Exclusive: Pop star Carly Rae Jepsen's joy at UAE concert debut
The Canadian singer describes the hard work that goes into her albums and her excitement at performing at Fiesta De Los Muertos in Dubai
Part of the appeal of Carly Rae Jepsen’s brilliant last album, Emotion (2015) is not only in how effervescent it all sounds. With a dozen songs and a running time of 44 minutes, the ruthless editing resulted in a tight and cohesive set of retro-tinged pop songs.
Taylor Swift may have stolen the headlines with a similar style with her big-selling album 1989, released six months earlier, but Rae Jepsen’s third album did the Eighties better. Minor hits Gimmie Love and I Really Like You (complete with the Tom Hanks-starring music video) channelled the joyful spirit of Belinda Carlisle and Cyndi Lauper.
Another advantage of the 31-year-old Canadian’s lean approach is a strong collection of unreleased material.
With more than 250 songs written for Emotion, Rae Jepsen has been digging into that excess pile of late. Last year she released a companion EP, Emotion: Side B, and most recently a solid new single, Cut to the Feeling, as part of the soundtrack to the recently released animated film Leap!, in which she stars in a voice role.
Big and bold, the track boasts syncopated vocals, driving rhythm and a huge rousing chorus. Cut to the Feeling has already been added to radio stations in the United States and is a hit in Japan.
It is from a promotional tour in Tokyo that Rae Jepsen speaks to us, only hours after the announcement she is heading the music festival Fiesta De Los Muertos at Dubai Autism Rocks Arena on October 27.
“I was surprised the song received any reaction because it was just a bonus song really,” she says.
“I left that song from Emotions because although it is euphoric and it has a similar energy, I just find it a bit too theatrical for the record. I always hoped it would get a home and when this film came along and asked whether I can contribute, I thought that this was perfect.”
The song’s success is also testament to Rae Jepsen's immersive creative process, a style she blames for the relatively long waiting time for her next album which still has no release date.
“But I am writing, I can tell you that. This is the favourite part of what I do and that’s the creating a body of work. So when I am in this stage it is like getting tunnel vision. Whenever I am offered something I ask myself if it takes away from the album,” she says.
“Part of the process is over-writing. Like for this next project I am already 75 songs deep. I think I am nearly done with that and the next step is figuring out what is the cream of the crop from that group.”
Part of the cutting process includes tracks that Rae Jepsen describes as “fear-based songs”.
“I normally write in a bunch of different directions at once,” she says.
“Now, the thing that I noticed, generally with a lot of artists, is that we try to put out the most obvious choices. I am trying really hard not to do [that] and instead offer something fresh and different from what I did before. It is all about showing some kind of growth with each project.
Rae Jepsen's career is laced with equal parts handwork and good fortune. After being encouraged by her drama teacher to audition, the street musician and amateur actress finished third in the 2007 season of Canadian Idol - a ranking she reportedly welcomed as it provided “all the exposure without the devilish contract at the end”. Rae Jepsen followed her initial success with the release of her folksy 2008 debut album Tug of War. However, the minimal success resulted in Rae Jepsen continuing to busk between jobs to make ends meet.
With a more radio-friendly direction for her follow-up album, Kiss, she hit it big time with lead single Call Me Maybe.
The propulsive and insanely catchy track shot to global fame after Justin Bieber tweeted his support for the song. Not long after, Rae Jepsen was supporting the singer on his stadium tour.
With 18 million copies sold, Call Me Maybe was not only 2012's biggest selling single worldwide but remains the fourth bestselling digital single of all time (behind Wiz Khalifa’s See You Again, Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk and Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud respectively).
Where before Rae Jepsen expressed concern at the level of celebrity the song afforded her, she has now become more comfortable with what remains her calling card.
While the influential music trade magazine Billboard recently hailed Call Me Maybe as boasting “the chorus of the century”, Rae Jepsen thinks the song has more to offer than earworm hooks. In the chorus Rae Jepsen confronts her love interest and offers him a date, and she says the song is really about overcoming fears.
“It’s about wishing to have a certain level of confidence, if that makes sense,” she says.
“A lot of my music is about living out some kind of fantasy and desire about a certain way I want to feel and behave. I do believe that I am part of a generation that keeps a lot of things hidden within to protect ourselves from getting hurt. At least I can use these songs to have that confidence and braveness that I wouldn’t have in real life.”
Call Me Maybe is in the running to elicit the biggest mass singalong as part of Fiesta De Los Muertos. Her UAE debut is part of a series of solo shows culminating in a support slot as part of Katy Perry’s United States arena tour, from January.
“I think I had time in the industry to really have grown into myself when it comes to stage performance. It has now become one of the most joyful experiences that I can be a part of. I just lose myself in the moment and try to make it as enjoyable for everyone else,” she says.
“As for coming to Dubai, I am just absolutely so pumped about that. I know that the boys in the band are too. We really can’t wait to come down there and party with all of you."
Carly Rae Jepsen performs at Fiesta De Los Muertoes alongside Gorillaz, Stormzy and more, at Dubai Autism Rocks Arena on Octover 27. Tickets are on sale from Dh350 from www.117live.com
Updated: September 13, 2017 05:25 PM