Monday, September 17, 2012

Cruel Summer

So I am informed that Canadian Idol pop tart Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" was very popular recently.

I wouldn't know myself, because I was too busy catching up on season five of Stargate Atlantis on DVD to pay much attention to the radio or YouTube for the last couple of months.

That said, if world's most irksome rock critic Jon "Everything's Great, Even the Obvious Shit" Caramanica is any judge of horseflesh, and I'm sure he is, than apparently Jepsen was this year's Gnarls Barkley.

Okay, let me stipulate up front that the single is a perfectly serviceable disposable pop song. It's undeniably catchy and, praise jeebus, it has no aspirations to being anything other than what it is. What's more, it does what it sets out to do -- i.e, insert an ear worm into your head -- with great skill. This is no small accomplishment, as anybody who's ever loved a Monkees hit can attest.

That said, if this isn't also the most generic goddamn thing I've ever heard, than I'm U Thant.

Seriously -- is there anything about this record that is in any way distinguishable from about a squillion other pop records you've vaguely been aware of over the last couple of years?

Some identifiable personality quirks? An usual vocal quality? Body odor? Anything? (Although I will admit that the steals from the arrangement of Annie Lennox's "Walking on Broken Glass" in the chorus are kinda of fun).

Bottom Line: I'm sorry, but if this was indeed the Song of the Summer for 2012, then things sucked even worse than the crappy weather we endured would indicate.


Dave said...

I think you elucidated most of the charms of this song yourself, SS. It is hook-laden and incredibly catchy and memorable.

But it's also attached to a fundamentally real and interesting idea: it is hard for girls, especially young girls, to let their intentions known to boys. I'm convinced that they "Maybe" in the title is the key to the success of the song. It's the kind of qualifier that people use when asking someone out on a date. Anything not to lose face or appear desperate!

The lyrics are all over the place, but it does contain one wonderful couplet:

"Before you came into my life
I missed you so bad..."
Good stuff.

There is so much noxious stuff out these days, I feel that this is song is one of the good guys. I even like the video, which is a parody of the usual romantic tropes of girl-pop.

DB said...

I had successfully avoided this tune until it was posted here.

It's a perfectly decent dance tune and I've already forgotten two-thirds of it while typing this note.

Who sang it again?

Blue Ash Fan said...

Db is right: instantly forgettable. I'm really not even getting the "ear worm" aspect of this. I played it five minutes ago and can barely remember it. But, you nailed it, Steve: this is so generic it should come with a white label and black print.

I'm amazed at what passes for arrangements today. There's just so little going on. I've been going back recently and exploring some of the great AM Top 40 singles of my youth and even the fluffier stuff (think "Don't Pull Your Love Out" or "Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes") had so many more interesting touches. That this obviously thrown-together trifle was some sort of smash fills me with despair. Well, at least she doesn't rap.

I've got 20 bucks that says that next year at this time, nobody will be listening to whatshername or this flaccid little song.

Now get off of my lawn!

buzzbabyjesus said...

We'll be outside the restaurant and my wife will say, "the food was okay, but that music-ugh!" And I will not have heard any of it. A fellow musician told that this is a talent acquired by musicians to be able to listen to what's important, and tune out what isn't. That's probably why the 51 seconds of "Call Me Maybe" I just experienced is the first time I heard the apparent song of the summer of 2012. All I can say about it is I didn't detect any autotune.

Shriner said...

This is a song with a brilliant chorus. Instantly catchy and extremely likeable and singable the first time you hear it. There haven't been a lot of those to cut through all variations of the pop charts in a while.

The verses are pretty generic, though (melody and instrumentation...) But, man, that chorus...

It's not the first song to be saved by a great chorus and it won't be the last (Gangnam Style, anybody?) Nor will it be the last one-hit wonder song (though who can tell if she'll have a follow-up hit?)

I thought Kelly Clarkson's first album sucked -- but then she followed it up with two monster songs: Breakaway and Since You've Been Gone, so who can tell?

I've suggest this for a Listomania in the past -- songs with completely forgettable verses, but monster choruses -- or vice versa (which is harder to come up with a list, if you think about it...)

