Carly Rae Jepsen initally reached popular consciousness in 2012, with the inescapable hit ‘Call Me Maybe’. It started as an acoustic song, but dressed up with some synth strings and endorsed by Justin Bieber, it was wildly successful. It showcased Jepsen as a bubblegum-pop girl-next-door, and made her Canadian Idol’s most famous graduate:
Jepsen returned with the grown-up but still filled with pop-hooks 2015 album Emotion. The album didn’t perform well enough commercially to displace Jepsen’s reputation as a one hit wonder, but it earned her unexpected support from critics and older music fans. With a fourth studio album hopefully due later this year, here are five of my favourite Carly Rae Jepsen songs:
Call Me Maybe
While I prefer Jepsen’s more mature later work, her breakthrough hit is undeniably an infectious earworm, fuelled by the strings on the chorus, while the memorable video also helps. It also inspired a podcast, Switched On Pop, where a music professor and music major examine pop hits.
The danceable bass-line isn’t far from disco, and the introduction is perfectly low key yet dramatic. But it’s the vocal arrangement that makes this song work – the “nah nah nah nahs”. And is it just me, or does Jepsen gives out some Goblin King Bowie vibes with her mullet, sparkly outfit and occasional intense stares into the camera?
‘Fever’ is taken from Jepsen’s 2016’s excellent out-takes EP Emotion: Side B. Filmmaker Max Landis wrote a 150 page essay on how Jepsen’s songs are all about longing and infatuation, and not about actual relationships, and ‘Fever’ is an excellent example of Jepsen’s modus operandi, the state of infatuation over a finished relationship. The build into the middle eight (“And my lights stay up/But your city sleeps”) is a thing of beauty.
When I Needed You
There’s no music video for the closing kiss-off from 2015’s Emotion, so here’s a live version. It’s a sign of a great album when a hook-filled, infectious song is the closer, and the way that Jepsen enunciates ‘together, forever” is a great focal point.
Run Away With Me
The opener from Emotion has earned a place in internet folklore with its seal and saxophone Vine, and would have been a better choice as a single than ‘I Really Like You’, which was a little too close to a ‘Call Me Maybe’ redux. The entire Emotion album has a 1980s vibe, but it’s pronounced here with the saxophone riff and cinematic feel.