THE CURIOSITY EP

 

            How the fuck did I miss this.  No joke, I listened to this album LAST; I somehow tricked myself into believing that the entire track-listing had been folded into Kiss, which co-opts Call Me Maybe and Curiosity off this record.  What a fool I was; I nearly missed one of The Carly Pattern’s greatest fundamental signposts; an entire album linked tightly by songs in Act I and Act II.

 

            This EP is interesting, because of these specific songs being grouped together.  Separate, you wouldn’t conflate them, but putting “Call Me Maybe” and “Curiosity” on the same album with these songs has an interesting effect worthy of pinpointing.

            Namely, all of these songs focus on the promise of a relationship, rather than one that’s existed and ended, and all of them contextualize the relationship as something that hasn’t actually happened, or is in only the absolute earliest stages of possibility.

            Furthermore, the idea of it being a SECRET is on overdrive throughout the whole album, and, judging by the song “Talk To Me,” with very good reason; Jepsen presents herself as jailbait.  This notion, of the secret, forbidden love affair is of course a constant in all her work, but never so succinctly as on “Talk To Me” and “Picture.”

 

            And that’s not where the overlap ends.  Both contextualize Her Love (as usual) as a musician/singer and “someone unlikely to date her, possibly famous.”  There is heavy thematic crossover between “Call Me Maybe” and “Talk To Me,” with “Talk To Me” very directly functioning as a more sexually aggressive version of Carly’s biggest hit.

 

1 - PICTURE

 

           So here’s an OBSESSION, ESCAPE and SECRETS song to get us cooking, with a deeply odd and specific theme involving forbidden documentation of a secret relationship that Carly wants to be real and emotionally complete, but alas, appears to be limited to the realm of hook-ups.

 

“”

I could take a picture

Of you and me together

No one would believe me

No one would believe me

“”


            We’re off to a very interesting start here, because this is not an inherently romantic statement, to the degree that’s arguable if it’s romantic at all.  It’s unclear of the “why” here; WHY would no one believe them?  Because they’re such an unlikely couple?  Or is it that it’s unlikely he would be with her?  Why?

 

            I’m drawing attention to this because in a deceptively simple opening lyric, Carly has already contextualized her love as both secret and, for some reason, unlikely.  She hits this further in her next lyrics.

 

“”

Say it in a whisper

That baby it don’t get much better

Would I like to see you again?

You name the day

And I will pick the city

We’ll fly away

Til then, call me when you miss me

If you’re asking if I’d really like to see you again

I say, oh just say when

“”

 

             So obviously there we have the idea of a secret escape being introduced, as well as being Separated By Physical Location.  We also have:

 

“”

Tell me that you feel it

This you and me together

No one would believe me

Even I cannot believe it

You kiss me like you mean it

Oh baby, it don’t get much better

“”

 

             Again, “Tell me;” and, as ever, shock and disbelief that this romance seems to be turning out okay.  Again, we are Saying Something Without Actually Speaking, with his kiss substituting the verbal declaration of love she asks for.  And again, she contextualizes the idea that this romance is secret or unbelievable.

 

“”

Two different worlds I thought they’d keep us apart

I’m ignoring my head, follow my heart

“”

 

             So there’s Carly acknowledging that she’s ignoring logic and reason to follow her strong emotions for this seemingly unavailable person.

 

             The idea of being from two different worlds, separated by both culture, status, and geographical distance reappears occasionally in the Carlyverse.  On “Gimmie Love,” Carly talks about worlds colliding, and in “Guitar String/Wedding Ring,” Carly again paints the picture; even on “Black Heart,” Carly describes the separation as being more than emotional, but intrinsic; “he’ll cry to his generation, but he won’t cry to me.”

 

            This is an iconic Carly thru-line; “hey, it seems like we got a good thing going even though it isn’t reliable yet, and I’m waiting on you to affirmatively tell me you love me,” the type of song I call an “Act II,” but the “no one would believe a picture of us” element I think is important.

 

To my eyes, it furthers the idea that Her Love is someone important, or recognizable.

 

 

2 - TALK TO ME

 

Sexuality, and sensuality, has always been engaged with in a very specific way by Carly.  She doesn’t run away from direct mentions of hooking up, but more often depicts sexual encounters with the euphemism of being “in your arms,” or “spending the night together.”

 

Not on this song.  On this song, Carly wants to fuck.

 

There’s actually a tremendous amount to unpack here; the song functions as a more sexually aggressive revamp of “Call Me Maybe,” the modus operandi of the song being sexually driven and forward in very specific way.

 

Because Carly isn’t urging the person to love her; not here, not yet.  She’s just urging them to make a “mistake,” by hooking up with her.  This one is a trip.

 

“”

Every morning as I go walking by

I feel you looking, that’s why I take my time

Oh oh, yeah

“”

 

Carly is strutting by a guy.  She enjoys his desire.  Nothing new there, this could be a Katy Perry or Taylor Swift lyric.  It could be a Demi Lovato lyric.  But then:

 

“”

I can see what you wanna do to me

You can feel it, something’s gonna break

Well, I’m in if you’re in

Let’s make a big mistake

“”

 

What? …Why contextualize hooking up with her as a mistake?  It’s like an actually bizarre lyrical choice, until you sit it in the wider pantheon of Carly songs, and engage with the idea that the guy she’s singing to is very probably the same character who Has A Girlfriend.

 

“”

Talk to me

Why won’t you talk to me?

Can’t you see I’m burning up?

When you look like that and I’m looking right back

Why don’t you talk to me?

Walk with me, baby

“”

 

So here’s the Saying Something Without Actually Speaking aspect of Carly’s songwriting, in which she projects her own meaning onto the non-actions of others, can’t you see she wants you?  Can’t you see she loves you?  Why aren’t you speaking to her?  She knows you want her.  Even though you’ve never spoken.

