Monday, March 9th, 2015

Carly Rae Jepsen – I Really Like You



Mo Kim: I stared at the eighth-grader across the soccer field with the lanky legs and the toothy grin: this was a game I had learned to play painfully well, to look but never reach. Even at eleven I knew that there were people and things that my church deemed off-limits, though it took me five more years to find the words for why and another three to unlearn the bitterness that came with them. Which, in a perverse way, leaves me back at square one today, sneaking peeks at the cute boy in the middle of class. But what Carly Rae Jepsen understands so well, the reason why she can capture a nation’s heart with a suggestion to call her maybe, is that liking people is a radical act. It requires courage to admit you want somebody when you’ve been told your entire life that you’re not allowed to have anybody. It leaves you vulnerable, exposes your pain and your insecurity and every reason somebody might look at you and swipe left. And just in time for March, she’s come with an anthem where the drums pound like a heartbeat caught in your throat, where she captures in one “really-really-really-really-really-really” both the giddy joy and the insistent, immature anticipation of love unfulfilled, where the last chorus ends on the question because maybe that’s been the answer we’ve been looking for all along. I should know by now that there’s only so much a song can do, but I really really really really really really hope that this song can do enough.

Crystal Leww: “I Really Like You” sounds like a lot of very distinct and colored moments falling for boys at all the right and all the wrong moments. It sounds like that moment when he pulls you in close and whispers “wow” to only you. It sounds like the pause right before your lips hit his during the phase where you’re just getting to know each other. It sounds like jumping over puddles hand in hand with wild grins. It sounds like a quiet breakfast of pastries with lots of staring and grinning. I have almost forgotten what this is like. It’s a real testament that Carly Rae Jepsen makes me want to try again.

Katherine St Asaph: Carly Rae Jepsen has the perhaps unique ability to turn grown women to tweens at their most burstingly besotted, and so she continues. This song is a crush on ’80s pop (not Taylor Swift, their crush is just the same), how its percussion sounds like heartthumps and how everything is framed in wind-machine billow; specifically I hear “Into the Groove,” but that may be me reading too much into “revela-ation.” This song is feeling so intensely that you overflow into really-really-reallys like a baroque run — wanting more words in the chorus is like wanting more words in the Hallelujah Chorus. This song is about scuttling into the bathroom for 10 minutes before you can enter the room. This song is emoji. This song is texting someone the blushing emoji when what you really mean is hearts-for-eyes. This song is wanting to text them every single goddamn flower and heart and kissy face that emoji has, to string them into a smiley sonnet sequence, but sublimating it all. This song is not perfect — the prechorus is weak, and “in your head” is reused in the second verse when it should obviously be “get you alone”/”hanging on the phone.” And this song is perfect enough. I was annoyed this didn’t come out earlier, when I actually reallly(rlyrlyrlyrlyrly) liked someone, but it couldn’t have; our lord Carly Rae Jepsus never gives us anything we can’t handle. This song has reduced me to an apoplectic fannish squee. Did I say too much?

Jonathan Bogart: I love how seriously she takes the project of making music that describes the emotional realities of people ten, even twenty years her junior. Carly Rae makes perfect YA pop, which makes her eminently dismissible by many, including many in her target audience. But those she touches are touched deeply. I, for example, burst into tears on the final chorus my first time through.

Will Adams: Though it takes sonic cues from 1989 and 1989, “I Really Like You” really could only ever be sung by Carly Rae Jepsen. It’s in the small lyric details that make it sound a good deal more mature than it seems (“how’d we get in this position” or “sipping on your lips”), the endorphin-rush chorus built on the simplest of ideas, and the edge-of-breathless delivery that captures the dizzying feeling of a crush. The comments section will percolate with sneers (“Isn’t she a bit old for this?”), but what they don’t understand — and what Carly Rae does — is that we’re never really done growing up, and that falling in love can feel just as exhilarating in your late 20s as it does in your teens.

Alfred Soto: Not the ’80s but a record imbued with received ideas about The Eighties, “I Really Like You” uses music box squiggles and that walloping beat much the way Haim did in “If I Could Change Your Mind” and Taylor Swift in “All You Had to Do Was Stay”: to project a euphoria beside which words fail, get repeated, or reduced to monosyllabic pointillism. Plus, it sounds fucking great in the car — even that bleh chorus.

Sabina Tang: The instant upfront appeal of a chocolate fudge brownie, or Savage Garden’s chick-a-cherry cola. Per food science, staying power follows from a more complex flavour profile than readily apparent: sweetness that doesn’t cloy. It’s early to say for Carly Rae, but after 18 years I’m still enjoyably surprised by “I Want You” or “To the Moon and Back” over mall food-court speakers.

