Carly Rae Jepsen Dedicated Tour
When: Sept. 16, 7 p.m.
Where: Bronson Centre, 211 Bronson Ave.
Tickets and info: ticketfly.com/purchase/event/1862509
Carly Rae Jepsen can’t ever escape Call Me Maybe. Why would she want to? Most musicians will never see a song take top spot on singles charts in 47 countries and sell over 20 million copies. Her 2012 tune co-written with guitarist Tavish Crowe and produced by Josh Ramsay did all that.
That all but guarantees Jepsen is known as a one-hit wonder. But the tag is both unfair and inaccurate when discussing the Mission singer’s career.
“Look, it definitely was somewhat paralyzing at first to know what to do after a song like that,” said Jepsen. “But Tavish, my guitarist, said it best when he said it gave me the chance to show what he knew I could do, and you can’t be anything but thankful for that. As things continue, I get to keep on working toward what I want to give to pop music and, to date, Dedicated is the best thing I’ve done in my mind.”
Carly Rae dropped Dedicated, her fourth album, on May 17. Her 13-date Canadian tour in support of the album, with a gig at the Bronson Centre in Ottawa on Monday, sees her criss-crossing the country. European and Asian dates will follow. Similar to E*MO*TION and E*MO*TION Side B, the 13-track album received favourable to rave-able reviews in publications from Pitchfork to The Guardian with a 79 score on Metacritic. In comparison, Ed Sheeran’s No. 6 Collaborations Project didn’t crack 60.
Rest assured, he sold more copies.
Dedicated is also the latest album from the artist to make the Polaris Music Prize long list, a selection determined by a panel of Canadian journalists and music-industry insiders meant to showcase the best album of the year in Canada. Very few musicians are nominated to the list more than once. Clearly someone is enjoying singles like Too Much, Party For One and the somewhat ridiculous video for Now That I Found You outside a diehard fan base.
“It’s always an honour to be recognized for your art, and all the more so with Dedicated because this album is something of a passion project,” said Jepsen. “Since I first figured it out, I just loved songwriting and how I could put my feelings to music and use that to process stuff from life. So I tend to write all the time to produce a lot more than what goes onto the album. There were probably 200 songs to consider when putting Dedicated together, but I did the same thing with E*MO*TION.”
Working to develop those ideas with a familiar list of songwriting partners and producers — including Jack Antonoff, Captain Cuts, Patrik Berger, John Hill and longtime collaborator Tavish Crowe — Jepsen arrived at the final selection for Dedicated, which marries her tendency for upbeat disco updates with often melancholy lyrics. Dedicated has been described perfectly by Vulture.com’s Jackson McHenry as “an effervescent yet deep pseudo-breakup album. Think of it as her blue period, with sparkles.”
Jepsen’s brand of “chill disco” certainly echoes that of Scandinavian artists such as Robyn, Lykke Li and Tove Lo. The singer notes that a lot of these acts are working with careers that came in on big hits and have all gone on to produce critically acclaimed and commercially successful music without looking back.
Online, Rae’s fans are really defensive of her art. One of the key fan bases to develop post-Kiss comes from the LGBTQ+ community. Jepsen has been outspoken in her support of the community in the past. A recent Toronto Pride remix of the Dedicated track Feels Right, featuring Jordan Alexander and Electric Guest, produced a viral Bud Light video campaign from the parade just bursting with energy.
“It’s one of the gifts of my life that I feel the love from this entire community that is so full of love,” she said. “I feel so embraced that it’s upping my confidence on stage because if I make a mistake I think, ‘Hey, they are here with me.’ And Jordan is just so incredibly talented that it was great to be able to give her some well-deserved attention as well.”
That it was timed perfectly to coincide with the Canadian tour was smart marketing.
“I’m busy, so busy, but trying to find ways to normalize life with being on the bus, and the guys in the band are great for that,” she said. “It’s good for me to get out of my bubble at the house in L.A., and it has me thinking again about whether I want to live in Vancouver again, or New York, which I loved. It’s a good idea to switch it up every few years.”
Throughout her career, Carly Rae has been known for making great videos in an industry that all but turned its back on the genre after its mid-’90s heyday. You may not have heard Now That I Found You on hit singles radio, but 9,710,000 people have viewed the storyline video of a love affair with a rescued stray cat. It’s pretty goofy to have the singer serenading the ginger tabby from the shower as it reclines on the toilet seat and so on.
Jepsen says she loves being creative about what visuals the team brings to life for the songs. She may not be ready to move into full-on acting.
“Until I’m in that world, I don’t think I like it, because I’m not always super, super comfortable in front of the camera,” she said. “But then when an idea comes out as goofy as a love song dedicated to a cat and spending time in meetings with the wonderful women involved makes it really fun. The right room, the right people and I can get comfortable, but it’s not a natural thing for me from the get-go like being on stage is.”
One of the benefits of being on the road with longtime band members and writing collaborators Tavish Crowe and Jared Manierka means that the machine never stops writing.
“We’ve managed about three new songs, which is pretty great given how much of the focus really is on playing live,” she said. “The shows have been going great and my favourites of the new songs so far are Want You In My Room and, surprisingly, Real Love. We didn’t have that in the set initially, but people were always requesting it and they are really getting into it, so it’s in.”
Keeping connected to her fans and keeping focused on her brand, Carly Rae Jepsen is most certainly getting calls. Dedicated shows an artist developing a sound that started to take shape two albums ago into something distinct. Perhaps the next album will be another breakthrough.
ALSO IN ARTS