You don’t really see things when you do mushrooms.


            Or rather, you do, you definitely do see things.  But what I mean, I guess, is that your eyes are only one venue on which the show is playing.  There’s a second, wider, and wilder act going on inside of your head, the space usually reserved for the private performance of your daydreams, which is, via psychedelics, converted into a massive concert hall, a kind of thirty thousand person outdoor music festival of the mind, where you can dip so deeply into the fantasies of the internal world that your eyes don’t appear to be seeing anything at all.


            You see all sorts of stuff in there, in your head.


            There are undoubtedly some Carly songs I missed, here.  I nearly entirely skipped the Curiosity EP, not realizing it contained unique songs not found on KISS.  I’m sure there’s a collab or two that slipped my radar.  But if there’s a song or two I overlooked, I urge you to apply the rubric.  It has never failed me.

            Even as I went into Carly Rae’s unreleased songs, I ended up immediately finding lyrics like this one on the song “Bullseye:”


I could give you what you wanted

You never told me what you needed

I could give you what you wanted

Tell me what you need, tell me what you need


Or this part of one of her early tracks, “Katie’s Kicking In The Corner,” a song ostensibly dedicated to her sister, Katie, who is barely mentioned, the song instead focusing on a drive with a guy and the desire to be with him:



You and me we think differently

We're still deciding

Baby, I don't know

Come on tell me nothing can destroy this

I am living for your happiness alone



Or how about this big section of unreleased track “Wildflowers,” which pours down leitmotifs like a hurricane:



I wore your shirt as I was running away from you

'Cause I like to keep the good things

I know you’re hurt and I’d like to sit right next to you

But you’d only say the worst things

And every city was our city

Like every road was our own

And you loved me like you knew you'd miss me

It’s like every prophecy you told, oh

Wildflowers you brought me

Are crumbled in my hands

I killed them, you caught me

The stain is on my hands

I took a trip to the furthest place that I could find

'Cause I like to do the wrong things

I walked a street that I had never walked down once before

'Cause I like to try the new things



            Wearing the other person’s clothes.  Geographical separation.  Love being dangerous or wrong.  Streets and roads.  I’m not even bolding the sub-themes any more, because at this point, you’ve come out the other side with me, you can see it without me holding your hand any more.  You’ve joined me in Carly Rae Jepsen’s twisted beautiful cult universe of romantic agony.

            Welcome, homie.  Welcome.  Enjoy the Kool-Aid, it’s fresh from Canada.


            After reading all of this, a close friend of mine found themselves convinced, initiated, converted, enlightened, however you want to qualify what the fuck happens to your brain by reading this fucking mess, and internalizing its divine truth of the semiotics of a Canadian popstar.


            “You’re right Max, this is really interesting,” He said to me, unaware that this small piece of validation was the most meaningful thing to happen to me in my life.

            “She has to know.  It’s too much, it’s too many things.  If it’s in her first songs, if it goes all the way through, I mean, on some level, she HAS to know.”


            Okay, so let’s say she knows.

            So what…

            Again, what does it mean?


            What does it mean that when Jepsen was in the live TV production of Grease, she played Frenchy, a lonely character whose only solo song, “All I Need Is An Angel,” is about being depressed and needing someone to love her and bring her out of her cloud of misery?


            What does it all mean?


            What does it mean that Jepsen, when asked to cover a song for SiriusXM, she chose “The King Of Wishful Thinking,” an 80s hit primarily about hiding your sadness after being rejected by someone you were having a casual fling with, and forever longing for after the person left you?


            What does it mean that if you actually read the lyrics of the Fuller House theme, which Carly covers, you find despite its cheery chorus, it’s primarily about feeling lost, alone and searching?  What does it mean that the only contemporary song she has chosen to cover, Shadow by Bleachers, is a plaintive offer of love to someone in a dark world full of apathy and heartbreak?


            No, seriously: what does it mean.


            A new Carly song came out while I was writing this.  It was called “Cut To The Feeling.” At first, the only copy I could find was on YouTube, clearly edited to fit the trailer of the animated film it was on the soundtrack of.  Somewhere inside me, I was slightly afraid it would break the pattern, and yet, even more strongly, I somehow knew that it absolutely wouldn’t.


            Lo and behold, the full version was released, and hey, surprise:


            The song is about wanting to ESCAPE with someone who is hesitant to be with you.  First lyric is about dreaming.  The second lyric of the song is “We crossed the line and it was on,” implying that they’re Friends Who Became Lovers.  The song goes on like that.  Dancing alone.  Getting HIGH.


            The lyric, “I’ve been denying how I feel, you’ve been denying what you want.”