This song would easily fit into the former list...

Shriner said...

And, to follow up with a example for the latter (monster verses, crappy choruses), my go-to song for describing that is "Running Down A Dream" by Tom Petty...

Anonymous said...

Hello please, remain seated.

I think that Dave (above) really hit the nail on the head with his comments about the meaning of "maybe" in the title. It’s that little bit of insecurity that’s never far below the surface, especially at a young age. People tap into that along with the catchy beat and arrangement.

In addition, have any of you seen the home grown You Tube lip sync videos for this song? It’s become a youtube meme.

First one I became aware of was the Harvard Baseball team (my wife and daughters fell in LOVE with these guys):

The USA swim team:

US Marines in Afghanistan:

Net-net…it may be just another pop-song, trivial at best. But come on. Watch those videos. I think you’ve got to be a real sour-puss not to realize that people are having a hell of a lot of fun here.



FD13NYC said...

I too have heard about and been avoiding this song for quite some time. Truth be told, my instincts were right, it stinks.

MJConroy said...

Sounds like it was written and performed by computers. Artificial to its core.
Disposable Pop Hit.
(Apparently my 4 year old granddaughter is a big fan of it.)

(Hey - how come, I have to prove I'm not a robot to post this, but the record producer doesn;t have to?)

David said...

Boy, I haven't heard so much attention lavished upon a seemingly innocuous word since, well, yesterday's Times blog piece about the word "almost." I do get it though, even though it kind of reminds me of the Derek & Clive routine where Dudley Moore rhapsodizes about the erotic appeal of "the" and "and."

Anonymous said...

Just remember this song will be somebody's favorite song of their youth 50 years from now.


Sal Nunziato said...

I don't have a problem with this. I love pop music. It has a place. Everything from the great Kelly Clarkson singles mentioned above to the brilliant hook-filled Pet Shop Boys singles to MTV hairbands...there's something all right with all of it. As RichD said, "a lot of fun." Why is that so bad?

Must everything be "cool?" Or acceptable to the cognescenti?

What a wonderful world it would be....or 1973...if "Call Me Maybe" sat alongside Dylan's "Duquesne Whistle" and the new Shoes single and the new Public Enemy single and the new Joe Walsh and the new Patti Smith and the new Rihanna in the Top 10.

Anonymous said...

Hello please, remain seated.

to Sal...Tell it brother! Amen.


Scott Interrante said...

I'm not going to take too much time here, but I do want to just list a few things that, in my eyes, make this song stand out and offer some of that personality you claim it lacks.
There is a deliberate avoidance of the tonic chord. This song is in G major, but the chords throughout are C (G) D (Em) :|| (the G an E minor chord are parenthetical because they occur on weak beats and don't actually function as sustained harmony.) So the song essentially circles from IV to V but never resolving to I. Meanwhile, the vocal melody sings almost exclusively in a G major arpeggio, resolving the chords with the melody as opposed to the harmony, which creates a pleasant tension that propels to the song forward. (Note: this isn't actually completely unique. Similar techniques are used in Teenage Dream, Califonia Gurls, One More Time, and, most recently, Carly Rae Jepsen's new song This Kiss)

The interlude between first chorus and second verse places the accented hi hat on 4 instead of 1

When she sings the 'call' of 'call me maybe', she is a little bit flat, scooping up from below the B and never fully getting it in tune, which is an extremely welcome break from Pop's ever-in-tune vocal style

Double Chorus every time. This might be annoying to some, but when you have a hook so great, it's perfectly acceptable to sing it so many damn times. And even I ou don't like it, it certainly a change from Pop's formula.

NO dub step. And thank god for that.

This song isn't groundbreaking, and like you said, it's not trying I be anything other than what it is, but don't try to say that this song isn't masterfully crafted, because it really is a piece of pop brilliance, and as other people have commented, the lyrics make it truly different and special.

Anonymous said...

" the lyrics make it truly different and special." For a 'tweener' maybe.

Scott, I hope you were joking with all you wrote but if not you & I live in very different alternate universes.


PS I feel the use of "maybe" in the lyrics recalls T. S. Elliot's brilliant usage in his.........

