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Archive for the ‘Carly Rae Jepsen’ Category

I set up this blog with the intention of showing you how easy it is to close read language. It’s when you take the time to look at words, phrases and sounds in serious detail that you come up with original thoughts about a poem. And when you’re talking about poems or books that have been discussed over and over again, an original thought is GOLDEN.

To try and hammer home to you just how easy it is, I have a chosen to analyse Carly Rae Jepsen’s seminal piece ‘Call me Maybe’. You may know her from works such as… no wait, just that one.

hey i just met you

In case you are unfamiliar with her work, here it is in all its resplendent glory:

I’ll just look at the first four verses. It’s long and stuff pretty much just gets repeated. Over and over.

I threw a wish in the well,
Don’t ask me, I’ll never tell
I looked to 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

Your stare was holdin’,
Ripped jeans, skin was showin’
Hot night, wind was blowin’
Where do you think you’re going, baby?

Hey, I just met you
And this is crazy
But here’s my number
So call me, maybe?

Let’s start with Jepsen’s clever play with rhythm. The first three lines each contain 7 syllables, and for the first four syllables of each line, there is a hint of iambic rhythm: unstressed followed by stressed syllable. (See my post on meter for more explanation of this!) We have “I THREW a WISH”. But then we end with “in the WELL” – a three syllable anapaestic foot (unstressed, unstressed, stressed) that allows Jepsen to end with emphasis on the main rhyming sound of this stanza: ‘ell’. It gets repeated three times.

We see the same thing in the next stanza: “I’d trade my soul for a wish.” Note here how the ‘iss’ sound seems to gets passed through the stanza. But Jepsen, fiendish lyrical mastermind, is a fan of ­half-rhymes. “Wish” does not fully rhyme with kiss. Is this a product of laziness – of the senseless, manufactured, hit-hammering, plastic pop-paganda music industry?!? NO! We are of course overlooking the bigger picture! Jepsen is simply rejecting the frequently delimiting nature of a strict rhyming pattern, instead allowing her meaning to transcend what began life as a self-imposed pattern. The sound ‘iss/ish’ washes comfortably through the passage. It remains distinctive enough to feel part of a definite rhyming schema.

carly rae quote

Even more inspirational writing from Jepsen. 60 unfilled diaries’ worth. Celebquote.com

The refrain line “But now you’re in my way” is perhaps the cleverest part of the whole song. Notice how the 7 syllable pattern, the iambic/anapaestic hybrid line, gets broken here. We now have SIX syllables, and the rhyming word we have grown to know vanishes. Instead, Jepsen laments that a young man is obstructing her way, just as she obstructs the rhyming pattern. Oh you couldn’t write this stuff!* Genius! I beat my fists upon the ground in delirious awe of you, ye silver-tongued songstress!

*(She probably didn’t)

Now the tension is buildin’. We’re at the bridge. We powerfully hear Jepsen’s Canadian twang, helpfully represented by the elision of the g that creates the word endin’ of the participle ‘holding’. It also feels colloquial. “Your stare was holdin’” – now that’s not a real sentence. Holding what? Is it grammatically incorrect in order to imitate the informal speech of young, hip, grammatically incorrect Jepsen? Or is it purposefully unfinished – an enigmatic introduction to a male figure that proves equally enigmatic? Or does it rush past its own conclusion, caught up in the verse’s spine-tingling acceleration towards the explosive climax of ‘HEY I JUST MET YOU’.

We’re at the chorus. Overcome with a kind of babbling, euphoric hysteria as she speaks to the young man, Jepsen – and oh my, oh boy is this crazy, no seriously, it really is unhinged – Jepsen HANDS OVER HER TELEPHONE NUMBER. We’re hurried through the chorus in breathless, unpunctuated excitement; the conjunctions that begin lines 2, 3, 4, “and” “but” and “so” respectively, give the semblance of logical progression – as if Jepsen is constructing an argument that has reached its conclusion, something suggested by the summarising ‘so’ of the last line. But do not be fooled! We know that handing over your phone number to a stranger is almost unacceptably kooky. Jepsen structures the verse to give the impression of rational thought but in reality, this is a woman too adrenalized by her erotic encounter to do anything calmly. Asking him to call! Well, I never.

It is not uncommon to chance upon a blogger analysing cheesy pop. Rebecca Black’s unforgettable ‘Friday’ is a must-have set-piece. Here’s one analysis.  Here’s another.

Steph Hicks has written a more serious post about the poetry of modern pop. A lot of people agree with her! What do you think?

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