All of the glowing reviews in the world couldn't keep Carly Rae Jepsen's new album E•MO•TION from plummeting off the charts after its August release. It's clear that Jepsen's never going to recapture the insane success of "Call Me Maybe"; at this point, she'd probably be satisfied with the mid-tier career of someone like Robyn or Kylie Minogue, two stars who have trusty taste and devoted, cultish fanbases. When your songs aren't going to sail onto radio by your name alone, you have to explore alternative promotional methods, and that might explain how we got here: Carly Rae Jepsen is singing in Simlish.
Jepsen's single "Run Away With Me" is included on the soundtrack for The Sims 4: Get Together, the latest expansion for the long-running life sim. A great hidden pleasure of The Sims series is the assortment of in-game radio stations, which are usually stuffed with Simlish recreations of recognizable songs by popular musicians. If you're unfamiliar with the soundtracks, the names involved will astound you: Hot Chip, Janelle Monáe, Paramore, The Flaming Lips, My Chemical Romance, Kelly Rowland, and many others have contributed. Before Jepsen jumped into the ring, I'd argue the undisputed queen of Simlish pop was Katy Perry — she's recorded Simlish versions of both "Hot n Cold" and "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)." You can even watch her sing the latter live.
These songs are appealing on a very basic level; hearing famous, talented people step up and sing complete nonsense in the place of real lyrics they (and other people) slaved over never gets old. Jepsen's commitment to phrases like "Nawa tay zonday! Nawa tay zonday!" and "Nobu! Shonda / subla / ifmay!" is fundamentally hilarious. (She couldn't mean that Tay Zonday... could she?) But Simlish versions of songs we know and love also have a way of drawing out the best parts of the intelligible versions that serve as their foundations. The best parts of "Run Away With Me" aren't the words Jepsen happens to be singing in English. It's an incredible song because its vocal melody is subtle and sharp; it takes off like a rocket with the most urgent synths this side of Drive; it's slathered in riotous saxophone, the kind that made M83's "Midnight City" one of the best songs of this decade. Being translated into Simlish doesn't change any of that.
I'm sure people are going to make fun of Jepsen for doing this. The idea of a floundering would-be pop star turning to video game soundtracks in a made-up language is tempting in its spitefulness. But this new version of "Run Away With Me" serves to reinforce what made the original song (and its parent album) so exciting. There's no embarrassment in this — if anything, it only makes her stronger.