I know, I know. When you heard “Call Me Maybe” by Canadian singer Carly Rae Jepsen, you thought, “This song is cute. I’ll forget it tomorrow.”
But now, despite being out for months with nary any attention, the song is everywhere. It’s already topped the Canadian charts, and it’s selling a billion copies per second in America. Everyone from Justin Bieber to a group of lovable dorks has made a tribute video, and I’ve heard Barack Obama is using it as his campaign song. If you’ve somehow missed it over the past week of its rise, here it is:
There are plenty of reasons why “Call Me Maybe” has succeeded. It’s catchy. It’s fun. It’s cute. But really, this is the most important thing about the song…
Let’s be real: If this dude weren’t in the video, sexily mowing Carly Rae’s lawn, then no one would care about her catchy little chorus.
But this guy—let’s call him Chad—is more than just eye candy.
For one thing, the video shows Carly Rae lusting after Chad, imagining they’re on the cover of a romance novel together, and acting like a moron just to get his attention.
You know… like anybody would.
Or at least, anybody normal. If Angelina Jolie were in this video, she’d just chop Chad’s lawnmower in half with her stiletto heel and make out with him right in front of the neighbors.
But “Call Me Maybe” is not that kind of song. It’s a bubbly ode to having a crush, and it’s easier to accept that message if we see the Carly Rae behaving like us. The song feels honest if the singer gets nervous around physical perfection.
And then there’s the final twist. As it turns out, Chad is gay. SNAP! He gives his phone number to one of Carly Rae’s male friends, and then everyone’s like, “Haha! Your gaydar broke!” And she’s all, “Oops! A straight man would never wear jeans that stylish just to mow the lawn!”
This is brilliant for two reasons.
First, it means the video celebrates Carly Rae’s sexual feelings without making her have actual sex. Young girls can enjoy the song and not feel overly pressured by it.
Second, it means that gay men can feel included in the story. For once, the girl doesn’t get the guy because we do. Gay men can enjoy the song because it’s a love letter to us.
And who listens to a lot of pop music? Young girls and gay men.
You see? Without Chad, “Call Me Maybe” might not be blowing up. Carly Rae Jepsen might not have a career. Canada itself might be obsolete. So let’s raise a toast to Chad and his very important chest. Even better, let’s raise a bottle of water…
Mark Blankenship has written about pop music for NPR and The New York Times, and you can follow him on Twitter at @IAmBlankenship. He only looks at shirtless men for research purposes. Honest.