Now, I’m not saying these are my two favourite songs of 2012, exactly ... but I might be.
(And, as if it needed to be any more explicit, Pryde’s haha i’m sorry EP, opens with a song sampling/covering/taking the piss out of Jepsen’s masterpiece.)
One of them is pure summery POP!, the joy of the first time and the stolen look; the other scuzzy-edged hip hop, the joy of teenage obsession and the stolen piece of clothing. Call Me Maybe glossy and locomotive, Okay Cupid is woozy and atmospheric, pushed along by blurry Weekndesque beats, the sound of something just kicking innnn.
Where Okay Cupid goes in for a wealth of detail (cigarette breath, drunk dials at 3:30am, Frank Ocean) Call Me Maybe is all broad strokes (trading phone numbers, ripped jeans, just knowing). It’s the kind of pop song that could be about anyone, its signifiers borrowed more from what we’re told love is like than what it tends to actually be like. That’s no bad thing, of course, because a) hormones and b) Call Me Maybe is being delivered to directly to the subject of affection.
It’s a girl laying it all on the line but trying to play it cool, a bit (after all, Jepsen is quick to remind her beau that plenty of other boys are trying to chase her), and you’re the “You”, and you can’t really imagine saying no to that maybe.
Okay Cupid is delivered at someone, kind of. Certainly, it uses the “You”, but it’s a scrapbook, Facebook-album version of you that’s being talked to. The song is pretty clearly positioned in the bedroom, that sanctuary of living with your parents, from the “get out of my roooommm! blerghhhhh!” epigraph – and it’s hard to imagine Kitty’s anything but alone there. Which is how you know she means it all.
It’s still a performance, though. Pryde plays the teenage girl role for all it’s worth, fetishistically working the divide between innocence and experience. She dips in and out of making silly noises in a way not seen since the sainted Cher Lloyd, her delivery equal parts bored drawl and playground giggle. Pryde’s voice is sweet but there’s something in it that’s kind of crusty, like nicotine-stained fingers – or like someone worked back from Ke$ha’s projected image and made music that actually fits it, and that I actually like.
…There’s lots to grab onto in Okay Cupid. That’s part of its pleasure. The joys of Call Me Maybe are harder to describe – especially trying to find something to say that’s not entirely redundant given that you’ll, stone-cold guarantee, already be familiar with it.
Kitty Pryde may be named for my favourite X-Man, but it’s Jepsen who feels like the superhero. Some of what she says suggests she’s vulnerable, but the music surrounding her just makes her sound invincible.
It’s teen-mag glossy. It’s a pop force of nature. It just sort of is.
And the second it’s over, it’s already a bit hazy, just one long unending chorus in my memory. Which feels fully appropriate, given what it’s about.
What it’s about, what songs are about, being: the crush as fantasy. In one case in the knight-in-shining-armour sense, in the other the hands-down-your-pants sense. Although, actually, honestly, the latter could be true of either song. The only reason you know Carly doesn’t have her hand stuck firmly down the front of her jeans is that it’s hard to imagine anyone managing to sing Call Me Maybe without at least a few cheesy arms-in-the-air dance moves.
Really, like any mirror image, they’re not that far away from each other. It’s not as simple as one squeaky clean Hollywood romance and one ironically distant and kind of dirty. After all, it might be Jepsen giving off Disney Princess vibes, but it’s Pryde that explicitly mentions being one. It might be Pryde that talks about sex, but it’s Jepsen that’s getting laid.
When Jepsen invokes selling her soul, the song’s so sincere you can’t help but believe she really means it.
There’s a sneer in Pryde’s voice, especially put next to the earnestness of Jepsen, but there’s genuine romantic sentiment in there too, mixed up with all the sexual longing and grandstanding.
It’s essentially the same story of a one-way relationship – not unrequited, quite, but not exactly mutual either. It’s roughly the same (universal, Pop-Platonic) ideas, through a different filter.
They’re almost the same song, or at least two sides of some multi-dimensional hypersong, giving each other light and shade, feeding into one another to complete the circle of how (I imagine) it feels to be a teenage girl in lust.
And that’s the story of how I made my own favourite album of the summer, just by gluing the two songs to the back of each other.
(And yes, I’m aware that Call Me Maybe kind of came out in 2011. But only in Canada, which really doesn’t count.)