The Burning Pain of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Your Type”: Reflections on Music and Heartache

Posted on October 31, 2016

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Music has always been the greatest conveyor of emotions. A beautiful melody infused with heart-wrenching lyrics works like a drug. Nothing like “Build Me Up Buttercup” to reminisce the good ol’ days picnicking at the beach, eh? While listening to certain songs to bring back good memories works wonders, for me the best thing about music is how it communicates to the darkest emotions hiding within us. If you were to analyze my Spotify playlists, you would probably think, “wow this chick is emo”, and I would agree with you. As a socially avoidant girl with few friends, I have plenty of time with myself and therefore plenty of time to curate my selection of soulful favorites. I can always count on playlists peppered with Elliott Smith when, as emo teenagers put it, no one understands me. These heartbreaking songs serve as my “grown-up blanket” for when the world is a big, hulking vampire.

A certain musician named Ludwig van Beethoven once said, “music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy”. The fact that we just can’t bear listening to certain songs anymore serves as a reminder that music has a certain power that humans cannot comprehend. Recently, I came up with a playlist of heartbreaking songs, which contains a lot of songs from my other playlist which I made for moments when you feel triumphant over depression – or when you can’t quite get out of the sadness so you let it be. There’s actually a funny reason why I made the latter – it involves a guy. But I’m not going into that since I have written about it loads of times and it’s embarrassing to write about it again.

This is why I pay close attention to people’s taste in music. Some of them don’t realize it, but it reveals so much about them. Every heartbreak, disappointment, and general frustration in my life has been accurately conveyed through music. Remember that scene from High Fidelity, the one where John Cusack rants about how the nation is worried about guns, violence, etc. when they should be worried about thousands of songs about heartbreak? Yeah. Music has that kind of effect. That Celine Dion ballad can wreck you.

This is why I get a little worried when someone posts The Smiths’ “Asleep” or something. Feeling sick of society? Here’s some Nirvana. Happy? How about, I don’t know, some Japanese/British synth-electropop like Kero Kero Bonito (love them btw)? Heartbroken? Um…I think you should stay away from the Triumvirate of Heartache aka “Dancing On My Own”, “Habits (Stay High)”, and “Your Type”. Or not, we all need a good cry anyway.

“Your Type”. Oh my God, where do I even begin with this song. I have literally spent days thinking of what I should blog about for the sole reason of expressing the hurt that this godforsaken song has brought me. It’s not even a standard Heartbreaking Song: it’s not a ballad nor is it a riff-heavy anthem of pain. It’s pure heartbreak covered in sugary synth and 80’s style pop.

The pain brought by Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Your Type” is the kind that stems from longing and despair. It’s what you want to sing to someone you want but can’t have. This song perfectly captures the burning sensation of unrequited love – something felt unwillingly by every girl who has long since accepted that she will never be wanted by the boy she likes. She despairs this truth, but she is strong enough to accept the fact that she cannot change into the kind of girl that he wants.

Similar to classics such as “On My Own” from Les Misérables and Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own”, “Your Type” is lament in musical form. The object of affection in these three songs is everything to the person singing them (and I’d break all the rules for you/break my heart and start again). She is doing everything she can, but nothing will make him see her the way she sees him (I’m right over here, why can’t you see me?/I’m giving it my all, but I’m not the girl you’re taking home/I keep dancing on my own). Hard as it may seem, she accepts that her disappearance will have no effect on him – that he will still be happy without her in his life (without me, his world will go on turning/a world that’s full of happiness that I have never known). Taken in another context, The Beatles’ “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” also fits into the unrequited love song club – the singer in this case wants this person so much that the thought of holding his/her hand is more than enough.

The only difference with “Your Type” is that the one singing it knows that she should walk away from this sinking ship – God knows she has tried. She is aware that she will never be his type, and she’s not going to pretend that she’s the kind of girl he will put effort on – the kind of girl he wants to be with. The tragedy of this song is that the person singing it knows that she will never be what he is looking for. She knows that she will never be enough. However, it can also be a form of empowerment – she will not change herself into his kind of girl no matter how much she wants him.

“Your Type” can also be appropriated outside the subject of love or romance. It is, after all, a song about heartbreaking self-awareness. Personally, I also associate this song with being a misfit in society. Sometimes, we just have to accept that society’s ideas of “success” and “empowerment” do not align with our ideals. The thing is, not everyone is meant to be a businessman, engineer, lawyer, or celebrity. Jepsen’s song asks us to reject this kind of close-minded thinking. I’m not society’s type, so screw it. I’m not going to pretend to be someone who is not me just to fit in. The willful Arya Stark puts these sentiments perfectly when she was conversing with Ned (RIP) on his predictions for his daughter. Ned sees Arya’s future with kings, lords, castles, and general princess stuff to which Arya says, “no, that’s not me”. If only society would be as supportive as Ned.

Indeed, some of us are underdogs like Jepsen’s character in the music video for “Your Type”. She’s just like us – a nobody, an outsider willing to take a shot towards the dream. We work the daily grind and hope to one day live our wildest aspirations – even just for a night. The video ends in a hopeful note, however. Jepsen walking away with the silver boots from her “Cinderella story” is a wink to audience, giving us hope that not all dreams are meant to fade away into the night.

One day, listeners who were torn by this song will grow up. They will look back on this song and either be happy that they walked out of an unrequited love towards something better, or be happy because the love wasn’t unrequited all along. I mean seriously, if you’re a guy and you have this strong, self-aware girl who is that much in love with you, wouldn’t you give her a chance? And wouldn’t the relationship not be such a lost cause if it made her feel that strongly?

In the end, “Your Type” is simply a song by a girl who has let go but not quite – a song that everyone has probably related to at some point. With this song, Jepsen gives us a blanket to wrap around ourselves to remind us that maybe things will be just fine in the end. It’s not okay right now, but we’re strong enough to keep going.

We just have to look the future in the eye and say, “I’ll make time for you”.

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