About 15 minutes into her set at The Factory in Deep Ellum on Friday, pop singer-songwriter Sabrina Carpenter asked her fans to leave behind any personal issues they were facing and be fully swept up in the music and joy of being together. “Be as present as you can,” she urged.
Carpenter’s talk of living in the moment is in many ways at odds with the overall tone of last year’s album, emails i can’t send, and her tour of the same name. Both depict an artist who’s trying to escape her past.
The show could best be described as ambitious, with Carpenter shamelessly sharing her blueprint for world domination before she even hit the stage. The pre-show playlist would’ve come across as bizarre and random to the uninitiated, with Depeche Mode, Fleetwood Mac and Dolly Parton all prompting spontaneous singalongs from the mostly teenage crowd.
We overheard a security guard wondering out loud why these kids were going crazy for these older artists. The answer, of course, is that they all had viral songs on TikTok. It was a fitting playlist considering Carpenter’s single “Nonsense” has also found success on the app. Clips from the show would later go on to be uploaded in almost real time, with fans wanting to be the first to post that next viral Sabrina Carpenter moment.
Carpenter is clearly gunning for top-tier pop stardom, having paid her dues for almost a decade as a child actor on the Disney Channel and four albums before emails i can’t send. However, her career came to a screeching halt in 2020 when Olivia Rodrigo referenced a “blonde girl who made me doubt” on her breakup ballad “driver’s license.” Carpenter was quickly implicated as the supposed other woman, and she was reduced for a time to a supporting character (the villain’s henchman, if you will) in Rodrigo’s story.
She has released two singles addressing this (2020’s “Skin” and 2022’s “Because I Liked a Boy”), bringing renewed attention to the drama long after the fact. Lingering singles aside, the singer is using this album cycle to reintroduce herself to fans new and old and show off her down-to-earth, relatable, non-boyfriend-stealing side.
This tour has achieved viral success thanks to Carpenter’s vocals and performance style alongside her raunchy sense of humor. She performs her single “Nonsense” as part of the encore and adds a funny, off-the-cuff outro personalized for every stop of her tour. Her Dallas verse was, “Everything is bigger here in Dallas / Cowboys call me if you wanna practice / Make some noise if you would ever tap this.”
Two songs played on Friday seemed to truly resonate with the entire crowd. One was not a Sabrina Carpenter song, but “All Too Well” by Taylor Swift, which was the last song on the pre-show playlist. The entire audience erupted in deafening cheers when the opening chords faded in, and they screamed in unison for all 10 minutes of it. The recording brought about a kind of catharsis and unity that Carpenter, even with her blond bangs and guitar, failed to match.
The other was “Nonsense,” the first of two encore songs. People who were at the merch stand, the bathroom or sitting on the floor on their phones took notice as soon as the song started. At the risk of sounding cynical, it wasn’t just because they like the song. Fans were scrambling to get into a good position with their phones ready to record that outro, crossing their fingers that their TikTok upload finishes first and they get the viral clout.
The second encore song was “Because I Liked a Boy,” Carpenter’s response to the backlash she received after “driver’s license” came out. In it she tells her side of the story and speaks out against people who think she’s a homewrecker. Most attendees were heading for the exit at this point, having gotten what they came for.