10 Best Carly Rae Jepsen Songs

Canadian pop treasure Carly Rae Jepsen achieved peak cultural saturation in 2012 with the inescapable hit ‘Call Me Maybe’. ‘Call Me Maybe’ 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 more mature, 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 music geeks. 2019’s Dedicated continued the excellence, with critical adulation and commercial indifference. Jepsen’s still in the prime of her career, so hopefully, there’ll be even more great songs to add to this list.

10 Best Carly Rae Jepsen Songs

#10 Cut To The Feeling

from the movie Ballerina, 2016, and Emotion: Side B+, 2017
‘Cut to the Feeling’ was cut from Emotion because it was considered too “cinematic and theatrical”. It was intended for Emotion: Side B, but was gifted to the Ballerina animated movie instead; Jepsen voices the mentor figure Odette. ‘Cut to the Feeling’ is featured at the climax of the movie. Its dynamic chorus and the theme of getting straight to the emotion is essentially Jepsen’s modus operandi.


#9 Emotion

from Emotion, 2015
The title track for Emotion shaped the course of Jepsen’s post-‘Call Me Maybe’ career. She discovered the sound she’d been searching for – 1980s pop coupled with alternative production. The result’s like an early Madonna record, updated for the 21st century and injected with seemingly limitless enthusiasm.


#8 Solo

from Dedicated: Side B, 2020
Dedicated: Side B was another high-quality release from Jepsen, brightening the world during lock-down, but its highlight was buried toward the end. ‘Solo’ is a typically explosive Jepsen pop banger, launching into a euphoric chorus. As befitting her more adult Dedicated era, there’s some double meaning hidden in “solo/so low”.


#7 Call Me Maybe

from Kiss, 2012
While Jepsen has more to offer than her enormous 2012 breakthrough hit, it’s undeniably an infectious ear-worm. It benefited from the patronage of Justin Bieber, who tweeted that ‘Call Me Maybe’ “is possibly the catchiest song I’ve ever heard”. The sophistication of the arrangement, notably the strings on the chorus, inspired a podcast, Switched On Pop, where a music professor and music major examine pop hits.


#6 Want You In My Room

from Dedicated, 2019
Dedicated is often more restrained and mature than Emotion, but ‘Want You In My Room’ is three minutes of high-octane pop bliss. Bearing the fingerprints of producer Jack Antonoff, Jepsen is overwhelmed by lust, calling out endearingly quirky lyrics like “I got you covered, under covers”.


#5 Boy Problems

from Emotion, 2015
The danceable bass line of ‘Boy Problems’ 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?


#4 Now That I Found You

from Dedicated, 2019
Much of 2019’s excellent Dedicated was given to calmer fare than the vibrant pop of Emotion. But ‘Now That I Found You’ has the same euphoric lift as the best songs from her previous record, with a huge chorus, even though the lyrical focus is different – while her previous songs appeared to be about crushes, ‘Now That I Found You’ appears to be about an actual person.


#3 Fever

from Emotion: Side B, 2016
‘Fever’ is taken from Jepsen’s 2016’s excellent out-takes mini-album 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. This is a fair summation of Jepsen’s lyrics in the Emotion era, and ‘Fever’ is an excellent example. Jepsen remains in a state of infatuation over an ended relationship. The build into the middle eight (“And my lights stay up/But your city sleeps”) is a thing of beauty.


#2 When I Needed You

from Emotion, 2015
‘When I Needed You’ was the closing kiss-off from 2015’s Emotion. Like ‘Boy Problems’, it boasts a killer bass-line courtesy of session musician Ethan Farmer. It’s a sign of the strength of the material on Emotion that Jepsen could hold back this irresistible pop song until the final track. The way that Jepsen enunciates ‘together, forever” is a great focal point.


#1 Run Away With Me

from Emotion, 2015
The opener from Emotion has earned a place in internet folklore with its seal and saxophone Vine. It would have been a better choice as lead 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 especially pronounced here with the saxophone riff and cinematic feel. My theory is that ‘Run Away With Me’ will one day feature in a pivotal scene in an iconic movie, and it will become a beloved standard.


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22 Comments

  1. Emotion is a great album; I didn’t like her before that. If you like Emotion, I highly recommend Overpowered by Roisin Murphy; that album also has 80s synths / disco vibes in a similar vein.

  2. Agree about Fever, a wonderful melody and lyrics to match.

    Haven’t listened to her pre-2015 stuff. My rough top 5:
    Fever
    The One
    I Really Like You
    First Time
    Let’s Get Lost

    • I don’t like Kiss anywhere near as much – definitely pitched more at a radio pop demographic. Have you heard ‘Call Me Maybe’? I find that it makes ‘I Really Like You’ feel a bit like a retread, even though I really like parts of it.

  3. How could I avoid Call Me Maybe, it might be the catchiest pop song of the decade 😉 I guess you’re right about the similarity! I confess to fatigue with her hits, prefer the lesser known. Of the popular ones, I Really Like You I return to- so exuberant and the video w/ Tom Hanks is fun.

    • I don’t think I’ve heard any of her songs in the wild, apart from Call Me Maybe. It’s interesting having two small daughters as a barometer – they love Call Me Maybe and are completely uninterested in the Emotion material like ‘Boy Problems’. I don’t know how that works, as they both sound like hooky pop songs to me.

  4. I’ve been liking the stuff I’ve heard and like pretty much all the tracks here. Obviously too early to comment on my own favourite 5…

    • I think she’s a strong song-writer. There’s a pretty amazing/insane website where a filmmaker picks apart all her songs, and concludes that they’re all about the same one relationship.

  5. It’s amazing how many people think I’m joking when I say I’m a huge fan of Carly Rae Jepsen. “Run Away With Me” is such an amazing song among many others and she deserves SO much more recognition

  6. Other than for a few exceptions (the execrable “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night” & “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John are two that quickly come to mind), most of my favorite songs by artists & bands also happen to be their biggest hits, so “Call Me Maybe” would be my favorite Carly Rae Jepsen tune. “Run Away With Me” is a close second though.

    • I think Jepsen in particular, though, has a large body of excellent work that most people are unaware of. She’s basically a one-hit wonder (or two if you count that song with Owl City).

    • Might not be your thing – there’s very much a modern pop sheen. Her songs stand up for me really well though.

      • I haven’t given her a proper listen yet but I plan to….this post surprised me. I must get that follow to work again.

        • It’s actually an old post that I fixed up – I updated the date while I was there as the title no longer matched the URL (it started as 5 best songs).

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