PART 3 - EPILOGUE
HEART OF GLASS
There it was, plain as day.
Carly Rae's Seven Themes were the subject matter of not only Emotion, but also Kiss, the album that had made her a star. These themes I’d identified continued to be combined and recombined, with no exceptions or deviations, across two entire records. I mean look at the lyrics. It’s not like you need X-Ray vision; the Jepsen pattern is pervasive, and blatant.
You just need to take the time.
Like I have.
No, I cannot look myself in the eyes in the mirror anymore. Sometimes when I wake up my hands shake. Occasionally I accidentally say “Carly Rae Jepsen” when asked my own name, or my mother’s name, or what I do for a living, or where I’m from.
Yet I feel this was worth it, somehow.
But what was the larger emotional idea? Why reinvestigate these feelings of romantic failure so often, and why with such startling specificity? If I had to boil it all down, how would I describe it in one word?
I realized, re-listening to the wonderfully catchy hook of Curiosity in my car as I crossed the bridges back into downtown Vancouver, that there was indeed an overall tonality, a pervasive common element, to the themes themselves:
Certainly, songs like Gimmie Love and Curiosity, among others, were thrillingly naked in their frantic, catchy demands for love and affection. But the theme spread wider, and encompassed...everything. Like literally everything.
Minus the pop production and the zany poetry of the lyrics, it was quite starkly apparent.
I mean, is there a more desperate sentiment, truly, than "we just met and I'm so attracted to you I can't even look right at you, but here's my phone number so please call me...or don't if you don't want to, sorry, this is crazy."
But then how was it possible that these songs were framed to feel so good? So exciting? So fun, and catchy, and more than that, how had Carly's music managed to chameleon so well into upbeat pop; was it something about the language being used? Or her voice? They dabbled in misery so often, in loneliness, sleepless solitude and heartbroken exile, why didn't they feel like torch songs from Adele or the more miserable tracks from Lana Del Rey?
It hit me like a lightning bolt: because DESPERATION is EXCITING. Desperation is thrilling! Especially romantic desperation of the themes Carly is describing; it's not a romantic comedy, and it’s not a love story: It's a thriller.
Once you plug into the Jepsen Matrix and take the red pill about The Pattern, the Narrative Aspect I mentioned in my summation of EMOTION becomes hard to resist, having gained some new details from Kiss. Let’s jack in, upload and process it out:
Together, Kiss and Emotion tell the story of a young, hesitant, shy girl who was going through a rough emotional situation, possibly a bad relationship, when she fell in love with an overworked/unhappy platonic male friend, a professional peer who was a musician, like her.
However, he was already in another relationship.
They began to spend a lot of time together, as friends, but the tension was high. He flirted with her first, and she stopped herself, but finally gave in and things got out of control, becoming sexual. This is characterized as “wrong” or a morally “dark” choice, needing to be kept a secret.
They have a brief romantic/sexual relationship; it’s escapist fun, and although he never Spends the Night, she becomes more into it than he is. She is overwhelmed, and says things she regrets, possibly declaring her love for him.
Her level of devotion alienates him, because it turns out he was very probably just using her as an escape from his girlfriend and his real life, and he rejects her, trying to step back the relationship to “just friends.” This catastrophically breaks her heart, as she remains convinced he loves her, and that they are meant to be together.
She is devastated and endlessly pleads for him to give her a second chance, frantically switching between open begging and attempts at manipulation, appealing to his black heart or worst nature. However, they are Separated By Physical Distance, in two separate cities, and she wonders privately if he even thinks about her at all.
Across Emotion and Kiss, Jepsen’s discography can be very easily arranged to tell one cohesive story. A story of unfulfilling flings, dark secrets, romantic rejection, agonizing loneliness and adrenaline bursts of momentary, glimmering connection.
You simply can’t do this with any other modern pop star. Carly sings songs with three sentiments:
1 - “Hey I know it’s too soon and maybe we shouldn’t be feeling this way, but I want you and you make me feel alive and this is new and different for me”
2 - “Leave your life, I can save you, escape and be with me, we are the only ones destined to save each other from our unhappy lives”
3 - “Something’s gone wrong, you rejected me/told me we were just friends and it broke my heart - I will wait for you forever, I still love you, come back.”
