Posted by: dougery | June 22, 2012

Thoroughly Unnecessary Song Explication File #233: Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe”

Last time around Thoroughly Unnecessary Song Explication Files (TUSEF) went a little bit country. The time before that we went oldskool. Today we’ll be discussing the #1 song on the Billboard top 40 as of Friday, June 22, 2012. What I’m saying is I’m making a concerted effort to stay ‘hip’ and ‘so fresh and so clean, clean’ even if this means listening and explicating the hilariously inconsequential  “Call Me Maybe.”

[Verse 1]

I threw a wish in the well

This song begins with what is  either a fairly sophisticated bit of metonymy (busting out the AP English literary terms on dat azz, or something), you know the metaphorical term where a closely related word stands in for the thing that is actually meant (saying “the crown” when one is talking about “the king,” etc) or an incredibly imprecise bit of songwriting. Guess which one I think it is! Carly, honey, did you actually throw your wish down the well? Because that seems wasteful. Are you sure you didn’t mean to say you threw a coin down a wishing well instead?

Don’t ask me, I’ll never tell

Fine, sheesh, I was only wondering…

I looked to you as it fell,
And now you’re in my way

I’ll be honest, for a breezy pop song, these lyrics are confusing as hell to read. They also ask the listener to make a lot of assumptions. The ‘you’ Miss Jepsen refers to here has to be the boy she’s crushing on, right? You wouldn’t make a wish (to be with someone, for somebody to love you back, etc) while staring at some random asshole you didn’t like. And yet now she’s claiming the person she’s looking at is ” in my way.” Which I tend to read as “you’re standing between me and what I want.” This might very well also mean “you’re preventing me from having what I want by not liking me back” but dude, c’mon, I shouldn’t have to work this hard.

I trade my soul for a wish

Shucks, babe. You wouldn’t have had to do that if you hadn’t thrown your wish down the freaking well. Remember that Simpsons episode where Bart sells his soul to Milhouse? And he tries to walk inside the Kwik-E-Mart but the automatic doors don’t open for him (’cause apparently doors like that operate by scanning patrons for their everlasting souls) and he faceplants into the glass? Yeah, I’m totally picturing Carly walking face-first into a pair of automatic sliding doors.

Pennies and dimes for a kiss

Because apparently we’re now at a carnival or some kid’s birthday party in the 1960s and somebody has set up a kissing booth.

I wasn’t looking for this
But now you’re in my way

But didn’t you just wish, like just a few lines back, for some love related outcome? You were totally looking for this! So much so that you traded your soul and gave away a bunch of near worthless coins for a little bit of PDA. And now you don’t want it anymore? Gah.


Your stare was holdin’, ripped jeans skin was showin’

Ah yes, the lovelorn stare. Among the great many cultural abominations the Twilight movies have released upon the world, Pattinson and Stewart’s endless, plaintive-or-maybe-I’m-just-trying-to-fart staring is among the most contemptible. Because its not creepy to stare at someone for far too long. Well, so long as you are an abstinence vampire.

Hot night, wind was blowin’
Where do you think you’re going, baby?

Look lady, he’s either holdin’ his stare or he’s walking away but we can’t have both. Well, I suppose we could, but then we’d end up with that guy looking over his shoulder for too long Meet Joe Black moment where Brad Pitt stares and walks and thus gets hit by like, 5 cars and a bus.


Hey, I just met you
and this is crazy
but here’s my number
so call me, maybe?

Let’s be honest. The sole reason this song has become ubiquitous is this super catchy chorus. There is a universal quality to it, a wholesomeness that seems to backdate it to a time when saying ‘baby’ in a pop song was risque. Sure, it’s message is pseudo-progressive. The whole girl asking out the guy thing, or at least the girl taking the first step thing, but still. Replace ‘crazy’ with whatever buzzword was popular in any of the previous 4 decades and this chorus easily crosses the divide. And then there’s that word ‘call’. ‘Call’ feels almost antiquated in and of itself. I figured kids just texted and messaged each other on FB now, reserving actual person-to-person conversation for dates at the movies where everyone is shushing them to shut up.