Sonia Yang: Reads like a sweeter but by no means naïve precursor to Taylor Swift’s “Style.” This is the adrenaline rush of the fall; the thrill hasn’t worn off and left the lovers jaded yet. But underneath there’s a sly acknowledgement that “It’s way too soon, I know this isn’t love.” I especially love how the pre-chorus ends with the instrumentals cutting out completely leaving only Jepsen’s vocals — it makes the “but I need to tell you something” that much more intimate — and then the chorus drops in: a glorious splash of lights.

Tara Hillegeist: Can anyone else in anything like the same musical idiom nail the giddiness of a crush with a clear-eyed read like Carly Rae Jepsen can? How swift the mood pivots from that initial taste of “Losing You”-flavored looseness into space-age sugarshock (it gives me Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century flashbacks!) for the chorus, pratfalls into a literal stutter and hitch of breath, gobsmacked — rougher and rougher turnings of the same emotional tide — until the whole song stops for a double-barreled “I need to tell you something,” and then it all bursts out. The lopsided smile of the prechorus, the honesty of that confession; that wry confidence, that she has already looked at herself so thoroughly from the outside in that she can tease herself for her feelings this honestly for the waiting ears of strangers, and invests herself in the feeling of it, the showing of it, the doing of it, completely regardless. You know the moment it stops being just in her head. 

Dorian Sinclair: When asked to describe his 1972 musical A Little Night Music, Stephen Sondheim characterized its mood as like “whipped cream, with knives peeking through”. It’s a simile that’s stayed with me, and it’s one that comes to mind when I listen to CRJ. Her best songs have a bubblegum effervescence, but one laced with something darker, hungrier. It’s an effective juxtaposition, and one fully present in “I Really Like You”; the childishness of the title phrase becomes much more urgent when paired with the frank carnality of “I want you/do you want me too?” “I Really Like You” may not have the monster hook of “Call Me Maybe” or the cathartic release of my personal fav CRJ track “Tonight I’m Getting Over You”, but it exemplifies that tension — giddiness and anticipation, nervous butterflies and confident desire. Whipped cream and knives.

Luisa Lopez: My favorite thing about Carly Rae Jepsen is the way she lays the groundwork of her music with moments of vicious longing — for sex, for something hurtful, for the hurried end of a love whose rose petals are bleeding all over her verses — then covers them with moments that sound meaningless and words that stutter themselves awake. This makes every song a wonderful treasure hunt, a journey from late nights watching television all the way to I feel I could die walking up to the room, and it’s unfortunate that “I Really Like You” never fully carries its heart to the end of that road so the result is a sound middling around a brook instead of a roar filling up the sea. But it’s a great and giddy chorus and I’m just so happy she’s back. This is really a [7] but my tap dancing heart’s bumping it up to an [8]. 

Abby Waysdorf: One of my favorite bands of all time is Soft Cell. Listening to Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret was life-changing for me, not just because it’s a great album, but because it challenged what I knew about the label “one-hit wonder.” Instead of a band that only had one good song in them, it became a band that had more than the public could pick up on — songs that were just as compelling, often more compelling, than what became the “classic.” As I explored, so many bands that had “one hit” turned out to have so much more going on. I’ve been somewhat reluctant to use the label ever since. Even though “Call Me Maybe” really seemed like it should have it — the way it seemed to come out of nowhere and eclipse everything else, including Jepsen herself: singular and massive and perfectly memorable. Perhaps the best comparison here is not with Soft Cell, whose other songs were just a little too strange for pop radio, but with Stromae, who arrived with a worldwide dance smash and then took several years to craft the follow-up, one that showed how much more he had to offer. It’s not to say that “I Really Like You” is better than “Call Me Maybe,” but it hits those same pop heights alongside an added complexity that shows that there’s always been more to her. Mostly, that she’s been listening to indie-pop darlings like Robyn and Betty Who, adding their slightly angled take on the genre to her own bubbly, wistful persona, creating a glorious bit of sugared desire. Will this be “Papaoutai” or “Where the Heart Is”? Either way, I’m in. 

Brad Shoup: Direct and also directed, like everyone is an object whenever this comes on. That sort of thing is enjoyed sparingly — I won’t be putting Ghost Mice on any time soon — so maybe her intermittent release schedule is for the emotional best. But just like the best Carly Rae Jepsen song is the version of “Tonight I’m Getting Over You” where she opens with “I wanna smash your face,” the ideal “I Really Like You” plays the couplet “who gave you eyes like that/said you could keep them” for quease-making balefulness. And the joke in the video about being pregnant’s there too.

David Sheffieck: “Who gave you eyes like that/Said you could keep them?” would be enough on its own, simultaneously the strangest, creepiest, and sweetest line of the year so far. But it’s the glorious excess of “really” in the hook that makes this a classic, a thematically powerful overindulgence in a qualifying intensifier that’s both smarter than it seems and as irresistibly catchy as it’s possible for a single word to be.

