Learning to Love the Girl Next Door… A Little

For most of my life, I’ve associated the letters “CRJ” with one thing only: the Canadair Regional Jet, or CRJ – a small 50-100 person commuter jet which is manufactured by Bombardier Aerospace just outside of Montreal, Canada. For many years, the venerable CRJ-700 served as the backbone of Horizon Airlines’ commuter fleet, and as such, it was often a frequent fixture in my early Adventures in Jetsetting. Eventually, though, the Horizon replaced their CRJs with another Bombardier offering, the Q400 – and I can’t say that I was particularly sad to see them go. They tended to be rather noisy.

So anyways, HEY – SPEAKING OF NOISY THINGS FROM CANADA… in recent months, those three consonants have taken on new meaning for me, thanks to the meteoric rise to ubiquity of a young lady and Justin Bieber protege named Carly Rae Jepsen, or as we like to call her here in Hipsterdom, CRJ.

Clockwise from left: CRJ, CRJ, and CRJ

Carly Rae is a rather diminutive young woman from Canada who sports iconic dark bangs, a rather adventurous wardrobe and a relentlessly enthusiastic public persona, and who has recently enjoyed much fame and success here in the United States. So in other words, she’s my friend Jenna.

Unless you were an avid follower of the 2007 season of Canadian Idol (if you fit this description and you’re not actually from Canada, now would be the appropriate time to seek professional help), you probably know CRJ as the woman responsible for opening her Pandora’s Music Box and releasing “Call Me Maybe” into the world. She also bears the rather dubious distinction of having been professionally “discovered” by a 17 year-old boy.

CRJ’s first hit was a ridiculously catchy song that managed to worm its way into most our psyches last fall and caused many of us to go through the Five Stages of Catchy Single Grief (Anger, Denial, Acceptance, Tedium, and finally, Utter Despair). As this song was thoroughly lampooned when it first came out, I will not attempt to re-scoff where my Hipster Forefathers have scoffed before. More recently, however, Ms. Jepsen teamed up with the reigning King of Banality, Owl City, to release “Good Time.”

A brief sidebar about Owl City: Adam Young is quite possibly one of the most vapid songwriters on the face of this planet, today. His first hit was a song called “Fireflies”, which is a veritable cornucopia of bad lyrics, mostly notably this gem that he inflicts upon humanity during the bridge: “’Cause I’d get a thousand hugs / from ten thousand lighting bugs…” Excuse me? I don’t know how many of you have actually seen a firefly in real life, but for those of you who have, I think you can imagine how utterly terrifying it would be to wake up in the middle of the night to find yourself surrounded by ten thousand bioluminescent beetles that wanted to hug you. The creators of “Saw” have nothing on this guy.


A quick perusal of Owl City’s singles discography reveals that his choice of song titles is equally atrocious. Mr. Young’s CV includes “Vanilla Twilight,” “Umbrella Beach,” “Alligator Sky,” “Lonely Lullaby,” and “Shooting Star.” Most of these sound like levels in a forgotten version of MarioKart.

But anyways – back to “Good Time.” As with many pop songs, the overall premise of the song is pretty evident from the title: these folks are out to have some seriously non-shitty times. This is made explicit in the accompanying music video, where our always-perky heroine dons her trademark short shorts and hops in her Fiat 500 (a nod, I am sure, to the grand forces of corporate sponsorship – albeit a rather inexplicable choice) with a handful of fellow Bohemians (overlooking the fact that no sane individual – even a Bohemian – would voluntarily sit in the backseat of a Fiat in real life), then heads off to parts unknown to have a better than average time. Elsewhere, Mr. Owl City has a Take Me Home, Country Roads moment in a classic Dodge Charger while en route to the same Undisclosed Location as CRJ. They arrive, people have Slurpees, life is good. Not a terrible video, per se, but obviously whoever wrote the treatment for this thing was phoning it in.

Lyrically, “Good Time” also provides us with a couple of points to ponder. Early on, CRJ mentions that she “wake(s) up at twilight” – which is actually pretty badass. I have met many people in my day who like to party pretty hard. I myself have been known to sleep in as late as noon after a particularly ambitious bender, and I’ve met some musicians who don’t normally down their first Bloody Mary until 1 or 2 in the afternoon – but I have never met anyone who waits until after dusk to start their day. Obviously, Carly Rae can really rage.

