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Carly Rae Jepsen and the Trump phenomenon

With stunning foresight, Carly Rae predicted a number of political events of the past six months, but like many true artists she is more interested in understanding the mechanisms behind such movements.

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By Josh Friesen (Contributor) – Email

Photo Credit Stephen Eckert / Flickr

Photo Credit Stephen Eckert / Courtesy Flickr

Recently Carly Rae Jepsen took the pop world by storm with her fantastic album Emotion, yet few realize how valuable Carly Rae’s insight truly is. Now, due to recent events in American politics, academics are beginning to understand just how important a work Emotion is. With stunning foresight, Carly Rae predicted a number of political events of the past six months, but like many true artists she is more interested in understanding the mechanisms behind such movements.

Presenting a complete analysis of her masterwork is beyond the scope of this essay, so I will focus on one small and accessible piece: the song “I Didn’t Just Come Here to Dance.” In this house-dance bonus track, form and content are unified completely. But I will focus only on the content.

“I Didn’t Just Come Here to Dance” is an allegory of the rise of Donald Trump as well as a complex meditation on his appeal. The work is told through the use of oscillating perspectives, a common device found throughout Carly Rae’s work.

Take the first line: “I didn’t just come here to dance, if you know what I mean, you know what I mean.” Of course, we all know what she means; Trump didn’t just come here to fool around, he came here to run for president. We must take him seriously, because he takes himself seriously. What makes this piece so interesting (and no doubt in need of further study) is the use of the first person pronoun. Carly Rae is not simply announcing Trump’s presidential bid; she becomes Trump and makes the announcement herself.

Our excitement at the prospect of a political campaign matches our excitement regarding the dance beat about to be dropped. Trump, much like dance pop, is a seductive figure, playing on our desire for entertainment as well as appealing to us on a more intimate level. Both first proliferate themselves widely through the media before attempting to ask for more from us. The next line continues from the perspective of Trump, as she attempts to bridge the gap between entertainment and intimacy: “If you just give me a chance, you’d see what I see / Do you see what I see?” From where we stand, it is clear that the American people have decided to give Trump a chance, and they are seeing through his racist-coloured spectacles.

In the next section Carly Rae shifts perspective again, becoming a Trump supporter who now sees the world as Trump sees it: “It’s your fault, baby boy, ‘cause you’re the one that sparked this.” “Baby boy” is a not-so-subtle reference to Trump’s baby face. This line points not just to the changing worldview of many of his supporters, but also to the singular effort of Trump in his campaign. Carly Rae foresaw the decline of super PACs in the coming election, understanding that it would be personality that would dominate American politics. (Personality politics are a running theme throughout her work; see “Call Me Maybe.”)

Jepsen highlights Trump’s isolationist leanings in the next verse and hints at the possible demise of NAFTA: “Hey Joe’s calling me over, Tino’s calling me over, I only came here for you.” Tino is an obvious reference to Latinos, which brings to mind Trump’s controversial proposal to build a giant wall to keep Mexicans out of the U.S.

Joe is an equally obvious reference to us Canadians; she is referring to a popular beer commercial from the mid-2000s in which a man named Joe (who represents all Canadians) makes a stirring speech about what it is to be a Canadian. The third line confirms our suspicions, “you” being the only country left to personify — the United States of America. Once this piece is in place, the rest comes together. Trump is not interested in Canada or Mexico and in fact wants nothing to do with them; all he is interested in is America (and only one specific vision of America).

Carly Rae’s last verse before repeating the chorus twice reveals the true devotion of Trump supporters, and completes their transformation: “Baby I, I’m not going anywhere without you / Drive me home, ‘cause I like every single thing about you.” With this line, the transformation is finished; the Trump supporter has moved from initial curiosity to sparks of similarity, and finally to dependency. They now see Trump as their only option, the saviour they didn’t know they needed until he announced himself so triumphantly. He didn’t just come here to dance.

I have not argued that Carly Rae is herself a Trump supporter. Anyone who believes such need only to listen to “Favorite Colour.” Yet Carly Rae Jepsen understands and articulates the Trump phenomenon incredibly proficiently, and I urge academics interested in the subject to get hold of her via Twitter.

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