Why Carly Rae Jepsen is the Shakespeare of our Generation: A deep dive into The 2012 hit song “Call Me Maybe”

If you’ve listened to a radio station or music in the past 10 years you have probably heard a pop song or two. You also have probably heard “Call me Maybe” by hit pop sensation: Carly Rae Jepsen who will hereafter be referred to as a “Musical Genius.” 

From the moment Call Me Maybe starts it shows its colors. If you’ve watched the music video we see a short story about Carly who falls for a very attractive guy that mowed her lawn one day while she is reading a very steamy romance novel. Oh yeah. Carly also is in a band. The song starts with “I threw a wish in the well, Don’t ask me I’ll never tell. I look to you as it fell, and now you’re in my way. As we go to the next stanza we zoom in on the steamy romance novel that Carly is reading at the time, reinforcing to the viewers what carly wants out of all of this. The next line reads as “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.” The next part of the song involves The hot guy taking off his shirt as carly sings “Your stare was holdin, ripped jeans skin was showin, hot night wind was blowin, where you think you’re going baby?” 

As he takes his shirt off the camera pans in on his chest showing how attractive this man is and how flustered Carly is at this hot guy. The hot guy then looks towards the window that carly is staring out of as she fans herself with another (assumed) steamy romance novel and then falls to the floor as she cannot hold herself together anymore. 

From the get go we can already tell what this song is about. The line of “I threw a wish in a well, don’t ask me I’ll never tell,” to “I’d trade my soul for a wish, pennies and dimes for a kiss,” shows that the object of Carly’s desires at this moment, The hot guy. Carly wishes she could be with the man, she wishes to do the dirty deeds with the man. This is further reinforced by the description we get of the Hot Guy “Ripped jeans skin was showin, hot night, wind was showin,” All of this is to reinforce the idea that Carly wishes to bone down with the Hot Guy. 

The chorus of the song kicks in with the lines “Hey I just met you, and this is crazy, but here’s my number, so call me maybe.” Carly reiterates how hard it is to look right at you which is reinforced by a moment of the camera looking over the Hot Guy mowing the lawn more with his biceps flexing and then solidifies it by showing him drinking from a water bottle which is a double meaning. Tall drink of water is a phrase that is used to describe someone that is very attractive. The Hot Guy Drinking water is also reinforcing that he is very hot from doing all this manual labor. 

In Act two of the song we learn that the Hot Guy did nothing when carly gave them her number by the lines “You took your time with the call, I took no time with the fall, You gave me nothing at all,” Carly put her heart on the line and then lost it. Furthermore, as most crushes usually go, she does not immediately lose it when it is not reciprocated which we can see in the line that comes after “But still you’re in my way.” The next scene of the music video has two people from Carly’s band giving her a bucket sponge and push her towards a car, she then starts washing the car, which is a common trope in romance movies when a hot guy is the romantic interests next door neighbour. Carly then proceeds to the next line “I beg and borrow and steal, at first sight and it’s real, I didn’t know I would feel it, but it’s in my way” 

When a crush is had, oftentimes a person will try to crush it, especially when we feel that the other person is out of our league. The line “At first sight and it’s real” takes focus away from the rough first line and instead brings the focus back to the crush, but reinforces that Carly does not know anything about the Hot Guy with another trope called “Love at first sight” Carly laments that she didn’t know she would ever feel it but here it is.

We then cut to the chorus as Carly tries to get the Hot guy’s attention by doing increasingly crazy things, but alas, he is wearing headphones and is dead to the world around him. I’d like to point out the fact that throughout every moment of this music video, Carly attempts to get the guy’s attention result in nothing as the guy appears to be blind to her attention and affection. This is brought up in the third act of the song. 

Carly sings the chorus while getting increasingly frustrated that she is being ignored, yet she continues to wash the car. This is admirable. The object of her desire is right there and she continues pushing forwards towards the goal that she wants. We routinely cut back to Carly and her garage band playing the song she is singing, but in these versions she is confident, strong, and most of all, singing for an audience that we cannot see. 

We cut out of a chorus into the mini chorus where we hear the lines “Before you came into my life I missed you so bad, I missed you so bad x2, I missed you so so bad, and you should know that, I missed you so so bad” 

Now to the uninterested watcher/listener this line may not make sense. How does Carly miss a man she has never met before when she says “hey I just met you” 

The idea behind this one is very simple and is deeply relatable to almost anybody who has gotten a crush or gone on a date. 

Remember the moment you first met them, remember the first date. Remember the excitement you felt. The nervousness. Remember hitting it off, or in some cases, hating every single bit of them. It’s one of the best feelings in the world. You get to know someone very well through a date. In every moment we are being open and emotionally vulnerable to them. We wish to please them, or make them happy with gifts of affection or dinner, or entertainment. Sometimes it continues, sometimes it doesn’t. Most of the time we are hurt, sometimes we find what we’re looking for. But in that moment, in that single moment of emotional vulnerability and openness there is joy, hope. Maybe this person will be the one. 

I believe this is what Carly is meaning when she says “I missed you so so bad” 

In the music video this line ends with Carly ridiculously posing on top of the car and the guy finally looks over. He smiles and shakes his head, he is about to look right back down and continue washing when we see Carly slip right off the very wet car that she has been washing. 

She lays on the ground and it cuts away to an unconscious dream of her on the cover of a steamy romance novel where she is gripping the Hot Guy’s shirt while the words “Call me maybe show above. The chorus cuts in again as she rubs her hands up and down his chest as they share a kiss and the dream ends showing Hot Guy over carly and she is making smooching movements with her mouth. She finally wakes up and sees the guy and in a moment of complete power she pulls her garage band into existence, almost as if this had been the plan all along. We now see that the unseen audience Carly has been playing for is Hot Guy. Carly has been playing this song the entire time for him. She throws her heart open in song for this man. then as the chorus fades out and the chord progression attempts to resolve itself, Carly pulls out a piece of paper and a red pen she then scribbles what we assume is her number. But there is a twist. 

Hot Guy walks up to the bassist, hands a piece of paper to him. Bassist opens it and then it shows a number, and then xoxo. 

Carly does not show shock towards Hot Guy. She is not angry at Hot Guy. She is angry at her bassist. 

Call Me Maybe is a song that almost all of us can relate to with it’s lyrics and music video. It’s a story. It pulled no shortage of success in the commercial market as well being Carly’s first big breakthrough into the market of pop music. “Call Me Maybe” was the best selling single of 2012. SInce then she has gone on to create even more musical masterpieces such as “Cut To the Feeling,” and “I Really Like You.” 

But is she the “Shakespeare of our Generation?” One asks themselves. I’d argue yes. While Shakespeare’s plays were much longer than the 3 minutes and 19 seconds that Call Me Maybe takes up, the comedy of Romeo and Juliet can almost be directly applied to Call Me Maybe in ways that are not so obvious. From the direct comedic effect of Hot Guy not falling for Carly but instead the bassist despite singing an entire song showing her feelings that can almost directly take parallel in Romeo and Juliet’s offing themselves despite the fact that they loved each other so much. Had Carly just communicated her feelings to Hot Guy earlier on then the feeling of betrayal from the bassist would sting much less or not happen at all. Both the play and the song has so much romantic buildup towards the two living happily ever after, but the ending of both of their stories is so abrupt and stunted that the comedy is the natural after effect. From the chorus we hear slowing down in the background as Hot Guy makes the universal “Call me gesture,” to the bassist.

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