Carly Rae Jepsen’s career has undergone several shifts. The overwhelming success of “Call Me Maybe” solidified her place in the bygone teen pop era of the early 2010s. She’s managed to avoid the creative slump and complete irrelevance that typically follow hits of that caliber, having accrued a couple of smaller hits, released acclaimed albums and developed a core fanbase. Through increasingly mature lyricism and immersive instrumentation, her songs have only gotten better. Despite this, the formula to a great Jepsen song hasn’t changed much from “Call Me Maybe” — candy-coated melodies and memorable lyrics. Gearing up to release her next album, The Loneliest Time, on Oct. 21, Jepsen has released four singles, all of which blast into different musical directions yet expand upon the nook of catchy, wholesome pop she’s carved out for herself.
The lead single, “Western Wind,” was a weird choice to begin the era — unlike earlier lead singles, like Emotion’s “I Really Like You,” it lacks the explosiveness of some of her most fun songs. It’s much more of a subtle statement, as the muted chords provide a great backdrop for Jepsen’s reflections on California love. “Western Wind” is like lounging at the foot of a tree on a hot, humid day, headphones on, reading your favorite book. It’s that kind of warm, enveloping hug. The song is also a testament to her vocal versatility; many of Jepsen’s songs have a loud, anthemic flair, so her subdued vocals here are refreshing among the rest.
The other singles are much more conventional for Jepsen’s discography. Still, it’d be a disservice to say that they blend together. “Talking to Yourself” is a massive banger — it’s pure pop at its finest, with a pulsating beat and a soaring chorus. Lyrically, it’s very in-your-face — Jepsen isn’t a stranger to the theme of failed relationships. But here, it’s intensified, as exemplified by the (very direct) chorus: “Are you thinkin’ of me when you’re with somebody else? / Do you talk to me when you’re talkin’ to yourself?” It’s the perfect example of what makes pop music so fun to listen to.
Arguably the weakest single yet, “Beach House,” is still a joy to listen to, but more from a lyrical standpoint than anything else. The song is kind of static, melodically and instrumentally, and with a length of only 2:30, it’s slightly underdeveloped for a Jepsen track. The song focuses on disastrous matches on dating apps — both realistic and exaggerated — ranging from a married man, to another scamming her out of $10,000, to one wanting to harvest her organs. The lyrics sound like an updated version of 2020’s “Let’s Be Friends” in the best way, with both songs putting humorous twists on disappointing romantic situations.
The latest single is the title track, which features fellow Canadian Rufus Wainwright. With the weather growing colder, this song feels appropriate to listen to; the lush disco strings and Wainwright’s harmonies feel like the musical equivalent of curling up with a blanket during winter break, drinking hot chocolate and watching the snow fall outside. It’s hard not to smile while listening — the lyrics describe the mending of a previously ended relationship (“‘Cause this time, love, we’re gonna get it right”), and it’s simply heartwarming. The bridge is a highlight as Jepsen endearingly shouts “I’m coming back for you!” Out of all the singles, this is the one that truly seems to set up the album’s atmosphere, and the song is all the more exciting for it. The differences between all these songs make the album’s direction unpredictable, but regardless, it sets the stage for what may be another compelling project.
Daily Arts Contributor Thejas Varma can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.