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2012’s Carly Bae Jepsen

In Retrospect

Even in the middle of a beautiful fall, I have the inexplicable urge to go back ten years and listen to the old YouTube playlists I use to rock on my iPod. To my poor memory’s surprise, it was full of Carly Rae Jepsen — after revisiting her early discography, I understand how she captured the essence of summer 2012.

It all started with “Call Me Maybe.” Although “Call me Maybe” was released Sept. 20, 2011, it only really blew up early in 2012 after Justin Bieber tweeted about it, right before the new year. From there on, it was a smash hit, rising to the top of the charts and staying there all summer. I remember the song for its infectious, catchy tune and lyrics. “Call Me Maybe” features masterful engineering, with the catchiest lyrics and most melodic pop beat ever. I can certify “Call Me Maybe” is the kind of song that gets stuck in your head forever.

I remember all the amazing parodies that rocked YouTube all of 2012, like the viral “Rolanda and Richard Parody” from Alex Wassabi. I used to love watching parodies as a kid, and I enjoyed going down that rabbit hole of rediscovery. There is also just something special about the music video. Released Mar. 1, 2012, it now boasts over 1.4 billion views. With Jepsen and her bangs eyeing the cute boy next door, it’s easy to see how every and anyone could become engrossed. The video encapsulates the song so well and really emanates those quintessential summer vibes. “Call Me Maybe” has a gilded legacy: the song is RIAA Diamond Certified, and the chorus was even named “Chorus of the Decade” by Billboard Magazine. Not too bad of a place to start.

Jepsen then dropped the second hit song of the summer when she teamed up with Owl City to drop “Good Time.” “Good Time” to me was the essential kid friendly summer party song, played at every elementary school pool party. A smash hit about being spontaneous and having fun together. Owl Cities and Jepsen’s vocals blend beautifully to the sound of a sick beat. I think “Good Time” is especially special because it proved Carly was more than a one hit wonder. “Good Time” triggers a specific memory of elementary school pool parties, and I'll always call it my go-to summer party starter. The song has recently resurged as a TikTok song, and the 400+ million views on the music video are testament to its legacy as a summer pop banger, even a full decade later. Also, it’s another example of a stellar music video boasting a summer road trip fun, summer camp activities and Jepsen’s iconic bangs! There’s nothing to hate about “Good Time”: a certified head bopper.

After a wildly successful summer, it was time for Jepsen’s second studio album. By this point, summer was over, but my appetite for her music was only growing. My wired Apple earphones couldn’t wait for more Carly Rae.  When “Kiss” dropped, I loved every minute of it. Now, ten years older but still mentally a child, I could give a more nuanced picture of the album. Turns out, even through my more technologically advanced earphones, it still slaps.. “KISS” built on the curiosity EP — a small six song EP that came out in February 2012 — and featured 13 amazing songs.  I don’t think there’s a single bad song on the album. What are my personal favorites? “This Kiss,” a smooth electropop song about a forbidden kiss that wouldn’t be out of place at a techno bar. “Curiosity,” a heartfelt pop ballad about wanting to date someone problematic. Think Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” but more upbeat, with a smooth rhythm. “More than a Memory,” a more acoustic and somber song about reflecting on a relationship, and a great breakup song with a twist. Lastly,  “Turn Me Up,” a very Charli XCX-esque dance pop song about getting over being dumped by partying it up.

Jepsen stands out because of her unique ability to make a catchy pop song about anything. Be it a somber breakup song or a party anthem, every song delivers a wide range of vocals coupled with a catchy melody. I think, like any child pop enthusiast, I just wanted family-friendly songs that didn’t feel like they were dumbed down for me, and Jepsen delivered with glitzy but mature pop perfection. Jepsen’s music videos also hold a special place in my heart, and each video has a compelling story that perfectly reflects the essence of her songs.  I used to love binging her music videos on YouTube, and I’m still impressed by the production quality.

As a YouTube comment from one of Jepsen’s music videos put it: “We don't search for old songs, we search for old memories.” I went into this looking to revisit memories, and every track was a nostalgia blast. I’m hoping to revisit even more phases from my own past because there’s so much good to remember, and music is the perfect portal to transport us back in time.

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