And she sings no songs with any sentiments other than that. I was only two albums in and I find it mind-blowing. Just those three sentiments.
For comparison, Katy Perry on Teenage Dream has songs about being a hot girl from California, dumping a drug addict, loving jesus, loving penises, a third person storytelling song about a beaten woman, being inspired and being a firework, getting blackout drunk, having sex with an alien, wanting to start a family, missing a former lover and love making you feel young.
Could you make up a bunch of connections for those songs? Sure, but you’d be connecting TWELVE dots with loose observational conspiracy theory absurd bullshit. With Carly you only need to connect three dots.
And I didn’t know it yet, but it’s every song. All her music. There’s only three dots. And she literally says the guy has a girlfriend like twelve times. She draws the lines for you.
If Carly wrote Katy’s songs, it would be like:
Baby you’re a firework
Come on let your colors burst
I haven’t seen you in ages
Do you still think of me
You were the only one who made me feel bright
Last friday night
Yeah we danced on tabletops
And we took too many shots
I needed to be in your arms
I want to be more than friends
Last friday night
Take me driving in your car
They’ll never catch us
I will never let you go
She doesn’t need to know
Infect me with your love and fill me with your poison
Take me, t-t-take me
None of the other boys can get me high like you
I miss you ever since you moved to San Diego
California girls they’re unforgettable
Please don’t forget me I want to be more than friends
I’d take back everything I said if I could
Sunkist skin so hot it melts your popsicle
But I don’t want a popsicle, I want you
I’m still waiting
It’s profound. Like, you’ve been reading these fucking lyrics with me, right? It’s a jackhammer. It’s just pounding you in the face. And it’s all SO CATCHY.
I tried to explain my observations about Emotion and Kiss to a fellow fan, only to find myself stymied. He couldn't even see the self-evident "hesitation while confessing you are interested romantically in someone" connection between Call Me Maybe and I Really Like You.
And that was amateur hour shit. How was I ever going to enroll him into Carly College? This guy was pushing my buttons immediately, and I was considering not allowing him entry into my cult. This was a big deal. I was triggered.
"Her music isn't sad, it's happy!" he said.
"No, dude, it's both! It's both, listen, it's just seven themes again and again- like, have you noticed she never sings about dancing unless it's to get away from something? Like- okay I'm not explaining this right-" I found myself sputtering, but annoyed and cynical, he cut me off.
"Carly Rae doesn't have any sad songs except on her first album." He said.
“What? Her first album?” I responded, in hushed tones. I was shocked. I didn’t even know Carly had an album before Kiss. For the sheer amount of listening I’d done, I had done very little googling.
“Yeah. It’s like from when she was a singer songwriter, like Lisa Loeb or something. Michelle Branch, like that. It was way more like- guitar-y.”
Somehow, I knew what was coming before he even said it out loud, the way dogs and cats can sometimes tell when there’s going to be an earthquake.
“Really?” I said, still quiet, asking the question but already knowing the answer. “There are sad songs on her first album?”
“Yeah.” He said, not understanding the weight of his words as he casually continued: “They’re like- about wanting to be with a guy who doesn’t want you back. She has a song like- I regret something- ugh I don’t remember the lyrics, but it’s like about wanting a guy who doesn’t want to be with you.”
Picture, in your head, a mushroom cloud.
“Cool.” I said, quickly opening Spotify. “Sounds cool.”
“Max, don’t give up on explaining it.” I had already started playing the first song on Tug Of War. “Explain the rest of your Carly thing, I- wait are you already listening to it right now?”
“Uh…uh huh…” I said, already making notes. He seemed frustrated.
“There are no sad songs on Emotion or Kiss” I wasn’t listening to him any more. He knew, but my silence had made him curious. “So…What did you think all the songs were about? What was so sad about them?”
I didn’t waste time trying to tell him.