Madeleine Lee: Out of context, all those repetitions in the chorus are wearying, but in context it’s hard to imagine anything else. By context I don’t mean the narrative of Jepsen as rightful pop heir denied a throne, but the context she creates in song: she knows this isn’t love, but what it is she has no word for, only intensifiers. When someone hits on the perfect description for this kind of feeling-for-which-there-are-no-English-words in a Tumblr text post, you hit reblog and add “this.” Here, for a song so winning, “this.” looks like this:

Edward Okulicz: This is the sound of an A+ song that unfortunately only has a C+ chorus.

Micha Cavaseno: Carly Rae appears to have perfected the art of Closing-of-a-Movie music. Her production has always been unidentifiable yet obvious, her phrasing on certain words always too obtrusively distinct. There is no musical comparison for Carly Rae, really. The result: “I Really Like You” sounds like the most “Well, duh” song in the world. She perfectly embodies what you could tell someone pop sounds like without getting too specific. This illusory quality keeps people coming, though also why nobody seems to stick around for her. A very curious game indeed.

Anthony Easton: I am on the jury for the Polaris Prize, which is like the Canadian Mercury, in that it runs indie and is kind of inscrutable. They don’t spend a lot of time considering chart pop, but I have had some conversations with fellow jurors saying that if a pop singer ever breaks through it will be Jepsen. Plus I saw discussions of this single on Stereogum, Vulture, Pitchfork, NPR, and CBC. The video has Justin Bieber and Tom Hanks. It has had dozens of mentions on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. My mother seems to find it pleasant. I’ve heard it on the radio at the small town barber’s,  on Spotify or Rdio at a hipster gallery, on the loudspeakers at Walmart. I have received text messages, phone calls, and emails about it. It seems a symbol for something bland and innocuous that we can impart meaning on, or agree on — a kind of clear text without any difficult formal signification. It will be the song for the summer, in March. There is little I can add to this, because the song has little to discuss. That doesn’t prevent an endless babble of pleasant nothings, but like gives birth to like.

Patrick St. Michel: I’ve been trying to think of something smart to say about this song since it first appeared online, but that betrays what makes it (and Carly Rae Jepsen) so good. The only example I can think of to sorta explain this is a really basic activity for students learning English: play an English language song for a class, and have them listen and fill in blanks on a paper. Besides sharpening listening skills, it also, in theory, exposes students to foreign pop culture. Usually, you go over the meaning afterwards, and a lot of pop stars require some context — they are talking about a famous ex, or third-wave feminism. Carly Rae Jepsen does not require this, because her music (“I Really Like You” being a prime example) is simple and direct enough on every level to come across clear. It is pop at its most universal, and probably a great way to get kids to remember the word “really.”

Cédric Le Merrer: “Call Me Maybe” was often described as a callback to a mythically purer teen-pop era: a classic song with a summer feel to it. Ever elusive qualities, or maybe bullshit write ups. Pinning down the ineffable for this soft reboot of the Carly Rae brand was probably incredibly tough. The surest way was to make a record that really felt like 1989. Go big on the drums, on everything, capture that ’80s feel Taylor Swift didn’t really bother with, and end up with a Betty Who track. Except Carly Rae Jepsen is the opposite of Betty Who. Betty is a confident singer, always going big, which works best on tracks where she’s reassuring but falters whenever the song need her to be insecure. Carly Rae is breathy, excited, unsure. She won’t ever reassure you. It’s not about you anyway. In this song you are a cipher. When we stop and consider you for a second, we stumble with an awkward line worthy of a Night Vale sponsor “who gave you eyes like that/said you could keep them.” Human bodies are weird! You are gross! The song is about the exhilarating feeling of almost being in love. Maybe. In these days of boss-ass pop stars, self doubt is reserved for introspective, serious, potential break-up songs. Carly Rae is unsure even when she’s happy. She knows this isn’t love, but. Do you want her too? Maybe this line is better read “Do you want me to…?” because she really really really doesn’t know anything for sure?

Jonathan Bradley: Carly Rae Jepsen’s favored mode is the gush. A gush is excessive and uncontainable, and Jepsen songs contain too much: too much feeling to handle and too much feeling to be respectable. Hers is the giggle that slips out, the smile that is too wide, the “like” that can only be expressed through the logorrhea of iterative intensifiers. She never suggests she’s enacting a persona — Jepsen never comes off as a perpetually lovestruck ditz — but an everyday woman who has had the deep misfortune of being stricken by a critical case of crush. “I Really Like You” gleams with the dazed sparkle of someone who doesn’t know what just hit her. (The drums pop like white explosions at the edge of one’s field of vision.) Every one of us is susceptible: “Late night watching television” can turn into “But how’d we get in this position?” in the space of a line break. Such is a time to be asking for some kind of sense to be made of circumstances, even if the questions are the ones you might wish you could shove back into your mouth the moment they’ve escaped: “Who gave you eyes like that? Said you could keep them?” IT HAPPENED TO ME: A Big Stupid Crush.

