Give Carly Rae Jepsen all the swords. She deserves them.
Carly Rae Jepsen waving a sword around in the middle of her concert just feels right. In the years since “Call Me Maybe” burrowed its way into all of our long-term memories, Jepsen has committed herself making pop so perfect that’s worth fighting for. She is the human embodiment of “poptimism” and one of its de facto leaders. So, when she was handed an inflatable sword during “Run Away With Me” at her show at the Filmore on Saturday — one emblazoned with “Carly Slay Jepsen” in sharpie, no less — no one batted an eye. The show saw Jepsen leading her army of dedicated fans towards a bright, hook-filled, and sweaty future.
I’m sure in a few years someone will have pinpointed the exact moment that Carly Rae Jepsen became a gay icon. For now though, we just have to accept it. If one were to open Grindr at the show, their phone probably would have shut down on the spot. This kind of crowd makes for the best show. Every song was met with giddy dancing and roaring sing-alongs. Of course, everyone sang along to “Call Me Maybe”, but deep cuts like “Store” and “Feels Right” got the same treatment. “Julien”, the slinky track that opens Dedicated, had the entire Filmore swooning, while “Party For One” inspired triumphant fist-pumping.
Throughout the show, Jepsen moved theatrically to her own songs. She partook in some minimal choreography, but most of the time, she seemed to really feel each lyric. “Fever” and “Everything He Needs” were performed with such intensity, it was as if Jepsen was re-living the experiences that inspired them. In between tracks, Jepsen would occasionally explain the stories behind her songs; “Now That I Found You” is about her love for her cat, which is all too relatable, and “Fever” was inspired by when she stole her boyfriend’s bike. What sets Jepsen’s pop songs apart from that of others, is the sense of life that imbued in each one. They beam with relatability and love. Jepsen probably could have been the one-hit-wonder many expected her to be and never made music again, but instead she has chosen to fight the good fight and make music both she and her audience is passionate about.
Where 2015’s E•MO•TION is a bombastic tribute to 80’s pop, Jepsen’s latest album is a more subdued affair. This is not to say that it is in any way lacking in energy, it just expresses it differently. Instead of being in your face like “Boy Problems” and “I Really Like You”, its siren call is more subtle. Jepsen starts songs like “Real Love” and “No Drug Like Me” quietly, making sure you understand her current emotional state of affairs. Then, she uses their choruses to let the melodrama rush out. Much like Robyn, Jepsen uses her choruses to keep listeners tuned in to whatever story she is telling in her verses. Dedicated shows her mastery of this craft, and her live show puts any doubters to shame.
During “For Sure”, Jepsen disappears from the stage. In her absence, her band twisted the campy Dedicated cut and spun it into a synthy cocoon. Eventually, Carly re-emerges, having swapped her purple dress for a flower-covered two piece, and busts through the extended outro of “For Sure” with the joyful seduction of “Want You In My Room.” The song is Jepsen at her most explicitly sexual, though sensuality was palpable throughout the night. “Gimme Love” is likely her sexiest song, so when she performed it, for a few seconds, it seemed as if she had turned some of her audience. Turned or not, the crowd was in the palm of Jepsen’s hand the whole night. She could have asked everyone to turn their shirts inside out and suck their thumbs and they would have.
Jepsen closed the show with “Cut To The Feeling”, a pseudo thesis statement for her whole discography. The track is a slice of catchy catharsis, that, when performed by someone as magnetic as Jepsen, has the power to make it seem like dancing to it is the only thing that matters in the world. The same could probably be said for any of Jepsen’s other songs, and that is what makes her so magical.