Carly Rae Jepsen’s artistic career proves surprisingly important to pop genre

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Canadian up-and-comer Carly Rae Jepsen’s addictive pop song “Call Me Maybe” is making a stir online and may be this summer’s surprise jam. (Photo Courtesy of 604 Records)

Audrey Larcher

When Carly Rae Jepsen exploded onto the scene with Call Me Maybe in 2012, it was easy to think nothing of her. The empty backtrack and goofishly simple lyrics elicited huge reactions from the general public, but for more invested pop fans, the song was just another dime-a-dozen teeny bop. Now, a month after her latest single release, music communities anticipate Jepsen’s imminent album drop with zeal.  

The difference in reception is not coincidental. After a groundbreaking album release and several creative projects, Jepsen’s artistic development is astonishing. She crafted a career arc that speaks to pop’s power and diversity, and simultaneously contributed to meaningful discussions on sexism in the music industry. 

Call Me Maybe was a joke. No, literally — the single was launched into popularity by a series of celebrity lip dubs and sustained by popular internet memes. Besides the reaction, Jepsen did not demonstrate reason for industry professionals to take interest in her, unless their sole motivation was to churn out meme-worthy singles. 

But what Jepsen’s next album, “E-MO-TION,” did wasn’t something we could anticipate. The album’s style was distinct, carried by catchy synthesizers that seemed to gaze backward to the 70s and pay homage to pop predecessors. Coupling this theme with diverse instrumentation, including bold saxophone and colorful bass tropes, Jepsen crafted a piece that electrifies listeners into dancing the same way it subdues them into a listening trance. 

And now, a few days after showcasing “E-MO-TION” on a philharmonic palette and even closer to releasing her newest record, Jepsen has only grown more as an artist. The forgettable Canadian idol star is making a name for herself as someone who understands the versatility of pop music.  

Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift demonstrate the genre’s sensationalist pigeonhole, shallowly flirting with hip-hop and producing music that elicits an immediate reaction rather than artistic admiration. Jepsen’s career serves as a fortified juxtaposition — her success stems from a diddy’s novelty, but her growth is mature, focused on intelligent sound engineering that appeals more to fine-tuned ears than radio DJs. 

Lyrical themes in “E-MO-TION” and the new single “Cut to the Feeling” follow the same vein. Jepsen isn’t an intersectional feminist like Beyonce, nor does she try to highlight lukewarm “girl power” the way Katy Perry does. Jepsen is content singing about romance.  

Certainly, tracks like “Your Type” that delve into more complicated heartbreak display how Jepsen has evolved since writing the air-thin “Call Me Maybe.”  But her confidence in sticking to love songs is representative of her desire to create universally-enjoyable music that nods to old-school pop traditions.  

Carly Rae Jepsen does not excite masses of young girls the same way Ariana Grande and others do, but her contributions to pop are arguably more valuable. Her music pulls the genre in a sustainable direction, valuing quality over marketable appeal. In several years, she will be remembered for her meaningful impact but until then, I can’t wait for her next album. 

Larcher is a Plan II and economics sophomore from Austin. Follow her on Twitter @AudreyLarcher.