Imagine, for a moment, an alternate universe in which Kanye West has decided that Carly Rae Jepsen is a musical genius of Beyoncé-like proportions. Some guitar-toting songwriter beats Jepsen at an awards show; West leaps on stage to object. In the ensuing Internet fight about the nature of musical merit, inevitably someone tweets out a side-by-side comparison between the two contenders' lyrics, intended to make the pop singer look stupid. (In the case of Beck vs. Beyoncé, it was the oh-so-deep “I’m so tired of being alone / the penitent walls are all I’ve known” vs. the joyous dada of “Shoulders sideways / smack it, smack it in the air.")
The Jepsen song chosen for scorn, undoubtedly, would be “I Really Like You,” released on Monday. Here’s the main part of the chorus: “I really, really, really, really, really like you.”
As always, making fun of pop lyrics as they're written on the page is a pretty silly exercise. Repeating “really” five times in a line, 67 times in a song, is an example of how professional songwriters bet on the lizard-brain appeal of repetition, but it’s also an example of how simplistic music can be art. The track is about a very-specific phase of a romantic relationship—when you’re so into someone but, as Jepsen sings, “it’s way too soon” to call it “love.” So you use linguistic intensifiers on the other L-word, like. There are other ways of describing this emotion—see: metaphors—but none are as straightforward as this one. Jepsen's dumbstruck, but not dumb.
The flood of “really”s here are actually a point in favor of the argument that she’s released a song that lives up to “Call Me Maybe,” her 2011 smash. One of that track's many charms was that its lyrics used a worn-out adverb—"maybe"—to make a story about love at first sight feel specific and relatable, rather than generic and tired. Now, Jepsen's using another seemingly boring adverb to revitalize a story everyone's heard before.