Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cruel Summer Part Deux (Special The Present Day Teen Pop Tart Refuses to Die (Alas) Edition

Just a little addendum to yesterday's discussion of Carly Rae Jepsen's Song of the 2012 summer "Cal Me Maybe."

It was not my intention to unfairly demonize Jepsen's hit, which as I said is a perfectly acceptable piece of disposable pop fluff. In fact, I will admit, without shame, to bopping along with the chorus on a couple of occasions, my dismissal of the thing as utterly generic (which I stand by) notwithstanding.

That said, a couple of points raised by our characteristically perceptive readers on the subject behoove addressing.

From Dave:
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!

I suspect this is exactly right, which is to say the song is significant (and successful) more for its lyrical sync with the zeitgeist than with anything musical.

From ROTP(lumber):
Just remember this song will be somebody's favorite song of their youth 50 years from now.

I actually think not. Consider: Have you ever met anybody who was seriously nostalgic for Grand Funk's "I'm Your Captain" or -- even more to the point -- Frampton Comes Alive? I certainly haven't. And if I did, I would be reluctant to shake their hand.

From Scott Interrante:
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 Girls," "One More Time," and, most recently, Carly Rae Jepsen's new song "This Kiss").

Kudos, Scott. I mean no snark when I say that this is the most, er, interesting exegesis of a putatively disposable pop hit since Wilfrid Mellers compared the early ouevre of The Beatles to Schubert lieder.

And, finally, from our good buddy Sal Nunziato:
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.

Exactly so. But your implied question -- how come this isn't in fact the state of the world? -- is something that perhaps might be a fruitful subject for future pondering.

Also, and I meant to add this yesterday, that there are far, far worse recent teen pop hit songs than "Call Me Maybe."

Consider, if you will, the truly satanic evil that was Colbie Caillat's "Bubbly."

Seriously, this comes off, to my ears anyway, like the very first songwriting attempt by a complete idiot. And if we're talking about songs that limn the romantic mores of contemporary high school kids, then "Bubbly" makes "Call Me Maybe" sound like Jane Austen's Emma by comparison.

Also, too -- if we want (and we probably should) ear candy bubblegum teen pop/rock songs in our lives...

...then isn't the above kinda more like the way they oughta be done?



Anonymous said...

Hello all...no please, remain seated.

Oooo, boy. Actually, I thought that Bubbly was kinda catchy. I will now enter the witness protection program before I'm forced into the back seat of a car and driven to the Staten Island landfill.



steve simels said...

There's no accounting for taste. That's all I'm gonna say.

Sal Nunziato said...

I LOVE "I'm Your Captain."

Anonymous said...

Re: I'm Your Captain...yeah, me too.

ok, ok...I'm going. Sheesh.


steve simels said...

Grand Funk = generation gap thing.

To people my age, the pre-Rundgren version of that band defines complete and utter shit. With no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

buzzbabyjesus said...

Why are you abusing me with this crap? Who freakin cares?

Here is some anti-venom:

Gillian Welch

Garbage (!)

I totally agree with Simels on the subject of Grand Funk Railroad.

Is talking about this crap supposed to function as a counterweight to all the Dylan discussions going around?

Shriner said...

I think the problem is the target audience of this blog is missing some 16-25 year old women who could probably express their appreciation of this.

A good friend of mine who is a Med Student -- loves Colbie Caillat. (I've tried to like it considering who her father is, but none of it stuck -- it's catchy, but *too* lightweight.) Give me Mandy Moore as an alternative any day.

And I've sufferred through the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus years with my kids. Be glad if you skipped that (though "GNO" was undeniably catchy, too...)

buzzbabyjesus said...

My daughter hates Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus. As mentioned in an earlier comment, she recently requested a copy of Davey Graham's version of "I Can't Keep From Cryin' Sometimes". I hear it coming out of her room over and over.
Of course she reads books I think are wasting her time, and at some point she'll probably fall for some of this terrible music, but for now I'm counting my blessings.

Anonymous said...

One problem I have with the music of the past two days discussion is, it's so white in spirit. None of these performers would get the humor & truth of Lou Reed's "I Wanna be Black". I see it as a commitment of your music soul. I just am not interested in music that won't commit itself to being truly passionate in some way.

Steve: There is always someone who loves a certain song that will leaving the rest of us scratching our heads in confusion. I'll be damned if I would ever reveal even to you a few of these songs.


buzzbabyjesus said...

Steve: There is always someone who loves a certain song that will leaving the rest of us scratching our heads in confusion. I'll be damned if I would ever reveal even to you a few of these songs.

Well, shit, I will. It's even relevant to the discussion for a change.

I've liked this Debbie Gibson song since the first time it came on the radio. I like to imagine a Bryan Ferry cover of it.


Anonymous said...

As for the original subject - Call Me Maybe - it's a very fun, pleasant song. Nothing wrong with that. The version she performs with Jimmy Fallon and The Roots is absolutely a ball to watch.

As for Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus, I'd honestly never heard anything she'd ever done until I was turned on to her jaw-droppingly beautiful version of Dylan's "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go". I LOVED Dylan's version but after hearing Miley Cyrus's perform the song I believe she does the definitive version. I can't speak for anything else the woman has ever done but she absolutely knock's that song out of the park.

Homer J. said...

You guys don't like Grand Funk? Oh, man!


swboy said...

Guilty pleasure Ai Otsuka:

Brooklyn Girl said...

Shriner said...

I think the problem is the target audience of this blog is missing some 16-25 year old women who could probably express their appreciation of this.

I would have HATED this song when I was 16. Or 25.

But then, I was listening to the Yardbirds when I was 16 --- :-)

Dave said...

I'm the original Dave, who wrote the positive response to this song at 1:30 in the morning, not knowing if I'd be lambasted. Thanks, everyone, for keeping the discussion civil. I wanted to thank Scott for explaining what is happening musically in this song. I swear I almost brought up the two Perry songs you referenced, "Callifornia Gurls" and "Teenage Dreams," two songs I find melodically wonderful.

And thanks to RichD, my spiritual twin!