Every year, thousands of dollars, pounds, yen, rubles and wishes are thrown into fountains. Some of those wishes are dead serious, some frivolously flipped, chucked or tossed. And inevitably the change piles up, the coins get dried out, the dreams linger on.
Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” has torpedoed its way to ubiquity over the last couple months. It has sped under the surface from its September release last year toward a volcanic eruption of popularity through Justin Bieber’s Twitter, radio play from Billboard to Belgium and omnipresent, speaker-decimating broadcasts from every other open porch and house party in Ann Arbor.
“I threw a wish in the well” it begins — all typified, pop romantic — barely cooed over a quiet kick drum and synthesized violins, easily subsumed by crowds, packed houses and pumped kegs. As it skips toward that chorus, it links arms with everybody who hasn’t caught on with it yet … cheers, whoops, hollers, smiles, groans. You hear that? “Call Me, Maybe” is on. The refrain hits, little else matters.
I’ve heard it blasted while rolling around in the trunk of a friend’s pick-up truck, and leaking out of more than a couple earbuds on buses I will stop riding soon. It became the de rigeur topic of more than a few pre-class, Michigan-time whispered conversations. My Italian professor was forced to hear it. I’ve seen it inspire drunken whirling-dervish hysteria, exasperated moans and absolute confusion all within a few square feet.
I’ve marked the last four years of my time here with pop songs. I’ve recalled memories that I’d forgotten with the help of a few treacly bars and refrains. I came to Ann Arbor with some wishes, songs and friendships. And I’ve seen a lot of change.
If the phone ever rang on the landline phone in my old East Quad dorm in Prescott, I was prone to stare in fear rather than pick it up. Filling out my taxes, I wasn’t sure which home was home, which phone number to put down. The transience of college — like a fantastic and particularly expensive pop song — confused, inspired and changed me. Expressing that growth, shift and desire over the last four years has been the toughest challenge of all.
We have plenty of options for communication now, each with their individual sensitivities, style and depth. We can reserve quick, angular hieroglyphics for texts. Sprawling prose for e-mails, massaging keyboards in search of meaning. Breaking out the archaic hand-written letter, ever so rarely, to express perhaps our most grave and heartfelt feelings — with our hands pressing the pen, cramping the muscles in our hand, driving ink into paper, letting our mind change in the course of a sentence hurtling toward a period that either succeeds or fails to adequately end it.
But Carly wants to be called. She wants the intimacy of hearing the voice, the extemporaneous speed and feeling — just shy of commitment — of actual, physical presence … Is there anything more typical of my generation?
Carly’s asking, sure, but she’s really demanding. That “maybe” in the refrain is no expression of doubt, but rather an acknowledgement of possibility. It suggests that sometimes promises are not kept; that wishes have that nasty opportunity of never coming true. And that sometimes, the unexpected or miraculous can happen — whether you recognize it now or after four years, thousands of dollars, friendships and late nights.
Carly’s not throwing her coin into the well without a little bit of faith. “Before you came into my life / I missed you so bad,” she says, as the MIDI orchestra swirls over and over, the kick drum pulses harder and a shrill guitar does acrobatic loops in the background. Like a good romantic, she knew he existed before she met him. We sing along with her, we watch old dreams die, we blow out candles, we make new ones. We change our phone numbers, we lose our phones, we try and choose the best words to express ourselves and sing futile jingles in the divide between meaning and feeling.
You hit repeat. The town looks a little different. Younger kids take your place, throwing their coins into the fountain. There’s always construction. You begin to forget people, music, whole years. Some pop songs come along and help you remember. You hit repeat.