Carly Rae Jepsen’s single anthems shine among her love-heavy discography

Carly Rae Jepsen’s single anthems shine among her love-heavy discography

Image: Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images, bug by vicky leta / mashable

By Anna Iovine

In Party for One, Mashable explores single life in 2020, from Carly Rae Jepsen’s iconic single anthems, to the beauty of alone time, and the fascinating history behind the single positivity movement.


Nestled in the latter half of Dedicated Side B, the companion album to Side A released last year, singer Carly Rae Jepsen invites you, the listener, to revel in your singlehood. She knows you’re lonely and your heart aches, but encourages you to get yourself off the floor — Jepsen can’t stand to see you crying.

So goes the pre-chorus to Jepsen’s B-side “Solo,” a song kindred to the last track on the original Dedicated (and the namesake for this series), “Party for One.” “Solo” then kicks into its chorus, a call to action: Dance by yourself.

So what, you’re not in love

Don’t go wasting your nights gettin’ so low

So what, you’re not in love

You shine bright by yourself dancing solo

Anyone familiar with pop anthems about singledom (and heartbreak) can trace the themes in both “Solo” and “Party for One” to Robyn’s huge single “Dancing On My Own.” In fact, Jepsen worked with Swedish producer Patrik Berger on Dedicated due to his co-writing and producing the hit from Robyn’s 2010 album Body Talk Pt. 1 (though Berger didn’t write or produce “Party for One” nor “Solo” according to the album notes). 

Unlike “Dancing On My Own,” however, Jepsen’s not watching a former lover kiss someone else from the corner, begging him to see her. “Solo,” like “Party for One,” is a celebration of singlehood. In both songs — which are bangers, but perhaps that’s a matter of opinion — Jepsen encourages her listener to move on from their past loves and to embrace being on your own, even encouraging making love to oneself. 

Songs don’t like this don’t appear often in Jepsen’s oeuvre. As Jia Tolentino wrote in 2016, Jepsen writes hymns for love. “The way Jepsen sings about love is as blissfully anachronistic as her current aesthetic,” said Tolentino of Jepsen’s Emotion Side B. “It’s as heartfelt and circumscribed as the soundtrack — and the fully offline young friendships — on ‘Stranger Things.'”

While Tolentino wrote this three years before Dedicated, it holds up. Many of Jepsen’s songs, including the Dedicated era, are about infatuation with a crush; yearning for love; wondering if you’re ‘too much’ for a potential lover. Even Side B begins with a song proclaiming, “This Love Isn’t Crazy.” 

But longing for independence is present in the album besides “Solo” too, particularly in the Bleachers feature, “Comeback.” The song starts with a lyric about how Jepsen’s at war with herself as she takes a lover back to her place, the reason of which becomes clear in the chorus:

I don’t know what I’m feeling, but I believe

I was thinking ’bout making a comeback, back to me

And I won’t say you’re the reason I was on my knees

But I’m thinking ’bout making a comeback, back to me

As Jepsen matures, both as an artist and as a person with a love life of her own, so do her tracks. She takes inspiration from the complexities of relationships, regardless of the pain that may come with it, Jepsen said in a Vogue interview last year. She went through a break-up while working on Dedicated, and the reverberations show up on the album.

“I think the album goes through that process of like, ‘Shit, what do I do now?'” she told Vogue. “And, at the same time, singlehood for the first time in a while, which I’m kind of new at! So there was an arc of like, full-on heartbreak to a new story.”

One can see, then, why “Party for One” would be the last track of Dedicated: it punctuates the break-up arc with a celebration of singlehood, shrugging off rejection, and acknowledging that one is whole by themself. “If you don’t care about me,” Jepsen sings, “I’ll just dance for myself.” 

Songs about love and, by extension, singlehood, are the bread and butter of pop music. But when compared to Jepsen’s contemporaries, her songs about being alone aren’t about reflecting on past loves (as in Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next”) or wanting someone new (as in Lady Gaga’s “Stupid Love”). So often, pop songs about being single are actually about dissing one’s ex (or going so far as wanting revenge), finding someone else, or being heartbroken. “Party for One” and “Solo” are neither of these. 

“Party for One” and “Solo” acknowledge heartbreak, but they don’t stew in it.

Both “Party” and “Solo” acknowledge heartbreak, but they don’t stew in it. Nor do the songs discuss jumping to the next person. This is a departure from most of Jepsen’s songs, especially her earlier ones, that are about the dizzying spell of a crush or wanting to spend the night with a lover. The first track of her 2015 album Emotion, for example, opens with the wail of a saxophone that precedes her invitation for her “baby,” as she refers to in the song, to run away with her. 

That’s not to say that “Run Away With Me” and Emotion are any less for their lovesick themes; the album is so good, in fact, that Jepsen garnered a cult following after its release. But maybe “Party for One” and “Solo” signal a new direction for her future music, more songs that instead of begging someone to run away with you, realize you can run away with yourself. 

“Call Me Maybe,” the song that catapulted Jepsen to fame, is eight years old now. And in those years, one can trace how she’s grown as an artist both sonically and lyrically. The overarching themes of her music — infatuation, love, and the like — remain steady, but as Jepsen said herself, it’s the complexities of love that inspire her. This is seen in both sides of Dedicated, particularly Side B with “Solo” and “Comeback.”

In May, Jepsen said she has a “little baby quarantine album” with Tavish Crowe, a co-writer on both “Call Me Maybe” and “Party for One.” It’s unclear how the album will sound, but if it’s like the rest of Jepsen’s discography, love (and its complexities) will be its driving subject. I wouldn’t, however, expect a repeat of her 2012 hit given her more recent music. In 2020 and beyond, you can call Jepsen, maybe — but she’ll just dance by herself if you don’t. 

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