“Call Me Maybe” — Carly Rae Jepsen

Just a few years ago, you couldn’t get away from “Call Me Maybe”. Canadian singer-songwriter Carly Rae Jepsen took the song she’d co-written to the top of the charts around the world.

Nine weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and four weeks at the top of the UK singles charts, together with number ones in Canada, Australia, France and dozens of other territories made “Call Me Maybe” one of the biggest hit records ever recorded by a Canadian artist.

And it didn’t get there by accident.

“Call Me Maybe” is a bouncy, breezy number with a great hook. It’s great to sing along with in the shower and its story of a hoped-for romance that never got started inspired countless parodies and tributes, with varying degrees of affection for the original.

Back in 2012 when “Call Me Maybe” first hit the airwaves, it was often dismissed as a teen pop song that would probably go down as one of pop music’s footnotes when the history of popular music was written.

But the critics didn’t fully take account of quite what a great song “Call Me Maybe” was, and how it tapped into the consciousness of music fans, old and young.

Yes, it’s a well-constructed, light, bright song with a level of catchiness you don’t often come across. That certainly helped.

But “Call Me Maybe” has two important twists in its plot. Those probably did the rest of the heavy lifting required to launch the song into the pop music stratosphere.

The first plot twist is that “Call Me Maybe” is about a girl reaching out to a guy.

It’s a long time since I was a teenager, but it was unheard of then for girls to ask guys out, and I’m not sure it’s significantly more common nowadays…at least when done in person, face to face, rather than via some app or other.

Not that this is a good thing…for either girls or guys. I struggle now, as I struggled while growing up, with the concept that one gender is there “to be pursued” and the level of disapproval too often meted out to young women who want make their own choices in life rather than having some guy make all the choices on their behalf.

But, whether or not you share my views on that subject, I’m sure you’ll admit that girls singing about asking guys out is a relatively rare subject for a pop song.

Girls hoping some guy will ask them out — there’s a bazillion songs about that. It’s well-trodden turf. But taking the initiative themselves…almost unheard of…

I threw a wish in the well
Don’t ask me I’ll never tell
I looked at you as it fell
And now you’re in my way
I’d trade my soul for a wish
Pennies and dimes for a kiss
I wasn’t looking for this
But now you’re in my way

What makes “Call Me Maybe” a different song than you might think at first, given its theme of an empowered women asking a man out, is that her approach is not what my grandmother used to describe as “rather too forward”.

Instead, it’s almost apologetic. That brings a degree of innocence to what might otherwise have been seen as a little tawdry, and makes “Call Me Maybe” into a song that doesn’t take itself too seriously. That deftness in handling what could have been a tricky subject is one of the elements that gives the song its charm.

This comes out particularly in the video. Carly Rae Jepsen has clearly told her bandmates about this guy she fancies and so, like groups of friends do everywhere, they try to put her in situations where the boy next door might be tempted to come up and talk to her…perhaps even ask her out on a date…

Hey, I just met you and this is crazy
But here’s my number so call me maybe
It’s hard to look right at you baby
But here’s my number, call me maybe
Hey, I just met you and this is crazy
But here’s my number so call me maybe
And all the other boys try to chase me
But here’s my number, so call me maybe

This is the key…all the other boys try to chase me, but somehow you don’t. She’s not sure why, but Carly Rae Jepsen wants the guy to know she’s interested.

So she washes her car, in what she imagines is an alluring manner, in the hope that he’ll look across and catch her eye, but he’s listening to music on his headphones while fixing his own car in the next-door driveway. He’s completely oblivious to Carly Rae Jepson’s increasingly desperate attempts to get him to notice her.

Eventually she falls off the bonnet of her car (for non-Brits, that’s what’s called “the hood” in other parts of the world) and we presume she must have let our a scream of panic as she falls, which actually does catch the attention of the guy next door.

By the time he gets next door to help, Carly Rae Jepsen is in a daze and imagining herself and the guy next door starring in a remake of some romantic melodrama.

But finally, at least he’s in her driveway and paying attention to her. So Carly Rae Jepson plucks up the courage to sing her song about asking him out while he rests on the bonnet of her now-shiny car…

Hey, I just met you and this is crazy
But here’s my number, so call me maybe
And all the other boys try to chase me
But here’s my number, so call me maybe

Our romantic interest from next door listens politely and claps at the end of her performance, but while Carly Rae Jepsen is writing down her phone number for this guy in what she imagines is the perfect moment to ask him out, our hunk next door walks across to one of the guys in her band and gives him his phone number instead. The expressions on the faces of Carly Rae Jepsen and her guitarist are just perfect and still make me chortle.

That’s the second twist in our tale. It turns out that, even if Carly Rae Jepson had been successful in attracting his attention earlier, it wouldn’t have made any difference at all. She was never in her next-door neighbour’s preferred target group in the first place.

That little plot twist made the video for “Call Me Maybe” instantly popular and it’s since gone on to amass over 1 billion views on YouTube, making Carly Rae Jepsen’s song one of the most viewed music videos of all time.

Getting “Call Me Maybe” to Number One around the world wasn’t easy, and no one element made it into the monster hit it was back in 2012. The individual elements were, of course, excellent — the songwriting, the performance, the studio production, the video and…my favourite bit…the very catchy strings, even if they were done on a synthesiser.

But when all those individually-excellent elements were put together, the stars somehow aligned and Carly Rae Jepsen had a worldwide Number One smash hit on her hands.

If you got a bit over-exposed to “Call Me Maybe” a few years ago when it dominated pop radio’s airplay charts, please give this charming and lighthearted song another try.

It’s a splendid piece of pop which delivers a lot more than a casual listen might lead you to believe. I’m pretty sure kids several generations from now will still reference “Call Me Maybe” in their own songs and artistic endeavours.

It’s become one of those rare songs that crosses generational, musical and cultural boundaries. Just about everyone in the world knows “Call Me Maybe”, so even though you don’t hear it on the radio much anymore, the song’s place in the cultural fabric of the world is assured for as long as pop music exists.

Written by Carly Rae Jepsen, Josh Ramsey (who also produced the record) and Tavish Crowe, here’s a timely reminder that love’s path doesn’t always run smoothly…

It’s Carly Rae Jepsen with “Call Me Maybe”…

The video is below, but if you prefer you can listen to the track on Spotify herehttps://open.spotify.com/track/20I6sIOMTCkB6w7ryavxtO

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Without words, it’s just a nice tune. Add words — now you’ve got a song. And songs can change your world. I write about some that changed mine.

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