Some of the best pop songs of all time were birthed into this world destined forever to be nothing more than a One Hit Wonder (can anyone say “Meredith Brooks, BITCH!”). And what a dirty thing to be deemed, is One Hit Wonder. It implies fluke, coincidence and a certain stigma of greediness that sees one artist/creative team go all-in for one giant blow out, milking it for all it’s worth, and not worrying about the long haul.
But these days, with artists like Katy Perry, Beyonce, Rihanna and Lady Gaga well and truly about producing longevity and staying-power in a fickle industry — turning out hit after number one hit — the One Hit Wonder is becoming something of a relic, and indeed, something we have little use for. These days, despite the disposability of culture and the access to information, we paradoxically want to invest.
So when Carly Rae Jepsen dropped the “Call Me Maybe” bomb on us, despite the dancing and YouTube-covering and general memeing going about, there was a whisper of “Shenanigans.” Generally, we were resigned to Carly Rae being one of those goss abominations: a One Hit Wonder. And until this week, it surely seemed that we were right. Taking the song on a ride that’s lasted since September 2011, it looked like Carly would see the success of “Maybe” to the crest of the wave, hit the shore with it, and dissolve back into the foam of the pop ocean.
We thought that “Call Me Maybe” was such a perfect construction of pop music, such a relentlessly sticky tune that there was no way in hell, even if she tried, Miss Jepsen would ever release anything as good, or anything that would so hold the world’s attention, or that wouldn’t be completely ripped to shreds by critics comparing it to “Maybe”. I think we were wrong to jump to that conclusion; here’s why.
The Carly Rae machine, as it turns out, is a diabolical genius of perfectly curated pop output. While “Call Me Maybe” may go down as one of the most iconic, memorable, purist pop songs of all time, what we’re about to see in it’s aftermath is a completely calculated, expertly executed series of turns designed to keep Carly Rae on the charts and out of the dreaded One Hit Wonder bargain bin.
Firstly, Team Carly Rae made her first post-”Maybe” single a collaboration with faux-indie, semi-known band, Owl City. Secondly, they made it a completely vapid dance tune, called “Good Time,” that hits all the right cues for an instant summer anthem, a la Foster The People. The track itself is completely inoffensive — one that could have just as easily slipped by unnoticed had her fan base not liked it, especially because Owl City acts as an effective scapegoat in a case where ‘foul play’ might be called. Carly Rae — should “Good Time” fail — would essentially be able to walk away wiping her hands clean with the declaration, “Well, it’s not really my song anyway.”
It’s a very clever move that allows Carly Rae the flexibility to remain in the market, but to produce mediocre pop in the face of a behemoth, runaway hit that has set an insurmountable bar to climb over.
Despite the safety net of the fallback guy, luckily for Carly, “Good Time” is just that — a damn good time. It might fade into the ether of pop, never to be karaoke-d again, but in terms of her reputation, it’s cute, catchy, and just the kind of thing that suits her fan base, minus the overbearing expectation that it will ever reach “Maybe” heights, thanks owing entirely to Owl City.
Now, I’m not saying I think Carly Rae is out of the red just yet — she still needs to release another solo single, and that single needs to hold up against “Maybe”, or else fans are going to become disenfranchised (because we’re here to make an investment, we’re very easily thrown/pissed off when such investments don’t yield; just look at the Lana Del Rey backlash). My prediction is, if Carly’s team is the genius future-robot I believe it to be, it will be almost a year to the release of “Call Me Maybe” when Carly finally releases her second solo single, and it will be a cutesy love ballad (followed shortly by an album in time for the Christmas chart scrum).
Trying to match “Maybe” tit-for-tat will never work for Carly — the only thing to save her from pop oblivion, from the One Hit Monster, is a soaring vocal, honest sentiment and a video clip with lots of rain and longing gazes.