Buddy Z said...

Sorry, I cannot get past her voice. Heard it a thousand times before. Ugh. What spawned this squeaky, slurry, faux sexy, young female recording artist vocal stylization?

Anonymous said...

You're right, this is the most generic piece of pop fluff that you've heard many times before in recent years. I think I made it to about a minute into the song before I stopped it and just shook my head. Really? Song of the summer? I don't get it.....

Gummo said...

This. Song. Was. Not. Written. Or. Performed. For. Us.

Is the fracturing of the pop arts audience into niches a shame? Maybe. But it was fractured in the 1950s too, when no adults listened seriously to "that noise."

So this song was not written for me and nobody who matters is going to care what I -- or any of you -- think about it. I've heard better, I've heard worse, but it's ephemera, which is what 90% of ALL popular arts is (don't have the energy to untangle the grammar of that sentence).

Pop art of the past will ALWAYS look better because the good stuff is all that lasts. The crap withers away and is forgotten. So any arguments about pop art being better in the past has to be taken with a shakerfull of salt. Because all we remember is the stuff worth remembering.

In other words, this is neither a masterpiece nor a harbinger of the Apocalypse. It's a disposable pop song, no more, no less.

And there's nothing wrong with that.

Brooklyn Girl said...

Bored with this. Heard something exactly like it a thousand times.

Top 100 songs of 1960:

Anonymous said...

Gummo makes a very good point. In truth I haven't listened too much top 40 pop radio since FM rock radio took off in the late 60's.

Thanks Simels for sticking the tune in our ears!


DB said...

To Gummo's point: That's true that this was written for kids (and I like enough utter crap that the sniffing, above, about the "cognoscenti" is just plain nonsense), but I like a lot of stuff that's written for kids.

Cee Lo Green's "F*** You" and Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" live on my iPod next to my Fountains of Wayne and so on.

Come to think of it, I've got quite a bit of Hanson on the ol' iPod.

So my point is not that I can't identify with great teen pop. It's that this is not great teen pop, IMHO.

I listened to it three times to try to set the song in my head. Didn't take. This song's earworm is at the bottom of the tequila bottle.

Don't know a thing about chord structures and whatnot.

I'll grant the point about girls needing a little reassurance to ask boys out. But, for me, that's all that's happening here.

Love the debate, though!

Jerry Lee said...

Maybe if I was 13 I'd like it, and think the video was funny, but I'm not.

I thought the Song Of The Summer was "North Side Gal" by JD McPherson.

Marsupial said...

I can't believe I am commenting on PowerPop to defend "Call Me Maybe," but... the song is fine for what it is -- poppy and catchy and that's it. My 10 year old plays it, so I heard it from time to time, but it wasn't until I saw Carly Rae Jepsen sing it with the Roots (and Jimmy Fallon) that it clicked with me. They broke it down into kindergarten instruments (Fisher-Price Xylophones, etc.) and banged out the whole song and, honestly, to my old ears, this was how the song was meant to be done. I will actually watch the YouTube performance of that willingly.

Now that I have blown any smidgen of credibility I might have had here, I will crawl back under my rock with my Sparks discs and hatred of Steve Perry.

buzzbabyjesus said...

I play music while I make dinner for my wife and daughter. The playlist is an ever evolving 4 gigs in my phone, played in shuffle. I keep it family friendy in that I avoid excessive profanity and shouting. There is a lot of jazz fusion, especially Miles Davis, The Beatles, '70's Reggae, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Davey Graham, Soul, British Folk, Gram Parsons, Both Elvis, Italian Prog, and obscure gems of all types.
My thirteen year old daughter discovered the radio when she was ten, and for awhile listened to WPLJ in her room. She later told me the commercials were some of her favorite parts. She knows the hits but I think recognizes them for what they are. She has no Bieber Fever. She recently asked me for a copy of Davey Graham's version of "I can't Keep From Crying Sometimes", which the playlist seemed to like. The biggest hit in our house in the summer of 2012 was "Brown Rice", by Don Cherry.

Haik Mendelovich said...

From My Generation to this, in less than fifty years.

Devo was right.