Feature

How To Solve A Problem Like Carly Rae

Picture the scene. Early 2012, and nobody outside of Canada has ever heard of Carly Rae Jepsen. (In Canada she went on Pop Idol a few years ago, came fourth, and subsequently released an album on the back of this.)

We remember the very first time we heard ‘Call Me Maybe’. Our Canadian friend Meagan told us it was smashing over there and warned us to watch out for it.

Fast-forward to the end of 2012, and Carly Rae has scored probably the most ubiquitous pop-song of the year, achieved fame and record sales beyond her wildest dreams.

But what happened next? We suppose ‘Good Time’ (with Owl City) must be considered her ‘follow-up single’, and that did OK. It certainly stuck around on the radio, and eventually elbowed its way onto our list of favourite songs released in 2012, due entirely to Carly’s feature on the song.

“Proper” follow up single (ie not released with an Owl City “Ft” Carly Rae tag) ‘This Kiss’ has completely bombed. Worldwide. This despite it being about 62% better than global megasmash ‘Call Me Maybe’. Outside of South Korea’s “International chart”, it didn’t chart top 20 in any territory, only top 30 in Canada, and barely top 40 here in the UK and New Zealand. Flopping on this scale for a second single is pretty unprecedented for any of the pop girls. Even Ke$ha, with her current lacklustre sales, would be hard-pressed to flop as much. Only Christina and Madonna find themselves in as awkward a position, but unlike Carly Rae, they are established acts and can rely on their past successes, back catalogues and touring sales to keep them afloat. Carly Rae needs to make her label money to justify continued investment in her as a viable pop singer. Her career will not last long if ‘Call Me Maybe’ remains as her only smash.

‘This Kiss’ is an excellent pop song. Lyrically, Carly Rae admits to being a bit of a player in order to get some attention; we love the self-awareness she possesses, when she knows that she shouldn’t be kissing another bloke, but she just can’t resist and so obviously decides to sing a pop song about the experience. In this way it’s an honest, candid song. Conceptually, then, we’re talking a 10/10 affair. The first two lines, ’I went out last night / I’m going out tonight again’ just sums up perfectly the joy of going out on the town. We absolutely adore the use of ‘detrimental’ in the chorus. We appreciate the use of such, a long word, which will increase the vocabulary of her pre-teenage fans. Carly Rae’s vocals hit just the right spot; not too saccharine (which was our biggest problem with ‘Call Me Maybe’), not too raw. We would class them as ‘nicely processed’ without being too Ke$hafied. Redfoo from LMFAO is on production duties and does a nice job, ensuring the song is not as bland as ‘Call Me Maybe’ (that’s our second biggest problem with ‘Call Me Maybe.’) It has a Fiat 500 in the video, following the tradition set by modern Latin-pop classic, Papi. It has all the ingredients to be a good song. No, scrap that, this song is more than good. ‘Call Me Maybe’ was good. ‘This Kiss’ is great.

We understand the difficulties of releasing a new song whilst radio is still hammering your old song. This is particularly problematic in the US, of course, but it applies here in the UK too, with us hearing ‘Call Me Maybe’ literally every time we switch onto our local commercial station ‘Heart’, and also often in ‘stick-a-donk-on-it’ remix form on Kiss, even now. Nonetheless, ‘This Kiss’ just hasn’t stuck with the public at all, which has been its biggest problem. We fear (and our fear is probably already too late) that Carly Rae just isn’t sticking with the public as a popstar. Maybe it’s her perceived lack of personality. Maybe it’s the fact that despite being aged 27, she comes across as though she’s 19. Maybe it’s the fact that her only obvious demographic is girls up to the age of 13. But one thing we know. Whereas we see her as a pleasant vehicle for good pop tuneage, in the mould of Pixie Lott (but obviously a superior version), and would like her to remain a popsinger for at least a couple more years, the music-buying public have already filed ‘Call Me Maybe’ alongside ‘Gangnam Style’ and Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’ as ‘novelty song’. (On a theoretical level, we think perhaps popsongs can’t go ‘viral’ the way all three songs did, in the present internet climate, without being seen as a bit of a joke, despite the fact that all 3 of them were seriously produced as ‘good’ pop songs.) And it is this, more than anything, which has damaged her image, her career, and this which will see her become a one-hit wonder (although as discussed above, her song with Owl City kind-of makes her a one-and-a-half-hit wonder.)

The label’s response to the problem of Carly Rae? Chuck out, as her next single, a truly awful song. We made a couple of tweets on our personal account about this, and truly angry we were. ‘Tonight I’m Getting Over You’ has some truly odd production on it whereby at the point where the chorus comes in (1:03), complete with a dubstep/EDM-like backing, it literally sounds like Carly Rae’s vocals have been mixed with the wrong backing track (of a completely different song) in a massive studio cock-up. What could be a really good song (as a mid-tempo or more likely, a ballad) is completely ruined by this bizzare and frankly crap backing track. We know ‘popstep’ has become a bit of a trend, an answer for lazy A&Rs to increase the appeal of pop music to those traditionally not fans, but this is the biggest major label fail we can recall in recent times. Like, ever. It is horrendous.

It truly is awful.

It too will bomb, and then sadly, Carly Rae will never be seen or heard of ever again except in Canada, where she will be the star attraction of gay pride parades for years to come.

You read it here first.

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