Carly Rae Jepsen is the first person to ever send me flowers. It was Valentine's Day, 2014. Jepsen had just announced the first single from her new album E•MO•TION as "I Really Like You." She tweeted that by using the hashtag #IReallyLikeYou, she might send you a surprise. I, of course, dashed for the shift+3 combo as quickly as I could. Later that day, I got a direct message from Jepsen asking for my address. Sure, I essentially handed over my personal information to a stranger behind a keyboard, but CARLY RAE JEPSEN direct messaged me.
During this time, I'd just moved back to Chicago after a brief stint in San Francisco. While Chicago is always home, I found myself feeling a little lost, like I'd given up on the West Coast too easily. However, when I returned home to those surprise roses after a particularly trying day, with their hilariously misspelled greeting card from the local florist, something felt right.
Not trying to be that guy, but I've been a Carly Rae Jepsen fan long before E·MO·TION showed off her MBA in pop music. My friends and I discovered her via Pandora nearly a year before "Call Me Maybe" and its tidal wave smashed over the world. Its success caused an entire record Jepsen already announced to be scrapped in favor of making one that housed potential successors to "Call me Maybe." The resulting album Kiss ended up being everything I love about pop: sugary yet smart, sweet yet emotional, simple yet complex. When I heard Jepsen was working on a follow-up alongside heavyweights like Greg Kurstin, Ariel Rechtshaid, Sia, Tegan & Sara, and more, I knew she wasn't just curating a follow-up. This would be a statement of her artistic development and a love letter to a genre.
I couldn't dream up the album we got, and never imagined it would soundtrack some of the lightest and darkest times of the year.
I Really Like You
After years of adoration, I finally saw Carly Rae Jepsen live on March 12th, 2016. Even though none of the album's singles caught on with the public like "Call Me Maybe" did, it didn't matter. Jepsen achieved the same virality, but this time it was because she made a perfect pop record. As critics and fans alike shared their love, begging disbelievers to give it a try, E•MO•TION developed the kind of cult following certain 80s movies have, which aligns nicely with the album's ability to double as a John Hughes soundtrack.
The Cult of Carly Rae made my first show magical. This wasn't just a concert, it was a celebration of people who were in on the secret. You have to feel for the poor saps who jumped off the Jepsen Jet after "Call Me Maybe." Then again, they're the reason we could see her in a more intimate setting. The audience went crazy for every song, with Jepsen clearly blown away by the worshipers. For that hour and a half, she never let the energy dip and played choir director to an 1,100-person singalong.
Before the show, I was fortunate enough to meet Jepsen. Finally, I could thank her for being the first person to send me flowers, and tell her how much I loved E•MO•TION. It was such a blur, and I probably sounded insane, but I felt like I'd finally said something I needed to say. She was gracious, humble, and everything you'd imagine her to be. I wonder if she understands the love so many have for this record?
I Didn't Just Come Here to Dance
Throughout the year, I watched as friends discovered Carly Rae Jepsen the same way I saw her; someone who made pop music for adults, putting attention into every detail and crafting songs that remind us of being young, having crushes, being heartbroken. The feelings that smart no matter how old you get.
When I realized I could see Jepsen again, but this time in New York City with two of my favorite pop aficionados, I couldn't say no. We got to the show, staked out a corner, and danced our asses off. At the Chicago show, I absorbed the vibe and watched Jepsen take command of the stage. With the New York show, the songs became gospels. We shouted every lyric, sweat through our clothes, and bathed in the positive energy.
The Terminal 5 show was the last on Jepsens' Gimmie Love Tour, and she also had much to celebrate; E•MO•TION was not only one of the highest rated pop albums of the year, but it was the 11th best rated album anyone in 2015. More importantly, Jepsen proved she wasn't defined by one song and established herself as one of the best writers in the genre. Suddenly, E•MO•TION was a point of reference for examplifying a perfect pop record. Many who've been aching for Robyn to return with new music found solace in someone else making songs just as pure and anthemic.
Nobody will forget June 12th, 2016. We remember where we were when we heard 49 members of the LGBT community lost their lives in the deadliest mass shooting in American history. Pulse Nightclub in Orlando was every nightclub; LGBT people all over the world rely on gay bars and clubs as escapes from a world that continues to other them. The weight of the fear and anger made celebrating a Pride event in Los Angeles a struggle for everyone. How can we dance? How can we sing and be with our family and friends, knowing those 49 people will never get to be with theirs?
Somehow, you push through being afraid and refuse to accept defeat. We need to dance. We need to sing. We need to celebrate the people we love.
I traveled to Los Angeles for a few reasons, but Carly Rae Jepsen headlining Pride made it a required visit. After a day that ran the gamut of emotions, Jepsen welcomed us to pause our thoughts and let music do what it does best: heal. Having the familiar soundtrack of the songs from E•MO•TION drown out the sadness was the ultimate medicine. Imagining the responsibility Jepsen felt to put on her usual show in the face of national tragedy, and how she had to push through the same emotions, made me even more in awe of her. It's the best gift she could have given everyone in the crowd that day, and I hope she knows that.
Let's Get Lost
I read that "Call Me Maybe" is the first Billboard Hot 100 number one to be performed at a Pitchfork festival. While I'm not sure if that's true, I'm choosing to believe that Carly Rae Jepsen is the queen of shattering hipster glass ceilings. My final Jepsen show of the year was seeing her perform at Pitchfork Music Festival. This was one of the biggest and best celebrations of her amazing year. The crowd didn't just go nuts over "Call Me Maybe"; every song was given equal enthusiasm. I could even hear people around me doing the background vocals and ad-libs from the studio recordings. We all know this record inside and out, feeding off of the shared joy.
Today marks one year since Carly Rae Jepsen released E·MO·TION in the United States. Listening to all of the the songs from the era on shuffle while writing this, is indeed, emotional. I'm instantly transported to dissecting the harmonies of "Gimmie Love" with one of my best friends. I recall shouting the words to "Your Type" simultaneously with another friend as we expressed the song's full anguish. The sax intro to "Run Away With Me" loops the countless vines in my head that were shared in group texts, even after the joke was beaten into the ground.
I'm not sure when it's appropriate to call an album one of your all-time favorites, but I think a year is plenty of time. As the best albums often do, this one soundtracked so many unforgettable moments. Here's to more memories, music, and E·MO·TION.