It’s hard to look right
at you, baby

Here the chorus is unexpectedly clever, linebreak-wise. If you stop reading at the end of the first line you get the anxiety, particularly intense to the demographic this song was written for, of trying so hard to look good or at least fit in (“look right” can mean a lot of things). And then ‘boom,’ she’s not worrying about being fashionable at all, she’s just so smitten she can’t look at ‘you, baby.’ Awwww.

But here’s my number
So call me, maybe?

I just noticed that the song title is ‘Call Me Maybe’ and not ‘Call Me, Maybe.’ So instead of “It would be nice if you called me, alright?” the song’s title is actually an invocation for the listener to call Carly Rae Jepsen ‘Maybe.’ Like as a name. Which isn’t entirely flattering. Calling somebody ‘Maybe’ is like saying sure, “you’re alright, but I’ma keep my options open here, ‘kay, babe?” I think I’d rather just be called ‘No.’

[Repeat first stanza of chorus]

And all the other boys,
Try to chase me
But here’s my number
So call me, maybe?

Unfortunately the chorus does end on a sour note. The whole ‘all the boys like me but I want the one I can’t have’ thing is, well, gross. It also undermines the whole wishing for love theme. It’s a lot more cute/romantic if you’re pining for love because nobody likes you. If you’re doing it even though everybody already likes you then you’re kind of the wish equivalent of a slut.

[Verse 2]

You took your time with the call,
I took no time with the fall

“Falling in love,” is a wonderful phrase for a great many reasons, it adds a physicality and vertigo to the act which is apt, but here we have the phrase chopped in half and the connotation changes, at least for me. Now we’re talking about “the fall” and this has all kinds of fun garden of Eden / biblical symbolism. Do I think this is intentional? Probably not, but still.

You gave me nothing at all,
But still, you’re in my way

As far as one can understand such things, this is the status quo of tween girl romance. The more “nothing” he provides, the more you want him, blah blah blah. And yet Miss Jepsen remains shocked he’s still “in my way” which I now read as ‘the unrequited object of my desire.’

I beg, and borrow and steal

Stop. Just stop. I hate that cliche, oh god how I loathe this cliche.

At first sight and its real
I didn’t know I would feel it
but its in my way

The fascination that love songs have with what is ‘real’ and what is ‘fake’ is pretty damn trite. Just once I’d like for someone to search far and wide for ‘fake’ love. And not just, you know, the song version of a booty call, not that kind o ‘fake’ love. Because there are plenty of those kind of songs. I’m talking about some kind of hyper-aware post-humanist ballad detailing the pleasures and hoop-jumping of what cynical prigs would classify love, as a hopelessly false construct. But then I may as well be reading literary criticism. I take it all back. I throw my wish in the well!

[Repeat Bridge]

[Repeat Chorus]

[Swing Verse]

Before you came into my life
I missed you so bad
I missed you so bad

One more time?

I missed you so, so bad.

Oh, you missed him so bad. Thanks for repeating for repeating for repeating yourself.

Before you came into my life
I missed you so bad

Alright I get it!

And you should know that
I missed you so, so bad

*Defenestrates self*
*Reflects while falling that I left the song playing*
*Refenestrates self, turns off song*
*Jumps back out window with a clean conscience*

[Repeat Chorus]

[Modified Swing Verse as Coda]

Before you came into my life
I missed you so bad
And you should know that
So call me, maybe?

The way this song ends screams to me that

a) They had no idea how to finish the damn thing
b) They had already padded the thing to an unsupportable length
c) They had veered a bit to far from the song’s one redeeming factor so
d) They end things the only way they possibly can by dredging the chorus back, maybe?

See you next time!



  1. I’m so glad you did this. I’m real mad at this song for being so stupid and so in my head and the same time that I’ve been sort of collecting parodies and spoofs from my fellow love-haters. My brother sent me this:

    • It’s all chorus. I’m 100% sure they reverse engineered the song from those final two lines.

      A predictable and insufferable meme sprang up, not surprisingly. I combed through the ‘best of’ the meme and laughed once or twice, but considering I needed to read 30 of them, that’s one piss poor batting average.

      I look forward to the youtube…

  2. I love these TUSE’s! Just FYI, you know YOU were a wish I threw in the well, right? Maybe?

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