Pop music has long made heartbreak hummable, but making it a feeling worth savoring? That’s a bit tougher to pull off. Yet Carly Rae Jepsen did just that Thursday night throughout her 90-minute headlining set at the House of Blues. In her first Dallas-area appearance in three years, the 33-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter moved with purpose, briskly punching out one song after another, but taking care to offer chatty asides throughout.
Jepsen’s set was stacked high with songs savoring and lamenting love from a variety of angles, reflecting and refracting sorrow and joy like the light bouncing off the disco ball mounted in the rafters above her. Backed by a six-piece band — four musicians and two backup vocalists — the ebullient Jepsen was greeted with a roar as she appeared and launched into “No Drug Like Me,” from Dedicated, her most recent studio album and the title of her tour, which stretches into October.
The near-capacity crowd, a riot of ages, genders and sexual persuasions, was locked on the same wavelength all night long — a feedback loop of pleasure perpetually renewed between audience and artist — and frequently sang along with enough gusto to nearly drown out Jepsen’s own vocals.
There was the sense created by gazing around at those gathered that many of these songs, sleek and sophisticated though they may be, had provided the soundtrack for many a dark night of the soul. Of course, Jepsen is also well-known for — and was catapulted into the mainstream by — the inescapable earworm known as “Call Me Maybe,” which she dispatched relatively early Thursday.
Rather than retrofit her titanic hit single into the coolly hip, synth-heavy style she currently favors, Jepsen performed the tune as originally written, making the fizzy confection something of an outlier in an otherwise moody, dramatic set. (It will come as zero surprise that nearly every being with a pulse and a smartphone handy Thursday was recording the performance of “Call Me Maybe.”)
Yet that dichotomy was instructive — a vivid illustration of the value of following your own path. Jepsen might have, for a time anyway, found plenty of fame and fortune cranking out minor variations of “Maybe,” but the law of diminishing returns would have inevitably kicked in, leaving the musician stranded on an island of her own making.
Instead, Jepsen acknowledges the golden key that unlocked the rest of her career and trusts the fans will follow her wherever her muse leads. It’s a formula that seems, thus far, to be working out just fine for her.
The platinum blonde performer, who squeezed in a costume change during her breathlessly paced set, appeared to be having just as much fun as those jammed inside the room, weaving between 2015’s Emotion and this year’s Dedicated, which comprised the bulk of Thursday’s show.
Gleaming melodies, bouncy beats and Jepsen’s lithe, youthful voice — “Run Away with Me” spilled into “Julien,” tumbled into “Happy Not Knowing,” rolled into “Now That I Found You” — provided a candy coating for tough-to-swallow truths.
The cumulative effect of the evening’s mid-tempo desolation and desire (Jepsen gave seduction a sunny disposition with “Want You in My Room.” “I just wanna get a little bit closer/And I press you to the pages of my heart”) bordered upon intoxicating, cementing Carly Rae Jepsen as the rare artist who can effectively make doomed love feel like euphoria.
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