Carly Rae Jepsen, Canadian pop royalty, makes daydreams and desire sound like dancefloor magic. Few other pop artists have capitalized on emotion—both the highs of new love and the lows of heartbreak—in the way Jepsen has. She’s a tried-and-true romantic who’s always seeking new experiences and relationships, and her pop songs are some of the purest, most blissful and most important we have. I hate that it has to be said, but she has proved time and time again that pop music should be taken seriously. Beloved by both critics and fans, she has created a glistening discography of pop perfection. Maybe it’s because of memories from summer 2012 when “Call Me Maybe” was inescapable on airwaves, but I always associate Jepsen’s music with hot weather. In May 2019, she dropped her album Dedicated and followed it a year later (almost to the day) with its sister record Dedicated Side B. Hence, another summer full of Jepsen’s pop songs. I’ve been feeling extra grateful for my favorite pop singer these last few months in quarantine, so I decided to rank my 10 favorite CRJ songs. One thing remains absolutely clear: Carly Rae Jepsen’s catalogue is like a theme park of endlessly fun and entertaining rides. Each album and song feels more exciting and sensual than the next. Whether you’re head-over-heels or reeling from lost love, there’s always a Carly Rae Jepsen song to make you feel even better—or at least feel something. Keep scrolling for a list of 10 of her best songs.
“Call Me Maybe” is a pop song in its finest form. Catchy, camp and just a tad corny, “Call Me Maybe” is pure fun, and it took over our entire year in 2012. For some, that may have been an annoying residency, but for those of us who leaned into its elaborate kitsch, “Call Me Maybe” was like an ice cold treat, and Carly Rae Jepsen our newest pop obsession. It was so simple and silly (“Hey I just met you and this is crazy”) yet so bold (“But here’s my number, so call me maybe?”), and it struck the perfect chord with radio listeners. Though Jepsen went on to craft some of this decade’s best pop music, she has never quite replicated this song’s commercial magic.“Call Me Maybe” was a blockbuster, and it remains a classic.
“Boy problems, who’s got ‘em?” Pop singers have been loathing men and all their shortcomings in songs for decades, but no one came right out and put a name to this phenomenon until Carly Rae Jepsen said it in 2015. Men are a disease, also known as “boy problems,” and while our girlfriends may get tired of hearing us complain about the fellas in our lives, Jepsen reminds us that we all have the right to feel those feelings. But in the end, she advises us to refrain from dwelling on one guy for too long: “I think I broke up with my boyfriend today / And I don’t really care / I’ve got worse problems.”
So much of 2012’s Kiss is overshadowed by the sheer weight of “Call Me Maybe,” but this song can sit right alongside Ms. Jepsen’s radio giant. “More Than A Memory” gives us a glimpse of what 2015’s Emotion would bring: regret, anxiety and real relationship qualms, all explored over a rush of sugar-sweet synths and glimmering pop production.
When Carly Rae Jepsen surprise released Dedicated Side B earlier this year, I never dreamed she could top anything on Side A. But “Stay Away” is a incredible feat of production and a test of human will. “How can I stay away?” Jepsen asks in her shiny soprano. In the end, she can’t resist. Sometimes a strong attraction prolongs the potentially messy end to a relationship. As Jepsen sings, “If my love’s too strong for you, walk away / But I can’t make this wrong when I see your face / My home is your body / How can I stay away?”
Carly Rae Jepsen is the untroubled single woman chasing pleasure on “Want You In My Room,” which seems to span every age of pop from the lush new wave of The Bangles to the slippery dance-pop of ’90s boy bands to Daft Punk’s sophisticated AutoTune before a saxophone solo takes the song out on a strangely satisfying note (hello again, “Run Away With Me”). —Ellen Johnson
“I Really Like You” might sound annoying at first, but it’s actually pop perfection. The music video makes it even more enjoyable. In his starring role in the video for Jepsen’s “I Really Like You” (from her 2015 masterwork Emotion), a grin-bearing Tom Hanks mouths every word to the titular song as he sashays around lower Manhattan, stopping to play ping-pong with strangers and pose for selfies, before meeting up with Ms. Jepsen (and, randomly, Justin Bieber?) for a Hairspray-worthy dance number in the streets. It’s entirely nonsensical, but entirely wonderful. And why shouldn’t two of our greatest cheer-spreaders appear in a short film together? It’s good, clean fun. Let’s just let this be good. —Ellen Johnson
The opener on Side A of Dedicated is about a ghost of a relationship. The spirit of “Julien,” or whoever Jepsen is singing about here, just won’t leave her alone: She has exaggerated the memories of their affair in her mind, and now the fantasy of that relationship is better than reality could ever be. We have to face the truth, but sometimes living in daydreams is just so much more enjoyable. This cut also just happens to be a fabulous dance track and one of the best get-on-your-feet songs in Jepsen’s discography.
Carly Rae Jepsen has made a career out of singing about infatuation and heartbreak. But, here, she shatters the glass of her own formula. “Party For One” is an unapologetic joy achieved by solitude—a radical idea in the world of Carly Rae Jepsen, which is defined by spikes of heat, desire and happiness brought on by romance and partnership. Her catalogue consists almost entirely of emotional highs, but this is one created by the act of self-love and confidence as opposed to affirmation from others. One of the best lessons Jepsen has taught us? It’s never too late to get “back on my beat” (and you don’t need anyone to feel fulfilled).
The title track from 2015’s Emotion is as fantastic as the album itself, which we named one of the best releases of the 2010s. It can also work like a thesis song for Jepsen’s entire catalogue, a collection of songs constantly in search of strong feelings both positive and seemingly negative. Relationships are first defined by emotion, and sometimes whether those feelings are romantic or something else can be ambiguous. Jepsen sums this up perfectly on “Emotion”: “In your fantasy, dream about me / And all that we could do with this emotion.” She’s begging someone to capitalize on some sexual torment, and we cannot help but stan.
This is the quintessential Carly Rae Jepsen song. While it may forever be associated with saxophone memes, “Run Away With Me” is an urgent call to drop everything and just go. There’s absolutely no doubt that Jepsen’s a textbook romantic, and one urge romantics almost always feel is the need to be spontaneous and have certain adventures and experiences with their lovers. The pure rush of this song is the combination of a thousand starry skies, daring night swims and wanderlust-seeking road trips. It’s all of Jepsen’s daydreams made real.