In defense of ‘Call Me Maybe’

You’ve no doubt heard Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.”

Love it or hate it, it’s a hit song, currently sitting at No. 2 on Billboard’s Top 100. But more than that, it’s a meme now, with thousands of parodies and jokes made about it almost constantly. And the other day, on Twitter I think, I read someone get pretty mad about the song, saying it “devalued” music as an art form.

Umm.. no. Not to me, it doesn’t.

“Call Me Maybe” isn’t some amazing piece of music. It’s not a piece of art. But here’s the thing: it was never meant to be.

It was written and recorded to be a quick, fluffy piece of profitable entertainment. And that’s exactly what it is.

When pop music first became, well, popular, that’s what I think most musicians were going for: they wanted to make something catchy, something that would make people buy the music and maybe even pay a little extra to see them perform it live (and, of course, “get chicks”).

Sometimes, they’d accidentally create something truly wonderful – simple, catchy, beautiful. And in those instances, pop music became art.

Our pop culture landscape is full of artists who create songs that are catchy and popular, but rise above to become art. Think Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” or Jay-Z’s “99 Problems.” Both are catchy; both are art.

I think we’re lucky enough to have our radios and pop culture filled with music that’s both entertainment and art. There are entertainers who create music to entertain you (think: Britney Spears) and there are artists who create music that is art (think: Bob Dylan) and I think we have lots of artists whose music can be either entertainment, art or both (think: Madonna).

But silly little pop songs have always existed. Sometimes they’re good (Britney’s “Toxic”), and sometimes they’re bad (“Macarena”). But more than anything else, they’re harmless.

And that’s what “Call Me Maybe” is – it’s safe. It’s not necessarily that great of a pop song, but it’s not horrible. It’s just plain safe. It’s vanilla.

But when a fluffy song is suddenly popular and everywhere, does it mean great pop songs – from The Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride” to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” to Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” – are any less valuable?

I don’t think so. Giving something as safe as “Call Me Maybe” the power to “devalue” great pop music makes no sense. Just because “Call Me Maybe” has passed my ears a dozen times (sometimes in a single day it seems), that doesn’t mean I think ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is suddenly crap. Because it’s not. And it doesn’t mean that the young fans who love it now will grow up with terrible taste in music – don’t we all have an embarrassing collection of CDs we purchased as teens?

“Call Me Maybe” is a harmless little pop song. It’s certainly not the first and it probably will not be the last. It’s just another song to sing along to until I can hook up my iPod and play something better.