Monday, June 25, 2012

Keeping Up With The Kids: Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe"

A series in which I waste time watching current pop-culture junk on YouTube, and then come home to my blog to express my aging-hipster befuddlement with it all.

Call me crazy, but this teeny-bopper tripe is actually artistically significant in its way.  Not on its own mind you, not one teeny tiny bit, but in the grander scheme of things.  A few years from now, when VH-1 is readying I Love the ‘10s, I think you’ll find that “Call Me Maybe” marks the exact moment when Autotune became more important to pop music than a human-performed vocal.  I’m completely serious about this: click PLAY on the embedded video above, and try to listen past all of the vocal processing in an attempt to hear Carly Rae Jepsen’s actual voice.  Having trouble?  That’s because this was a trick assignment: you can’t hear it because it’s not there.  Seriously: given the amount of humanity to be found underneath the production layers of the thing, this song might as well have been sung by R2D2, or Rob the Robot.

It’s a completely different thing than, say, “Friday”.  Rebecca Black gained notoriety because underneath the Autotune her singing was awful, worse even than my own pitch-challenged warbling after the number of drinks it takes to get me to sing in public.  It was compelling (if that’s the word for it) because what was in the middle of Black’s production Tootsie Pop was remarkably sour.  In Carly Rae Jepsen’s case, there is nothing but air at the Tootsie Pop's center.  I’ve watched this video three times now, and I’m not entirely convinced she truly exists; CGI is pretty good these days, ya know?  The voice is robotic, detached, emanating from deep within the void – that is, if it’s even real at all.  She’s the voice that asks me to “please enter your passcode” every time I check my voice mail, tricked out with processing effects, given a weak, tinny beat, some abysmal rhymes and mailed straight to iTunes, postage due.

The lyrics are dopey, in that way that teenagers always need dopey lyrics like these to exist.  There is something profoundly of-the-moment about the way Jepsen keeps referring to the boy she’s crushing on as being “in my way”, and I’ll make you a deal: if I agree to begrudgingly admit to the accidental genius of that, what’s say you agree to bury the thing in a time capsule and that way, with any luck, none of us will have to hear it again for at least fifty years. Deal?  The music is absolutely nothing to write home about: the blaring synth hook is straight out of 1988 – everything old is new again, after all – and it’s exactly the sort of thing that pushed the strong-minded smart kids towards punk or metal back in the day (or, in the case of your humble, ever-conflicted author, both).  The less strong-minded smart kids got stuck with a pile of Smiths records and a life soundtracked by wimp-city alt-rock, but that’s a tangent for another day.

Which leads us to the end of the video, and the BIG SURPRISE contained therein.  I’d throw a spoiler alert up right about now, but let’s be honest with each other: anybody who’s made it this far into this post has either already seen the video, or never intends to.  So the guy that’s (ahem) in Jepsen’s way gives his number to one of the dudes in her band, making it clear that he’d like said dude to call him definitely.  How of the moment!  How with the legal-marriage-in-the-news zeitgeist!  How convenient a way to simultaneously come off as gay-positive and make a gay joke!  And how on Earth did Katy Perry* not beat her to it?!

There are times when I truly dig getting older, and each time I watched this video for this post was one of them.  If any of you out there want to hit up the Early Bird at Golden Corral later this week, call me maybe.

* If, in fact, Katy Perry has done something like this in one of her videos already, please do not hesitate to get in front of your keyboard…and write your congressman or something.  I made one hard ‘n’ fast rule when embarking on this series: NO KATY FRIGGING PERRY.  And just like the best punk rockers, I mean it maaaan.

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