Perhaps a more troubling aspect from “Good Time” is Carly Rae and Adam Young’s repeated assertions about being “down to get down”, which sound like rather awkwardly veiled innuendo, to me. Now, in fairness, maybe they’re talking about something else, but if a girl texted me and told me that she wanted to “hang out if you’re down to get down tonight,” I don’t think I’d assume that she just wanted to play Jenga.

Not Pictured: People getting down tonight.

Ok, so she’s no Dylan. But that’s fine, right? CRJ’s music is catchy and its rather vapid lyrics seem to appeal to that crucial 12-18 demographic. No one disses on Selena Gomez or Justin Bieber for being one-dimensional. After all, they’re just kids. Let them sing to their people.

Oh, wait – did I mention that CRJ is old as fuck? That’s right – despite her ageless looks, bubblegum repertoire and pre-teen wardrobe, Carly Rae is as almost as old as I am. As I write this, the Canadian Princess of Pop is just a few days shy of her 27th birthday – which I find vaguely disturbing. People appeal to different demographics, but you don’t exactly see me hanging out at the local middle school trying to get kids to read my blog.

But enough hatin’. As much as I rag on her lyrics and her questionable demographic appeal, I actually kind of like CRJ. Her shit’s catchy, she’s got an ok voice, she’s cute in a quirky way – and she has an inexplicable knack for baring ridiculous amounts of skin in the most non-sexual way possible. (Tie-dye short shorts and a jean jacket? Rockin’ it!) Basically, she’s a sort of weird, alternate-universe version of the Girl Next Door – or maybe just what we imagine the Girl Next Door looks like in Canada.
Speaking of the Girl Next Door, American’s Penultimate GND, Taylor Swift, graced us this summer with her new single, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” a profound and painfully literal song about Taylor Swift’s latest dating woes. (SPOILER ALERT: They don’t get back together!) WANEGBT seems to be built around a recycled Green Day riff and continues Taylor’s obsession with writing songs about celebrities she’s dated.
Listening to Taylor emphatically reiterate that she doesn’t want to get back together with her ex is a little hard to listen to for any length of time and in the music video for WANEGBT, she also makes her band dress as furries, which is truly frightening. However, the thing that troubles me most about this song is one line midway through the song, where she notes that when she and her ex fight, he goes and consoles himself with what she refers to as “some indie record much cooler than mine.” That’s right! Even the celebrities that she dates don’t like her music – and she knows it! Poor girl.
Still, Taylor embodies the American Girl Next Door stereotype. (And in her characteristically literal fashion, Taylor actually plays the girl living in the house next door in the music video for “You Belong With Me.”) Several years ago, a friend of mine who’s an avid follower of country music bemoaned Taylor’s rise to fame to me. My friend pointed out that Taylor’s singing voice is passable at best, her lyrics are trite, and while she’s not terrible-looking, she’s certainly not going to be mistaken for a runway model anytime soon. I think my friend’s exact words were “kinda funny looking.”
None of my friend’s criticisms are incorrect. But I think that’s actually a large part of Taylor’s appeal. Taylor is cute without being hot, pleasant to listen to without actually being a good singer, earnest without being deep – in a word, she’s imperfect. And that’s exactly what you’d expect from the girl next door. Taylor has made a massive career by seeming attainable and accessible – the nerdy girl who lives on your block, not the pop starlet who lives only on your television screen.
Ultimately, CRJ, Owl City and Taylor Swift are part of a certain slice of the music industry that is difficult to enjoy, but also equally difficult to hate with any degree of fervor, such as the kind Nickelback engenders. Their music is dumb, but harmless. And more importantly, they serve a vital purpose within the musical ecosystem.
Taylor’s never going to get any love from the folks over at Pitchfork, but she does have a loyal following of people who look and sound just like her. The Girl Next Door sings to all the real girls next door of the world. She and Carly sing happy, shallow music for happy, shallow people. And thank god they do. Think about that girl that rings up your purchases at Target – you know, the one who always seems inexplicably happy and chipper, despite the fact that she’s spending her day in a soul-crushingly tedious job? She probably listens to Taylor Swift, or something equally vapid. And while that really glum kid who spends all of his free time listening to obscure Joy Division and Smiths songs probably has better taste in music, do you really want him ringing up your fabric softener? Probably not.
However, just remember – while we all love to jam out to Call Me Maybe once in a while, if you are a person of taste, a steady diet of such music is not beneficial. Much like going on an All Mountain Dew Juice Fast, or embarking on a Career of Cooking Meth in a Winnebago, if you do it long enough, it will destroy your soul.

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