This week, Carly Rae Jepsen arrived in California, the very place she lived in 2012 when she witnessed her massive single, “Call Me Maybe,” grow to incredible heights. With shows at Arlington Theatre (Santa Barbara), The Greek (Los Angeles), and The Greek (Berkeley), in a full circle moment, Jepsen returns to perform for her fans on “The So Nice Tour.” But a lot has changed since 2012.
Hailing from Canada, Jepsen is a singer-songwriter best known to the average pop layperson for one hit song. But she has since proved she has much more to offer, curating one of the most charming redemption arcs in music. She soared from forever-one-hit-wonder to cult superstar, burgeoning into a sword-wielding leader of lovers scorned. This was mainly due to her third studio release, the 1980’s inspired and critically revered dance-pop album Emotion, which helped popularize the recent trend of 80’s synth-pop dominating the recent charts. Notably, Jepsen’s genuine lyricism and unabashed yet not overly-tacky yearning sets her pop music apart from her successors to this day.
A gigantic cartoon moon appears on screen to greet us with “This Love Isn’t Crazy,” an intro to the first song. During “Too Much,” Jepsen appears onstage with a dancer on each side, slowly descending the stairs as she cheekily asks “am I bad for you?”
She introduces her next song by stating, “it’s the law,” and the crowd cheers in realization. Aforementioned cultural moment “Call Me Maybe” begins and for the first time, Jepsen’s voice is completely drowned out. The crowd jumps in unison, their hands up in ecstasy. The culprit? Nostalgia.
“This is an LA song if there ever was one,” she laughs, as the start of “Western Wind” fills the auditorium. “California, it crossed my mind,” she smiles knowingly to the audience, dancing up the stage stairs in a glimmering slit dress.
Jepsen briefly disappears for a costume change, then emerges in a shining silver suit with fan favorite “I Really Like You,” advising us, “You’ve got to be direct. Say how you feel!”
Another single from Emotion, “Your Type,” begins with slow, sparse beats, as she laments, “I used to be in love with you,” as the drums, synth and her despair build to “I’m not going to pretend that I’m the type of girl you call more than a friend.”
We find Jepsen in “Go Find Yourself Or Whatever” at her most stripped back, as she croons the title, which, lyrically, is bitter for her. She’s usually known for her soft, sweet, and mournful pining, but in “Go Find Yourself,” she still holds her core charm of being passive and vulnerable in an endearing manner. The animated moon spins behind, as her shadow illuminates. The moon then slowly turns to a blood moon as she sings, “every time the red moon rises…I’ll keep some hope…I hope it treats you better” with newfound earnestness, as if her thoughts and emotions are slowly starting to align as she finds inner acceptance: thus, creating her fiery eclipse.
Jepsen then causes an unprecedented stir, stating, “something really magical is about to happen.” She welcomes fellow Canadian star Rufus Wainwright for their duet, “The Loneliest Time.” The song reaches even greater heights than in their studio recording, with their voices blending to fill the amphitheater.
As the show pedals to a close, Jepsen exclaims, “I’m trying to freeze this moment in my mind forever.”
With a smile, arms outstretched, she looks out into a spellbound crowd, all attempting to do the same.