak
There’s Being Made Shy, and wow, what a fucking great lyric. “I’m abstracted by your smile.” By this, Carly means his smile takes her out of the situation, removes her and makes her unable to participate. Beautifully stated, teen Jepsen, just fantastic.
My dear dear dear you
I’m dying to be near you
Love As A Fatal Or Dangerous Thing. And things are taking a turn here.
One day I will be near you
Yours most sincerely, completely, so lovin and dearly,
She literally signs this song promising she will eventually be with Her Love even though he appears to have rejected her, and then the song just flat ends into silence. That’s how Jepsen ends her first song ever.
// ~ TO BE WITHOUT YOU ~ \\
I cried openly listening to this song.
The song is good, but that’s not why I cried. I cried because, when placed into context as the second song on Carly’s unreleased first EP, inside the pattern, in the catalogue, this song is deeply moving.
It’s a Tiny Baby Carly looking out into a dark future of longing that will define her entire artistic statement for years to come.
There is no way the teenaged Jepsen who wrote this song, clearly from a real experience of MISERY, REJECTION and OBSESSION, had any idea that these same emotions, these same images she was accessing, would go on to make her a global celebrity and rich beyond her wildest dreams, a pop icon who would entertain millions of people, whose songs would be quoted by A-list celebrities and sung by drunk best friends in karaoke bars.
No moment in my Jepsen research was as emotionally overwhelming for me as this one. For this reason, instead of pointing out sub-themes, I’m instead just going to insert lyrics from Jepsen’s work that serve as echoes of this moment in her life.
If you never see my face
You won’t see a trace of what I’m going through
And I’m going through a lot for you
— I wonder where you are, and if you think of me sometimes, cause you're always on my mind, You know I had it rough, tryin’ to forget you —
-- Beautiful, KISS
I can see that you don’t care
And I’m scared to fall without you
It’s so hard to fall without you
— I know I'm just a friend to you, that I will never get to call you mine—
--Your Type, EMOTION
To be without you
A sea with no shore
To live without you is like a room without a door
And I keep wishing I could break free
If you would come back here and free me
—Inside you there’s a room, A room with a door, I finally come knocking —
—Tell Me, TUG OF WAR
I’ve been living for your eyes
For that second you might turn to see me
Can you see me
Really see me
— I'm right outside here wanting you, You don't see me, but you should, Why you gotta make it hurt so good? —
— Hurt So Good, KISS
Now I see
It’s all a lie
That I lived inside my own illusion
All this being mean
— A simple change of heart and you attack, All the roses in the garden fade to black —
— Roses, EMOTION SIDE B
I get so lonely
I am so lost
—I was lost, alone, and searching —
--- Higher, EMOTION SIDE B
So I get myself upright
Try to dream of anything but you tonight
Is a losing fight
Every dream just doesn’t last
And I wake to realize the truth too fast
And I’m wishing for my past
— Stuck in a real bad dream and man it feels so new to me, should be in your arms but I'm begging at your feet, It’s been a real hard night, And I just hold my pillow tight, It won't love me back, no, It's not you and I —
-- Tonight I’m Getting Over You, KISS
// ~ IN MY BEDROOM ~ \\
Interestingly, the final song on the EP is one of those camouflaged tracks that appears to be a straight up love song. Songs like this one, that some so close to breaking the pattern but don’t, really interest me. It’s like Carly can’t help it, like a tic or affectation that’s out of her control. There has to be some degree of hesitance, some vague implication that something is wrong.
That was why, when choosing my initial set of themes, I chose “limerence” over “love.” Carly’s specific brand of love is reliably New, Thrilling, and Uncertain. She has zero chill; nothing is ever “fine.” It’s either “too good to be true” and tripping her out, or it’s a secret, or it’s already over.
On “In My Bedroom,” there’s a chance it’s all three, but for clarity’s sake, let’s just stick to LIMERENCE, ESCAPE and SECRETS.
So yeah he loves me
And I miss him too
Cause he felt so constant which is something new
This is one of the only times on Carly’s discography she indicates love openly coming her way from someone else, rather than her being the pursuer in a romantic relationship. She immediately contextualizes it, though, into something else.
The choice of the words “and I miss him too” rather than “I love him too” feels extremely purposeful and a little strange. It implies that this is a guy who is not available to her, or, if they’re still involved, not available to her right now.
Carly also does the customary nod to the idea that the love is new, and that up until this point she’d never experienced anything like it; that’s a vague hint at All The Other Boys, as well as a possible In A Dark Place. Maybe not direct enough to pin down, but it’s definitely something.
White flowers haze and little else
And vanilla scents massaged into your skin
We danced in my bedroom
But we could see the moon
This just sounds like a really nice night. Again, notice the past tense framing.
And for the weekend baby,
You stay by my side,
When Monday comes I know a spot where you can hide
And again we have this strange idea that, without secrecy, the romance could only last the weekend. On one of her first songs ever, we’re hearing an echo of the ideas and lyrics in EMOTION’s “Run Away With Me,” with this, the subtle implication that there is something more complicated going on here.
My room is small
But it holds all the world inside
I’ll keep your secrets if you’ll just confide
Again, it’s a blink and you’ll miss it lyrical sleight of hand here, where we get both the word secrets, but then alongside this, a vague implication that the guy is Emotionally UnAvailable to her. There’ll be more on this in a few lyrics, but it definitely sets up a very specific notion:
That the romantic encounter where they danced in her bedroom was a one-time thing, and Her Love is already perhaps off the table as an option to her.
Let’s dance in my bedroom
Where we can see the moon
Some things are meant to be
I bet you were made for me
So there’s the chorus again, but this time, it’s in the future tense. The context of the chorus has mysteriously changed from memory of the past to a proposed fantasy of the future. What changed?
And if he asked me I’d do anything he’d say
Anything to help him drive the fear away
And just to keep him here for one more perfect day
I tell you there’s no price I wouldn’t pay
There’s some “you” and “he” syntax here, but that goes on throughout the song, and I don’t think there’s any great deal of semiotic significance to it. But again we have some very Carly lyrical weirdness going on here: “drive the fear away?” The “fear?” Of what? Why is he afraid to be with her?
Why is he leaving? Why is she offering to pay any “price” to be with him? And again, there’s a not-so-subtle hint that whatever “perfect” romance she’d had is already ending.
Let’s dance in my bedroom
Where we can see the moon
Close every curtain so it’s just me and you
Some things are meant to be
I think you were made for me
And there’s the Alone With Someone subtheme, but oddly conflated with closing curtains, a gesture more often made to denote secrecy.
A candle flickers and the shadows catch my eye
I’m praying that we never have to say goodbye,
His breathing hums to me a gentle lullaby
I watch the ceiling but I see the sky
There’s Spending The Night Together, and possibly the genesis of Carly’s holy grail, someone sleeping over and it’s Getting her High.
This last verse contextualizes the rest of the song very differently, and I can give you my read of it, but you might have your own.
This is the last song I’m doing for this project. I’m so happy it’s this one.
So, here is my interpretation of this song. My interpretation of the final song.
Carly has slept with an older guy. She believes he’s in love with her, but he’s already gone away, afraid that a sexual relationship with a younger, possibly underage (Carly was, after all, at the time this was written) is a bad idea, and already trying to distance himself from her. But as she lays with him Spending The Night Together, she fantasizes about a future where she would have this unavailable man’s heart completely, something she knows she’s in danger of losing now.
Let’s leave this last annex now. Let’s leave Carly listening to him breathe, happily imagining a future that will never happen.