MANILA, Philippines – Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” was the song that launched a thousand viral videos. Some observers even called it “world-uniting” in its ubiquity.
Topping the impact of that massive single can be extremely daunting. In the album Kiss (2012) where it was the lead single, however, the Canadian pop singer has already shown her formidable songwriting chops. It’s just that “Call Me Maybe” was that big; it overshadowed the other stellar, disco-leaning tracks – it’s almost criminal to overlook them!
Vulture may have hit the mark in saying, “There’s something reassuringly craftsmanlike about her music; she pours all her energy into the song itself, and seems to have little interest in using it to create some sort of persona or ‘personal brand’ the way her contemporaries do.”
But maybe this is just what the world of pop music needs. Carly is a breath of fresh air in a landscape obsessed with spectacle. Her music is a return to roots with clever songwriting and superb production. – just good ol’ pop. (READ: Carly Rae Jepsen, out of the shadow of ‘Call Me Maybe’)
Her newest album Emotion (stylized as E•MO•TION) is stuffed with earworm material that might just be some of the best in this decade – bar none. Even the indie music-loving folks at Stereogum are swooning, “There’s no space in any of these songs. They suffocate you with joy.”
The record brims with euphoria and ‘80s nostalgia – complete with vibrant synths and bouncy beats. It’s a solid collection that would perfectly soundtrack, say, a John Hughes film.
On her second Manila show at the Big Dome, Monday, September 15 Carly swept everyone off their feet and took them back to the ‘80s. She said in a previous interview, “I’m hoping that everyone who comes is either an ‘80s baby or ready to embrace ‘80s for the first time – to dance and just enjoy it with us.”
The concert was incredible as a whole, but here are some standout moments:
Running away back to the ‘80s with Carly
There was something quite thrilling about hopping on Carly’s time machine.
Emotion evokes hyper-saturated visions of such an edgy and unique decade (think Miami Vice or Drive), and the stage lights in candy shades of turquoise, purple, and magenta were a nod to that. The album is also a fantastic throwback to timeless sounds, and the songs naturally electrified the crowd – who all let loose to all the uplifting hooks and beats.
Opening with “Run Away with Me,” Carly called for an adventure, “‘Cause you make me feel like / I could be driving you all night.” Although this might be inadvertent, a clever pattern started to emerge with the next song, “Making the Most of the Night”: “Here I come now / Baby, I’m speeding / and red lights I’ll run.” The Rostam Batmanglij collab “Warm Heart” says, “Let down my guard tonight / I just don’t care tonight.”
Your girl @carlyraejepsen with 'Warm Blood'!!! s/o to @matsoR! pic.twitter.com/FKSaGXq5xB— Out of Tune (@outoftunelive) September 14, 2015
‘All that we could do with this e-mo-tion’
This was a night about shamelessly embracing all the sappy lyrics – about infatuation, heartbreak, moving on, and so forth – while blissfully dancing to them.
“There are songs on [Emotion] that tackle romantic desolation and make it sound like the most fun s**t ever,” says music website Stereogum, who nailed it in saying, “There’s the euphoria that comes when you’ve finally figured out how to tell someone something difficult.”
From the Sia co-penned “Boy Problems,” to the nü-disco heartbreaker “Tonight I’m Getting Over You,” the TMZ-and-Buzzfeed-namechecking “L.A. Hallucinations,” or her new album’s title track – there was a palpable rush of emotions among the audience.
E – MO – TION#carlyraejepsenmnl pic.twitter.com/7c222BXQWy— Out of Tune (@outoftunelive) September 15, 2015
As Carly told the back stories about some of her songs, the crowd cheered – as if affirming that they could relate. From how it looked, there was no shortage of lovelorn and heartbroken folks. Perhaps the best way to deal with the onslaught of memories, thoughts, and moods was to sing one’s lungs out.
This is a hallmark of great pop music: deceptively simple lyrics that can deal with complex experiences. “I wanted [Emotion] to be something that wasn’t just a reflection of my own personal life, but something that could be a reflection of everyone – a universal common thread to it,” Carly earlier told Rappler.
Carly chills out with ‘All That’
“All That” is reminiscent of a proper, old school ‘80s ballad. With its distinct, shimmery synth chords, the languid track created a sort of breathing space in Carly’s largely upbeat set. Co-written with Devonté Hynes and Ariel Rechtshaid (who previously paired on Sky Ferreira’s “Everything is Embarassing”), the song cruises and oozes with a chillwave aesthetic.
This @carlyraejepsen tune co-penned with @arielrechtshaid and @devhynes =pic.twitter.com/sKZJfGLizA— Out of Tune (@outoftunelive) September 15, 2015
But as Carly sung, “Show me if you want me, if I’m all that,” there was something quite sultry and revealing about it. As she earlier confessed, “[I feel] barenaked in a weird way when I play it because it’s such a heart-baring sort of song.” It’s a display not only of her versatility, but also her sincerity – marks of an exceptional performer.
Sing-along party with Carly
Earlier in the show, Carly noticed the dedication of her fans who were singing their lungs out. She said, “I can say how amazing it feels to see you sing along well. Thank you so much.”
She later asked the crowd to sing along to a somber arrangement of “Curiosity”: “Try this with me: Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, uh, oh…” The fans matched this with almost pitch-perfect harmony. “Okay, you know how to do it. Perfect!” she said.
Never let me go oh oh oh oh oh oh #CarlyRaeJepsenMNL pic.twitter.com/m6NKG9aivg— Out of Tune (@outoftunelive) September 15, 2015
Carly closes the show with hits ‘Call Me Maybe’ and ‘I Really Like You’
“There’s one song in my repertoire that I have sung more than any other. I would like to do that song for you, but in trade, you have to do it with me,” said Carly. From this, Manila recognized what was coming: the 2012 LSS-inducing anthem, “Call Me Maybe.” Everyone ran up front to lose themselves to the frenzy.
After a solid set of retro-sounding tunes, it was time to call it a night. Carly serenaded the ecstatic fans with one of her newest hits: “We hope to be back soon, and I want you to know that I really, really, really, really like you.”
Really really really really really ad infinitumpic.twitter.com/XrokAcKb3Q— Out of Tune (@outoftunelive) September 15, 2015
Carly Rae Jepsen: Live in Manila is presented by Concert Republic and Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Paolo Abad is a film/television editor and motion graphic designer. He is also a self-confessed concert junkie – a perennial attendee at gigs of indie acts.
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