Carly Rae Jepsen is at the point in her career where her songs are judged by only one question. Are they catchy? If there's any room for nuance, it's asking, how catchy?
We're to blame for this as much as she is. We like to put pop singers in tidy, easy to understand categories, especially when it comes to female performers.
Avril Lavigne is the punk princess who never wants to grow up. Beyoncé is fierceness itself. Taylor Swift still has to explain to mouth-breathing journalists who can't see outside the frame they've created for her that she is not a man-hater with a guitar.
Thanks to the massive success of Call Me Maybe in 2012, Jepsen became the woman who writes catchy songs. (There's an added pride to this in Canada because Jepsen was born in British Columbia.) As category names go, it's not all that catchy. But Call Me Maybe earwormed its way into your brain and never left. It sold more than a million units and spent nine consecutive weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The video has been watched on YouTube more than 651 million times. We couldn't get enough of it.
Her new follow-up, the single I Really Like You, had most of the Internet frothing over how amazingly catchy it is following its release on Sunday. (The video is not available on YouTube in Canada but you can watch her perform it live here.)
Some called it "ridiculously catchy."
Others stood in awe that Jepsen had done "the impossible" by making a song that is "somehow more catchy than Call Me Maybe."
And everyone is right. The song, like its predecessor, is ridiculously, absurdly, unbelievably catchy.
It also celebrates an idea of womanhood that absolutely none of us should be bopping along to.
I Really Like You, just like Call Me Maybe, suggests that girls should sit moon-eyed, waiting for boys to make them happy. Carly Rae Jepsen makes Taylor Swift sound like Gloria Steinem.
But why ruin a good time by overanalyzing a song's gender politics? Perhaps we shouldn't expect more of bubble-gum pop than its catchy hook and ostensibly feel-good vibe. And yes, it could be argued there's no point thinking too hard about a song with a chorus that repeats the lines, "I really, really, really, really, really, really like you. And I want you, do you want me, do you want me, too?"
On the surface, there is an infectious sweetness to Jepsen's songs. The picture of young love they create is even more innocent than the one The Shirelles sang about.
But Carly Rae Jepsen turns 30 this year. The producer she worked with on I Really Like You has recently churned out songs for Ariana Grande and the boy band One Direction. Both have huge teen followings.
There's nothing wrong with trying to appeal to teenagers. It's a requirement for pop singers.
But we should hold adult artists responsible for the ideas they sell to their teenage audience, especially at a time when young womanhood is so much more than waiting at home for a boy to call or holding hands with someone who likes "making me wait for it," whatever "it" might be.
At the minimum, we should ask more of songs than whether or not they're catchy.