At the beginning of April when Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” debuted, I consulted with my sound engineer friend, who is a devout fan of pop music, to see what he thought of the song that seemed poised to capture the ‘Summer Anthem’ position at that point in time. This was his response:
I think it’s less about what happens during the breakdown and more what happens after. When Chorus A kicks back in (2:32), it’s no more intense or developed than it was at an earlier part of the song (1:44). Likewise, 2:01 is repeated at 2:47. Hence, the song breaks the rule of “you are never in the same place twice” by committing a copy-paste compositional error (see Rihanna “We Found Love” for a brutal example).
After the breakdown they skip to the second cycle of Chorus A (i.e. they don’t repeat 1:27-1:44), because that first cycle lacks: (1) open hi-hat on the off beats; (2) two picked guitars — lower one in L, higher one in R; and (3) a lower string layer which adds thickness, and has slurred notes to fill space and add character. By skipping that “smaller” chorus segment, they give the final chorus a small boost, but it still has too much space and has been heard previously. Chorus B (2:48) adds the descending legato melody that bridges the gaps, and it is the same as the segment that lead into the breakdown.
So, even though after the breakdown you enter the chorus “one level higher” than you did last time, it’s still “one level lower” than Chorus B had been immediately leading into the breakdown — and it is a repeated segment. Overall, they get away with this because the song is catchy and animated enough, but they have not maximized its impact (falling short of full potential). Often this is remedied by adding additional chords, vocal ad libs, a new countermelody line, a build-up, etc. during the final chorus.
This track uses the classic Dr Luke/Max Martin formula (Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Jessie J, Miranda Cosgrove, etc.), except that it’s missing the following usually-present elements:
(1) Attention-grabbing intro. (Here we actually have two weak, alternating string samples with an audible 60 Hz hum. The two-sample sequencing is indicated by how the noise varies with each note.)
(2) “Whoosh” or “explosion” immediately leading up to and marking the first beat of every 8-measure block of chorus, plus at the breakdown. (There is some ramp-up, but only a cymbal crash on the actual beat.)
(3) A snare/clap with A-B-A-C (or similar) pattern, where successive letters indicate more impactful snare/clap hits. [see Katy Perry “Teenage Dream”]
(4) Extra vocal harmonies and ad libs during the final chorus
And for the love of Pop, don’t watch that terrible music video!