There’s a moment in The Simpsons when Martin Prince listens to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Cut to the Feeling” and says with hope in his voice, “Soon I’ll be queen of summertime.”
And of course, he is wrong, largely because this episode actually aired more than 20 years ago, long before anyone had heard "Cut to the Feeling" — but much more importantly, because there can only be one queen of summertime, and her name is Carly Rae. Ever since “Call Me Maybe” back in 2012, she's been the official spokesperson for the most Instagrammable season — and now she'll likely stay that way forever.
To find a universally beloved song that also embodies the spirit of summer is almost impossible. Our tastes depend on genre, artist, a hook’s catchiness, and whether we’ve reached peak Drake. (Spoiler alert: We haven’t, nor will we ever.) Summer jams depend on our tolerance for their repetition, our capacity for spoofs, and whether we have an existing affinity — or dislike — for the collaborating artists involved. This year, contenders for Song of the Summer™ range from “Despacito” (Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, and Justin Bieber) to “I’m the One” (DJ Khaled, Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper, and Lil Wayne) to that Liam Payne ... thing. And while these songs are catchy, chart-climbing, and even danceable, none compare to the truest banger of all: “Cut to the Feeling.”
To start, both Carly Rae and all of us know that “Call Me Maybe” is an untouchable single — one so catchy and joyous and singable that, five years after the fact, we still remember the words and recite them to ourselves before we go to sleep at night. (And I know that’s not just me.) So while not as culturally relevant (read: heard everywhere and anywhere), 2015’s Emotion and 2016’s B-side collection still brought us many singles of equal greatness, ranging from the sweeping “Run Away with Me” to the heartbreaking “Your Type.” Ultimately, the fact that Jepsen’s words and melodies resonate, affect, and make us want to take to the streets in celebration is no secret — but it's her latest offering that has truly crowned her as our queen of summertime.
Drawing from the ’80s-centric sound that defines so much of her music, Carly Rae uses “Cut to the Feeling” to draw on our affinity for nostalgia, catapulting us straight to what we spend the most time waiting for in Top 40 songs: heart. Within mere seconds, she makes us want to do exactly what she’s singing about — break through the ceiling, dance on roofs, and (wait for it) cut to the feeling. She offers us the best bits of summer in a minutes-long piece of art and unifies us through the imagery of conquering those seasonal dreams. Summer, after all, is for adventures and fantasies and even magic. And CRJ recognizes that.
Summer is no place for reality. It is a season during which people with jobs are allowed to leave work early on Fridays, because why not? It is defined by a pastime in which grown adults willingly sit on the grass in the park. (Except for me — I hate the summer.) Growing up, we watched coming-of-age summer movies steeped in possibility, in which teens solved mysteries or found romance in the simplest terms. And while a handful of the season’s jams fall into the love-song camp, too many would-be summer anthems are rooted in blah, beige reality. There’s no real magic in this — they could belong to any season. They may make us want to dance, but they certainly don’t correlate with the illogic of abandoning work and fleeing responsibility for the sake of catching a few rays.
But Carly Rae's music does, and always has, and I assume it always will. By capitalizing on the aspects of summer that many of us don’t get to experience as people with jobs, she brings us back to the season’s most magical aspects, using her voice and her hooks to charge us with the belief that summer can deliver anything — even if you’re a person like me, who curses this season outside of the hours spent listening to “Cut to the Feeling” on repeat.
And this, friends, is how you become the queen of summertime. You target any existing youth-centric vulnerabilities and appeal to the sense of summer-centric adventure that often tends to deplete as we grow older. You use classic approaches to pop music and deliver sweeping choruses that work as well in cars and cubicles as they do on bikes and in backyards. You celebrate feelings instead of stifling them. You embody the hope of Martin Prince, ready to usurp the throne of Lisa Simpson, former queen of summertime.