            This whole discovery still begs the question: Are the Unavailable Emotionally Guy, The Friend With A Girlfriend, The Older Guy and The Musician all the same person?  I don’t know.  I don’t know what’s real and what’s art.  I just know it’s connected.  But what does it all mean?

What does it fucking MEAN?


            And the answer is, as ever:


            I don’t know.


            I really don’t.

            Maybe Carly doesn’t even know.

            But here is what I do know:

            Being aware of this infrastructure in a massive collection of art makes me feel like I’m flying.  It gets ME high.  Maybe you can feel it too; the idea of a popstar’s entire catalogue being a single concept album about Forbidden, Hesitant, Doomed Love is unbelievably compelling.  Surreal.  Baffling.  Impossible.

            But there it is.


            I bottled it and put it on the page.


            The discovery of the Jepsen Pattern came at a time in my life where I was undergoing huge personal change, and forced me to reexamine my own work as a writer in a new way.  It changed me, fundamentally, to be on the frontier of such a bizarre, goofy, inane, powerful, ridiculous, moving, shocking, inconceivable horizon.

            I want to take a moment to revisit some lyrics on a few different songs.


Tell me

I swear I'll take it on the chin

Don't sugar-coat where I fit in

What’s going on

Inside you there’s a room,

A room with a door

I finally come knocking

And I've been here before


            I mean there it is.  There it all is.  Forever waiting.  Forever knocking.  Forever longing.

            “I’ve been here before.”

            Yes, Carly.  And you’ll be there again.  And again.  And again.

            “I know, I know, I know you’ve got the key and I know, I know, I know that it’s for me.”

The nervous, jittery rush of realizing you want someone for the first time.  The frantic, aching, midnight message desire to escape and have someone to yourself, casting off the harsh boundaries of the real world to cuddle all day alone with each other.



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



            The pain of wanting someone you can’t have, because they don’t want you, painted in shining, vibrant colors.  Metamorphosing rejection, obsession and misery into complete catharsis, exuberant dance pop that, in the grand tradition of an ontologically-aware humanity smiling through its tears, sprinkling glitter in an open wound.  A tragedy in neon pink.


            Pop was bullshit.  Pop IS bullshit.  Pop has always been bullshit.  Heavily produced corporate bullshit, a superficial product for superficial pleasure, the ultimate dilution of relatable human emotion into a bite size snack to experience casually in a car or a bar or on a dance-floor.  A fake color to paint your world with, a shadow of a feeling you might find familiar.

            But crawling beautifully, tragically out of Jepsen’s work, if you take the time to look, is something moving, something devastating and massive and churning like an ocean in a storm, reaching endlessly for a hand that will never reach back, begging, pleading, fantasizing, entreating, endlessly upward and onward even as it sinks deeper and deeper into itself.

            Shining out of Jepsen’s work is something real.           

            604 Records is an independent record label based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  They put out a Christmas album filled with mostly covers by local artists.  Carly first sings “Let It Snow,” a song asking to have a romantic night Alone With Someone.


            But that’s not the only song she sings on the album.


            She also sings a song called “Mittens.”  It’s a Christmas song, about buying mittens because your hands are cold.


            It’s a Carly original.


            So let me leave you with this: a song, by Carly Rae Jepsen, about mittens.



Home tonight

Rest my head

In my single childhood bed

Close my eyes

Count to three

Wish that you were here with me

Last year when my hands were cold,

You were always there to hold

So give me your warmest pair,

your strongest pair of mittens, please

Something to get me through,

The loneliness of Christmas eve

I fell for you, like crazy

And I can't get thoughts of you, from me

So give me your warmest pair,

your strongest pair of mittens, please

By my table I survive,

Fix the makeup from my eyes,

Fake a smile so they will see

Wish that you were here with me

Last year when my hands were cold,

You were always there to hold

So give me your warmest pair,

your strongest pair of mittens, please

Something to get me through,

The loneliness of winter

see, I fell for you, like crazy

And I can't get thoughts of you, from me

So give me your warmest pair,

your strongest pair of mittens, please

Shine your name,

Through the snow storm, baby,

You can break me, to the bone, oh

I was wrong, you were wrong to make me

feel like I was all alone,

Walking through my old home town,

No one else but me around,

Make an angel in the snow,

Pray that I can let you go

I fell for you, like crazy,

And I can't get thoughts of you, from me

So give me your warmest pair,

your strongest pair

your warmest pair

see, I fell for you, like crazy,

And I can't get thoughts of you, from me

So give me your warmest pair,

your strongest pair of mittens, please



Hey, I just met you.  And this is crazy.


But all of Carly Rae Jepsen’s songs are connected.