 

“”

When he’s singing his song

While all the young girls sigh

And we’ll be wearing those things

That make a grown man cry

Oh oh, yeah

“”

 

Here we again have Her Love positioned as a popular musician or singer, but alongside this, interestingly, we have Carly positioning herself as one of the “young girls.”  This to me self-evidently calls back the “let’s make a big mistake” line, and asks a problematic question of the lyric that hadn’t previously been raised:

 

Is Carly under-age in this song?  Is she inviting the attention from an older man, for whom a hook up wouldn’t just be a bad decision, but a “big mistake” of the kind that could ruin your life?

 

I’m not projecting this onto the song, it’s right there for anyone to see.  It brings one’s mind back to Carly tying the tie of a man who couldn’t spend weekdays with her on her first unreleased EP, on the song “Dear You.”  That song was written by a seventeen year old Carly around 2003; at the time, the age of consent in Canada was 14, but a famous adult hooking up with someone that young would still probably be considered a “big mistake.”

Especially if they had a girlfriend.

 

“”

I can see what you wanna do to me

You can feel it, something’s gonna break

Well, I’m in if you’re in

Let’s make a big mistake

“”

 

Again, Carly offers herself up.  This “offering of self” is Carly’s primary romantic weapon throughout all 3 acts of her repeating narrative.  In Act I it’s a “hey I’m down if you’re down,” in Act II it’s “I can save you and help you escape if you’ll only let me,” and in Act III it’s “I’m still waiting and I still love you, I’ll love you forever and be waiting forever.”

 

“”

Come on, take me away

I’ve been yours from the start

Summer nights, summer days

I’ll be your summer heart

Come on, take me away

I’ve been yours from the start

“”

 

Again we see the idea of an escape, her offering herself up as a “vacation” from his real life.  Whether the Summer is literal or figurative is left up to the imagination, but again, the “young girls” line does seem to make it feel like it’s referencing both a figurative reinvigorating romance and a literal summer season off of school.

 

3 - JUST A STEP AWAY

Here’s a song about dancing with someone, staring at them, wanting them to understand that you love them and will always be there for them, but you aren’t saying it, just feeling it, and you feel forced into loving them even though they aren’t saying anything to you, and you will be in love with them forever, and they’re a musician, and you cry alone and wish they’d go away with you cause you love them so much even though they probably don’t love you.

 

Yep.

 

It’s OBSESSION and ESCAPE, one of Carly’s pleading, romantically framed devotion songs, where she wonders if this guy, who has been reasonably intimate with her, is down to take it to the next level.

 

Carly devotees will see parallels to several other songs, most notably the unreleased “In My Bedroom,” which features a similar “dancing alone but do you really like me I want to be with you but do you want to be with me?” theme.

 

“”

In the space between the words

In the silence of your eyes

In the hands that know the touch

It’s the way I feel inside

Here we are

Dancing cross this floor together

With every step I take I seem to want you more than ever

“”

 

So as usual we have a proclamation without a proclamation; statements about what Carly wants and what’s going on with her, and nothing but vague speculation about what’s going on with the guy.  But they’re together, right?  No, they’re not.  Check it out:

 

“”

You made me love you

Look into my eyes

I want to tell you

I’ll never let you down

And I’ll never go away

And if your ever feeling down

I’m just a step away

“”

 

Carly clarifies she hasn’t let this guy know it’s love.  She again offers him comfort from a cruel world, Saying Something Without Actually Saying Anything.  And, in traditional Carly fashion, she’s there, waiting, so close, and yet so far.

 

“”

It’s the beating of your heart

It’s the tear I have to hide

It’s the sound of your guitar

It’s the way I feel inside

“”

 

So again we have him positioned as a musician, but also an important verification that Carly’s desire for him is for some seen as Bad/Forbidden Love, and she has to hide her sadness over not being with him, keeping it inside.

 

“”

If you need a shoulder

Or someone to hold you

I’ll keep my arms open wide

I’ll be the one who loves you

I’ll be right there by your side

“”

 

This foreshadows so many Carly’s promises to be waiting forever, the “I’ll always be here if you need a friend” from “Roses” coming to mind most quickly.  As I said, this song functions as a continuation of “In My Bedroom,” from Carly’s first unreleased EP, but also “To Be Without You.”

 

What’s incredible is these songs, when framed as a trilogy, go over basically the exact same scenario with three different tones, actually fitting the Three Acts Of Jepsen.  “In My Bedroom” is Act I, all excited rush about a new secret love, “Just A Step Away” is Act II, promising an escape, even if it probably isn’t going to happen, and “To Be Without You” is unquestionably Act III, left alone, miserable, still waiting, endlessly forever.

 

4 - BOTH SIDES NOW

 

So here we are at last: a song about an abstract concept, in this case “clouds,” representing a larger idea.  Worth saying: Carly did not write this.  It’s a cover of Joni Mitchell, a fellow Canadian singer/songwriter whose heyday, if you’re unfamiliar, was in the 1970s.

I’m not going to go into the lyrics, because this is not a thesis about Joni Mitchell, and so we’ll talk about it the way the song talks about its themes: in the abstract.  The lyrics talk about seeing clouds from above, and them being beautiful.

 

The song is about looking at clouds, and how when you look at them from above, they’re beautiful, and magical, and make you feel happy.  It draws an allusion to new love, the excitement of connecting with someone.

 

But then the song talks about how you’ve also seen the dark side of clouds, and realized the happy feelings were only an illusion, and you end up alone, and cynical, wishing you could see the bright side again.

 

So yes.  Carly covered a Joni Mitchell song.  About LIMERENCE and MISERY.