Reader average: [8.22] (67 votes)

Vote: 0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

30 Responses to “Carly Rae Jepsen – I Really Like You”

  1. I know I saw discussion of the (current/previous) record holder before, but is this the most words per entry?

  2. I have never felt so lonely, so out of step, and so much a loathsome fun hater as I do in this moment.

  3. I love you Anthony you’re totally our hip uncle

  4. It’s OK, Anthony, we really really really really really really like you anyway.

  5. moses–is that like tom hanks in this video, because that’s the meanest thing anyone has ever said to me.

    jbrads–im just ruining yr fun.

  6. > : )

  7. I also appreciate that everybody who references the “really”s is getting the right number (six).

  8. it’s in our style guide* moses, don’t you know

    * we do not and almost certainly will never have a style guide

  9. I know whenever i reference the reallys i am singing them in my head to confirm the number. I looooove Luisa’s blurb on this–like i allude to in mine, the combination of “vicious longing” (perfect phrase) and cotton candy is my fav thing about crj

    Really i just love everyone’s writing here though, crj clearly inspires Solid Thoughts

  10. It feels like it took way longer to start hitting 8s last year.

  11. moses, your blurb totally wrecked me

  12. JOSH <3

  13. I mean, the song is really somewhere between a 7 and an 8 (which is still excellent!), so anything that kept it from being overrated here is good.

  14. @ Anthony; SQWAD

  15. honestly, i felt the same as anthony when this song came out. it feels like there’s no room to dislike this song (~monoculture~) and even though i do like it, it’s a suffocating feeling so i’m glad someone touched on that. (also, seeing him a 2 stranded in a sea of 6+ pretty much proves his point.)

  16. I totally get that! (See: how I felt about Taylor Swift until this album.) I even felt it about the new CRJ single in that it seemed like everyone decided they liked it before it even existed, I just happened to really love it when it came out.

  17. brad, the line’s actually “i wanna smash your fears” not that that makes your point any less valid—”get drunken off your tears”, oof

    great blurbs all around

    favourite thing about this song is all the little imagery parallel/continuity easter eggs

    “late night watching television”
    “watching tv in your bed”

    “i feel like I could fly with the boy (?) on the moon”
    “flying kites with boy wonder … i wish i had an electric moon”

    “i feel like i could die walking up to the room”
    “when you walk into the room/i can’t speak and i can’t move”

    “i just got a taste for it … sipping on your lips”
    “talking so sweet i had to taste”
    “when you smile i like the taste”

  18. my favorite thing about this song is how she sings the titular line in one long, drawn-out breath and then follows it up with a string of hasty, excitedly nervous questions as to sort of immediately rescind the sentiment. the way the chorus plays out feels like the most accurate, realistic depiction of the anxieties of love and the thrill that comes from experiencing it.

    i was struggling with my blurb, but i’ve been vacillating between an [8] and a [9].

  19. thanks for everyone being kind.

  20. “This Kiss” is a good song, better than this I think, but what Maxwell writes more or less sums it up for me, I don’t come back to her, ever. I enjoy “Call Me Maybe” when I hear it somewhat but I don’t think I’ve ever actively chosen to listen to it.

  21. 20-odd blurbs and not one mention of Tssk.

    (actually, listening to that for the first time in… an awful lot of years, I can see why)

  22. I was thinking of this myself:

  23. “Carly Rae Jepsus” is the best line I’ve heard all week – Katherine, you win all the points. I think CRJ is a few good hits away from earning herself a spot in the pop pantheon, for sure. Under normal circumstances I would be really critical of singers like her because i feel like her music is a bit one note (i pretend curiosity doesn’t exist) but when you find ways to tug at the heartstrings within the faint remnants of my teenage soul, all is forgiven. Songs like this make me wish I existed in the 80’s because love sounds so much better then D:

  24. This is actually shaping up to be pretty big in the UK. Hopefully the rest of the world follows suit.

    She’s also doing SNL on the 4th, which is just delightful.

  25. oh crap

  26. it’s dropped 20 spots/week from its hot 100 debut at 48 :(

  27. Carly Slae Legendson

  28. It shot back up to 39 for a week but then it dropped down to 75.
    Poor old Carly Rae…

  29. It *is* #1 on Billboard’s “Twitter Top Tracks”, though…whatever that means. And I think it’s still doing well in the UK?

    I’ve shifted my hopes to “Run Away With Me,” the second single – it sounds absolutely massive live and has a great hook.

  30. Yep, a second week at #3 in the UK behind two particularly huge hits.