Wed Jun, 2012 by Digital Bus
One fateful day about a month and a half ago, stellar Ingenex intern Stacey made a pop culture reference—while giggling profusely—that I didn’t understand.
The reference was to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe”, a bubblegum pop song that has accumulated more than 108 million views on Youtube:
And that’s the first time I ever fired an intern.
Just kidding. Stacey introduced me to what I originally considered to be just another irritating tweeny-bobber with a catchy, cyclic four-chord progression¹—but I didn’t realize until later that I’d actually been exposed to a stunning example of the impact social media has had, and continues to have, on the way we as humans interact with information and with each other.
Carly Rae Jepsen released “Call Me Maybe” on September 20, 2011. But despite finding some success in her native Canada, the song didn’t gain international attention until earlier this year, when pop darlings Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez uploaded a lip-sync of the song to Youtube, catapulting Carly Rae to stardom overnight.
But “Call Me Maybe” isn’t just a song by a 26-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter (yes, 26). It’s something much bigger—it’s an inspiration to an entire community of Internet-goers. The song has sparked a number of memes, including images that play off other popular memes like Joseph Ducreux and the oft-revised British war poster “Keep Calm and Carry On.” Everyone from Katy Perry to former Secretary of State Colin Powell is singing this song, but that isn’t necessarily based on some universal appreciation for its musical merits. It isn’t a very good song. It’s just so damn catchy.
“The moment you press play, you’re sucked in,” said MTV’s Nicole James. Gawker’s Emma Carmichael adds that “we will be virtually incapable of escaping this song and its strident disco strings and that horribly catchy hook.”
In one of my favorite TED talks, YouTube’s Kevin Allocca says that social media has propelled us into a cultural moment “where anyone has access, and the audience defines the popularity.” This, to me, is the beauty of the social web. A world in which a silly four-chord song turns into a choreographed routine performed by the Harvard baseball team in the back of a van. An impressive edit of hundreds of speeches by President Barack Obama, leaving us with his rendition of the song. A goofy—but oddly wonderful—cover by a late-night talk show host, a well-respected hip-hop group, and Carly Rae herself. And my personal favorite—Mitt Romney and Barack Obama’s cover, inspired by the aforementioned Harvard athletes:
“We don’t just enjoy; now, we participate,” Allocca notes. “We all now feel some ownership in our own pop culture.” And this is why, in four chords, a catchy chorus, and a sugary sweet melody, Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” which just yesterday topped the Billboard Hot 100, has become more than just a mildly irritating song with increasingly ridiculous lyrics. It’s a cultural moment. It’s a conversation. It’s an entire community of Internet-goers, all finding unique ways to participate in the same phenomenon. It’s what social media makes possible, and it makes me more and more in love with the Internet every single day.
And it’s why Stacey gets to keep her job.
¹All somewhat intelligible musical references in this blog post were thieved from somebody who actually knows what he’s talking about.