Over the past one-hundred days, I have most definitely been alive, and as such have certainly bought clothes, spent time in an Applebee's, listened to the radio, been on the Internet, had conversations with actual human beings and watched programming on the CW ("Hart of Dixie," I wish I knew how to quit you). Which is why it is somewhat troubling that, until this week, I hadn't heard
After all, during that time, it has become the most ubiquitous song in the universe (or at least the most ubiquitous one not named "Somebody That I Used to Know"), rising to the top of the Billboard pop chart — she's the first female artist to claim the top spot with a debut single since Adele — earning covers by everyone from Justin Bieber and Katy Perry to Fun. and the Harvard University baseball team, and racking up more than 104 million views on YouTube (where it's currently the site's most-viewed music video).
None of this is exactly surprising. After all, "Call Me Maybe" is probably the most perfect pop song of 2012, sterling-silver shiny and full of sappy, sweet sentiments, it is an alarmingly effective melding of dance pomp and Disney circumstance ... with a chorus to match. And you get the feeling that, with summer nearly upon us, its reign is only beginning, and soon it will overtake "Somebody" as the song your aunt writes about on Facebook. And yet, I find myself conflicted by all of this.
Its rise to ubiquity has left me wondering if I am truly capable of doing this job anymore. This has nothing to do with the song itself, but everything to do with its very existence ... mostly in that I was completely unaware it existed in the first place. In hindsight, this seems almost implausible — after all, it is probably playing somewhere in your general vicinity at this very second (maybe you are listening to it right now) — and, really, how am I supposed to consider myself a music journalist if hadn't heard it once over the past three months? Was I that out of touch? Do I hang out with the wrong people? Had I really spent that much time interviewing Japandroids? These are the things that keep me awake at night.
I'll admit, I was panicked. I began updating my resume. But then, roughly around the 15th time I listened to "Call Me Maybe" on Tuesday (my officemate loves me), I realized something important: I actually had heard the song — many, many times, in fact. But only in bits and pieces; the plucky intro in a pizzeria, those saccharine string stabs slithering from the window of a passing car, that "I missed you so, so bad" outro ... I had never actually put them all together and realized they were part of the same song. And then it dawned on me that perhaps that was the reason for its success: it is less of a song as it is a collection of fascinating parts, each as easily digestible and appealing as the last, each meant to appeal to someone somewhere. In fact, you could probably re-arrange them in any order and the end result would be the same: "Hey, I like this!"
And sure, you could argue that all solid pop tunes are basically created in the same mold, but in some way, "Call Me Maybe" is different. It seems custom-built for the fickle and fleeting attention spans of the public: You can hear any three seconds of it anywhere — between stations on the radio, over the end credits of a TV show, at H&M — and instantly be drawn in. Compare its structure to other recent ubiquitous hits — like Fun.'s "We Are Young," any of Adele's melodramatic missives, and, of course, "Somebody That I Used to Know" — and you'll notice that they all seem practically leaden by comparison. They are traditional songs. "Maybe" is a glorious assortment of glimmering bits, expertly crafted to latch on to your subconscious and never let go. It is, in parts, a dance tune, a feathery pop ballad, a tween-aged heartbreaker, a light-FM sorta-rocker, a Disney Radio staple ... oh, and Jepsen's Canadian to boot. No pop movement from the past few years goes untouched. There's truly something for everyone.
So, in case you're wondering, I'm not worried anymore. I am not clueless or out of step ... I simply fell victim to the rather devious machinations of "Call Me Maybe." It is the song you can't un-hear, even if you've just heard a few fleeting seconds of it. And while it may not be the smartest pop song of all time, I'm here to tell you it just might be the most brilliant. Or at least the most brilliantly constructed. Well played, Jepsen ... well played.