Call Me Maybe

I've been thinking ahead about which albums I want to put on my list of "The Top Ten Best Albums of 2012." Of course, I am not an expert on music, I aggressively listen to new albums only some of the time, and I really just pick what I like. But in thinking about this, I got so excited to defend and elaborate on one of my choices, I decided to do it early.

Introducing a sneak preview to the Westovar(ian)'s top ten! Drum roll...

I'm not even sure if Carly Rae actually made a whole album to go with this song. It doesn't matter, it doesn't need one.

I find myself listening to it over and over. It's the one song at the gym that I actually like.

For a while part of its charm for me was associating it with Arrested Development - as in, call me Maeby:

But while Arrested Development tends to be considered good television, I don't know... Call Me Maybe doesn't seem to have what it takes to be considered properly good music. It's not complex, it's not saying a lot, it's very accessible, and it's not sung by a thin man wearing black pants and some beard stubble. It just doesn't smack of great genius, great art. I almost feel ashamed to be listening to it so much. (Except I tell myself, "Amy, you can like whatever you want. You stick by your preferences!" until I don't feel bad any more, mostly... maybe.)

Distinctions about what makes something good and what makes art ART are tricky. People have a general sense about it, for the most part, but when it comes down to specific standards, to laying down rules, it gets murky and stressful, especially since I put stake in my ability to recognize beauty and to be able to dismiss some or most of what's out there. The prospect of having to take every piece of music, visual art, or literature seriously makes my brain feel like it might explode.

From my painful forays into this territory, I've only come up with one distinction I'm fairly comfortable with. I think art begets more art. Really quality stuff is that which inspires other people to also create. And this song has clearly done that.


  1. I'm all for sticking by your preferences.

    I wonder about your distinction though; does it matter what it inspires people to create? Is something art if it inspires people to create anything at all? Or does it need to inspire people to create something that can be called art (which would then have to be something which inspires people to create something which inspires people to create something which...)?

    It seems like if it is qualified by what it inspires others to create, then we've just pushed the problem back a bit. But if it doesn't matter what it inspires, then does whatever is popular become art? The internet has made it so that almost anything inspires people to create. For example: Romney's comment that he was brought "binders full of women" has exploded into tons of memes literally overnight.

    What do you think?

  2. Regarding Romney's comment: I would say that it isn't the comment that inspired people to create -- other political satire and internet memes, I think, are what gave people the idea to use Romney's comment to create something.

    And to "Is something art if it inspires people to create anything at all?" I would say yes. The goal of art, to me, is to communicate - but, like, Communicate Ultra -- to create an experience for the audience and for the audience to bring their own personalities and experiences to the art. If something inspires someone to create, I think that's a sign that the communication has been a success.

  3. That's a good distinction, I think. Romney's comment isn't the art, it's the memes that came before.

    I think someone could criticize your understanding of art because it broadens it to include so much that it almost becomes a meaningless term. It loses some of it's ability to make distinctions. I think about it the other way, though. It's not that expanding "art" to include things like internet memes or "Call me maybe" robs art of it's meaning and importance. It's that all those things now gain weight and dignity of their own. The term "Art" doesn't lose its dignity, but lends it to those "common" things. When our concepts of profound get mixed up with our concepts of mundane, it allows us to see how surprisingly profound the mundane is.

    I'm for it.

  4. As far as it losing its ability to make distinctions: do you think it's very common for people to be inspired to create something?

    I read lots of articles and seldom think -- that! That's exactly what I want to produce. I shall go out into the world asking questions like that and then sit down to write them all up. Lately I've felt that way when reading essays by John Jeremiah Sullivan and John McPhee and blog posts by Linda Holmes, but not when I read creative nonfiction by many others (even if I enjoy reading them a lot). Or television -- I watch a lot of television -- but it was when I watched Steven Moffat's episodes that I thought, "I want to write for TV." I think my understanding of art is less broad then you're making it out to be.

  5. I may be reading your definition more broadly than you intend. I understood it as: if something inspires someone to create, than that is art. Given that there are more than 7 billion people alive right now, that definition is going to be very broad.

    You seem to be thinking from more of an individual perspective. Art "for you" is a fairly narrow category, and it contains different things than what is art "for me". What I'm saying is that if all those individual categories of art are added up, we end up with a huge category. Different folks are inspired by all sorts of different things.

    So maybe it doesn't lose it's ability to make distinctions, but it keeps those distinctions from being made universal and applied to all people. My distinction between art and not-art doesn't disqualify your different distinctions. How post-modern.