by Jake Viswanath
Back in 2012, Carly Rae Jepsen ruled the world and spawned endless pop culture memes and moments with the simplest, most innocent pick-up line: “Call Me Maybe.” This year, instead of letting herself descend into one-hit-wonder territory, she blossomed into a different kind of beast. She became the pop-star that was cool to listen to.
With the June 2015 release of “Emotion,” one of the most critically acclaimed pop albums of the year, Jepsen has cultivated a dedicated niche fan base of adolescents. The teens showed up in droves to Jepsen’s sold-out show at Irving Plaza last Wednesday as part of her”Gimmie Love Fall Tour.”
Opener K. Flay began the evening with her catchy tracks, displaying a subdued swagger and sense of self-assuredness rarely found in an opening act. But while she did her best to hype up the crowd, the attempts were useless.
With nothing but her band, some lights and a vintage rug on stage, the spotlight was on Jepsen. Yet even if she had created a spectacle, it would not have out-shined her. Opening with the transcendent single “Run Away With Me,” Jepsen had the crowd in the palm of her hand from the first note, and for good reason. Her voice was surprisingly strong right off the bat, showing off a wide vocal range and melodic grittiness.
Jepsen was relentless throughout the show, powering through nearly all of “Emotion” and select cuts from previous album “Kiss” in rapid succession. Almost every song was introduced with a charming anecdote about its inspiration, and each song’s production was electrifying live, breathing new life into already stellar tracks. Her stage presence was endearingly awkward, and her comic timing was both terrible and brilliant. This was highlighted when she congratulated a couple in the audience on their engagement right before breakup anthem, “Tonight I’m Getting Over You.” Yet she was also incredibly passionate, reveling in her awkwardness rather than in it rather than apologizing.
From the moment the lights went out to the final bow of the evening, the crowd rarely calmed down, singing along with every song and dancing as if it was their last day on Earth. This was best shown after the performance of “When I Needed You,” when every person kept on chanting the chorus a Capella as the song ended. Jepsen and her band were visibly touched, creating a strong and intimate connection among the audience and everyone on stage. It was a mind-blowing impromptu moment.
Jepsen has it all: an iconic mega-hit, a slew of perfect pop songs and, as she proved at Irving Plaza, the chops to perform them sans the bells and whistles of normal pop concerts. While she may have closed her show with “Call Me Maybe” and “I Really Like You,” they received the least wild reactions of the night, proving that Jepsen has more to offer than her bubblegum hits. Pop aficionados and the Pitchfork crowd have taken notice. They’re just waiting on the public to do the same.
“Gimmie Love ” continues in Hidalgo, Texas, on Nov. 30.
Jake Viswanath is a Contributing Writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.