It would be easy to regard Carly Rae Jepsen as forever belonging to 2012. That was the year the erstwhile Canadian Idol finalist broke through to U.S. audiences with “Call Me Maybe,” a single so undeniable, with a hook so insidiously catchy, that its pop culture ubiquity seemed inevitable from the moment the song graced American Top 40 radio.
The song spent nine weeks atop the Hot 100 chart and earned 2012’s song of the summer crown, and although another single, “Good Time” with Owl City, also became a Top 10 hit, “Call Me Maybe” was such a colossal smash that Jepsen’s career became defined by those syncopated strings and the three harmonious words in front of them. Kiss, the 2012 album that “Call Me Maybe” called home, did not enjoy a particularly long chart run, selling 289,000 copies to date according to Nielsen Music and failing to turn follow-up singles “This Kiss” and “Tonight I’m Getting Over You” into hits. Instead of quickly releasing a Kiss sequel, Jepsen spent three months starring on Broadway, and over two years working on new music. Two-and-a-half years removed from the amazing run of “Call Me Maybe,” Jepsen’s mainstream career is largely defined by that single, and may very well always be.
But here are two important things to keep in mind: despite its lack of multiple smashes, Kiss is a tremendous record, a triumphant collection of bubblegum music rightly heralded by pop addicts in the years following its release. And the follow-up to Kiss, which is slowly coming together, could be even better, based on many recent indicators.
Since the beginning of 2015, Jepsen has given us reasons to get legitimately excited about her second album for School Boy/Interscope Records. In January, Jepsen posted an Instagram photo of herself in the studio with Dev Hynes, the mastermind of Blood Orange, and songwriter/producer Ariel Rechtshaid. For those unfamiliar, these two guys have made some of the more compelling pop music of the 2010s so far. Rechtshaid was instrumental in shaping the sound of albums like Vampire Weekend‘s Modern Vampires of the City, Haim‘s Days Are Gone, Sky Ferreira‘s Night Time, My Time and Charli XCX‘s True Romance, among many other projects; meanwhile, Hynes worked closely with Solange on her True EP and produced Mutya Keisha Siobhan‘s underrated single “Flatline,” along with his critically lauded Blood Orange album, 2013’s Cupid Deluxe. Together, Rechtshaid and Hynes produced Ferreira’s captivating indie-pop single “Everything is Embarrassing”; imagining this pair creating something on par with that song for Jepsen is worth getting animated about.
Then, Jepsen shared a photo alongside Bleachers head/Fun. guitarist Jack Antonoff, who co-wrote Sara Bareilles‘ “Brave” and three songs on Taylor Swift‘s 1989 album; Jepsen professed that she had a “[g]reat couple days in the studio” with the in-demand pop writer. A few weeks later, Jepsen snapped an Instagram photo of herself with Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij, who contributed to Charli XCX’s Sucker album and produced his band’s beloved first two full-lengths. “New music soooon!” read the Rostam/Carly caption. Okay, so combined with the Hynes/Rechtshaid news, we can conclude that Jepsen is going the indie-pop route! Maybe the Kiss follow-up will be Pitchfork-approved instead of a commercial comeback. Best New Jepsen!
Okay, so now Jepsen’s comeback includes a must-see music video with Tom Freakin’ Hanks and the Biebs as her co-stars. “I Really Like You” is coming out in March, and early word on the single is very strong. Scooter Braun, Bieber’s manager and Founder of SB Projects, had this to say about the song during a recent chat with Billboard: “I told her that she couldn’t come out with anything unless it was on the level of ‘Call Me Maybe.’ And, now we have a new one that is on that level.” It’s expected for someone in Braun’s position to say something that praiseworthy of Jepsen’s new material, but the direct comparison to “Call Me Maybe” remains pretty encouraging.
Still not pumped for the Jepsen Train to roll into the station? Maybe yesterday’s news, that Jepsen has spent studio time with Tegan and Sara, will get you there. Jepsen has worked with her fellow Canadians before (Sara Quin co-wrote the Kiss bonus track “Sweetie”), and that was before the indie-rock duo segued into technicolor pop with their 2013 album, Heartthrob. If Tegan and Sara can help Jepsen re-create the warm hooks of a song like “Closer,” then this project becomes even more enticing.
Jepsen’s next album does not have an announced release date (most likely because it is not finished), and the list of collaborators is not concrete (Jepsen has also mentioned producers like Benny Blanco and Josh Ramsay being involved in the project). Yet the hints she has dropped represent promising signs for those of us who have heard what Jepsen can accomplish on a proper pop album and want her to have another shot at the spotlight. The success of “Call Me Maybe” may be darn near impossible to replicate, but Jepsen’s mainstream moment will likely extend past one calendar year.