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Davis, California

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Column: Call me definitely

This will come as no surprise to anyone who spent more than three minutes with me this weekend, but “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen may just be the crowning achievement of the human race.

Because I could write 8,000 words on the violin composition alone I think it’ll be best to break this down in an organized way.

So first, there’s the Justin Bieber/Selena Gomez music video of Bieber and his crew lip syncing the song. The tween power couple invited over some friends and made a terrible video, but I guess people liked it enough and the song blew up. I’ve been told Biebs signed Carly Rae Jepsen to his label or something.

Next, the Harvard Baseball team did their own homage to the song with a lip sync plus some dance in a van on a road trip.  Although well-executed, the moves were boring and I still can’t believe I watched the whole thing.

Now, fast forward to this weekend. For whatever reason, I woke up on Friday with the song in my head, yet I only knew a few lyrics. You know how that goes. I downloaded the song before going out with plans to drop the song when the moment was right.

At a friend’s house, I manned the auxiliary cable. When I sensed the moment was right, I cued up my girl to play next. Before I could even get to the second verse of my favorite Robyn song, I was approached by two such people who were looking to hear “Call Me Maybe.”

I told them that believe it or not, Carly Rae was coming up next, but they weren’t having it. They needed it now. I sensed the urgency and cut off Robyn. The violins kicked in and soon the party was swinging its hips to the verse, building up to the crescendo that is the chorus.

When it hit, it was clear what was happening. We party-goers looked into each others’ eyes without shame or inhibition. Strangers moments ago, now passengers together on a journey to the unknown, we sang loud and without fear, never more aware of our own mortality or sobriety of our future-selves. And that was before we even put it on loop.

After the third play, I realized that there was nothing else left to do but to text everyone in my phonebook with “Call me maybe.” I received a multitude of responses, some comical, some excited and some shocked that I would endorse such a “mainstream song.”

But this wasn’t about what is mainstream or what is cool. In an hour or so, the song had transcended pop, music and mainstream culture. The line “call me maybe” is so multi-dimensional and telling of our generation that it’s almost shocking it took until 2012 for someone to come up with it. The advent of cellphones has made concrete plans non-existent. You can call me, or not call me; no biggie.

But the juicier meaning is probably that of the balance between insecurity and confidence in our modern dating scene. “Maybe” acts as a sort of barrier or shield as we’re hesitant to go “all in” in today’s “hook-up” generation. The line speaks to the power balance of courtship, maintaining a nonchalance that’s undoubtedly attractive, especially in a casual sense.

As I made my way to the bars, telling everyone I passed to “call me, maybe” was as much a proclamation of youthful empowerment as it was an invitation to actually give me a ring on my telephone, maybe.

The next morning I was directed to the official music video which changed my life forever. In obvious opposition to Laura Mulvey’s male gaze theory, Carly, who is 25 but looks 16, creeps on a good-looking guy from her bedroom window. The guy takes his shirt off to reveal a number of tattoos because I guess having “the sky is the limit” tatted across your collarbone is what it takes to be a male model these days.

Carly sings in a garage with her band who looks like they just finished opening for Yellowcard and the video cuts to images of Carly trying to get the guy’s attention.  When she finally does, we are hit with the greatest plot twist in music video history since “Trapped in the Closet.” Carly’s crush is gay. BOOM.

I’m just shocked. Carly’s flipped this whole song on its head. The video that seemed to be the definition of male objectification, turned into a statement on heteronormativity. What can’t you do, Carly Rae?

If you want to use a different gender theorist to dissect the video, you can e-mail ANDY VERDEROSA, maybe at asverderosa@ucdavis.edu.



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