Carly Rae Jepsen gives Portland a truly “Super Tuesday”

By Ben Weinstein /// Arts Editor

Photo Courtesy of Julio Enriquez/ Creative Commons
Photo Courtesy of Julio Enriquez/ Creative Commons

It’s unfortunate that this clarification needs to be made, but based on comments I’ve received throughout the past few weeks I think it necessary: yes, I actually did go see Carly Rae Jepsen, and no, there was nothing ironic about it. As reluctant as people are to accept it, Jepsen’s 2015 album EMOTION is one of the most ballsy, infectious pop albums to come out in recent memory. The production across the LP is so immaculate that even if her lyrics force the occasional eye-roll, it’s undeniable that she’s putting top 40 juggernauts like Taylor Swift and Rihanna to shame. So of course when I saw that Carly would be gracing the Wonder Ballroom with her presence I knew I had to attend; I just had no idea what to expect.

Maybe it was stupid of me to not predict the crowd at the Wonder being largely made up of pre-teen girls. Jepsen was catapulted into the public consciousness with her 2012 single “Call Me Maybe,” but I assumed that in the years since she had gradually faded into obscurity. The shrill, passionate screams of teenyboppers reminded me after every song just how wrong I was.

Upon stepping into the venue clad in all black, I quickly began to feel somewhat out of place. My friends and I represented a middle ground between the junior-high aged youths and the parents they attended with, alienating us from the rest of the extremely packed concert hall. Thankfully, Carly’s set started on the earlier side (it was a school night, after all) and our insecurities became shrouded under the cover of darkness.

Her four-piece band took the stage, and in a matter of moments Jepsen followed them out to deliver EMOTION’s second single “Run Away With Me.” My fears that her live sound would pale in comparison to the heavily produced studio recordings was quickly vanquished, and nearly all of her set sounded just as large as on record. The quintet proceeded to blast through new cuts like “Warm Blood,” “Boy Problems,” “LA Hallucinations,” and — a personal highlight for me both on the album and during the show — the record’s title track. Several tracks from her 2012 album Kiss were also interspersed throughout 20 song setlist, including her Owl City collaboration “Good Time” and, of course, “Call Me Maybe.”

Watching someone like Carly perform was a foreign experience for me. She’s an entertainer through and through, which resulted in nausea-inducing small talk between songs. More often than not this came in the form of song backgrounds, wherein she would reference a bad breakup to an audience that was still, largely, more concerned about cooties than love. Despite my aggravation with her pandering, I kept reminding myself that if I had wanted to see an edgier performer, I should’ve saved my money and went to see The Melvins in May — and I found myself warming up to Jepsen’s shtick pretty quickly.

When the house lights flickered on and the little children scurried home to get some sleep before middle school, I left the Wonder Ballroom sweaty and confused, yet satisfied. While I don’t rank that Carly Rae Jepsen show among my favorite concerts of all time, it was a valuable experience attending a pop show that poppy and showy. I just don’t anticipate doing it again anytime soon.

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