No maybes about it. Call Carly Rae Jepsen one of 2015's breakout stars.
Her album "Emotion" (School Boy/Interscope) is one of the year's best, with praise raining down from nearly every corner. " 'Emotion' is a better album than '1989,' " says New York magazine. "Pop master class," says Rolling Stone. Billboard asked, "Is Carly Rae Jepsen pop's most underrated artist?"
"It's blowing my mind," says Jepsen, calling from her Los Angeles home. She adds that she doesn't really look at reviews, "but my mom is one of the proudest women in the world, so I end up seeing some of them."
Her single "I Really Like You" charmed Tom Hanks so much that he agreed to lip-synch the entire thing for the video. Her musical chops led to her working with everyone from Sia ("Boy Problems") to Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij ("Warm Blood") to Merrick's CJ Baran ("Let's Get Lost").
Jepsen remembers when she was working on "Emotion" with Baran while she was starring in "Cinderella" on Broadway. "I lost my voice when we were recording it because I was so into it, I couldn't stop," she says. "I remember after the show the director took me backstage and asked me, 'Carly, why does Cinderella sound a little bit like Janis Joplin tonight?' I was so sorry, but it was just so exciting."
It's unusual to work with so many collaborators on an album and still have it sound so cohesive. How were you able to accomplish that?
It was a long journey of exploration. There were about 200 songs written for this album and it was in the whittling-down process that we got to the 17 that you hear. One of the goals was to get to something that felt really cohesive and that helped me narrow it down. I wanted to have an '80s pop flavor to everything.
So you were 4 years old when the '80s ended. Why are you so drawn to that period?
I'm a very old soul. (Laughs.) It's an attraction to what I feel is the very best era of pop music. I love pop music. . . . I think there was a little more grit, a little more -- forgive me for saying it -- "emotion" to that era of pop music. I wanted to try to incorporate that into the style of music I was doing.
And in the '80s, the music really did seem so innocent and very heart-on-your-sleeve in a way that doesn't really fly today.
It was kind of an escape from reality. There's a bit of fantasy on the album in that we've heightened everything -- heightened the love and heightened the drama. I think that's what I loved about the '80s too is how emotional everything got. It makes you really think about heartbreak in a really intense way.
Did you find it hard to capture that intensity?
I would tell the people I worked with, 'I want that feeling, that yearning, that uhhhhh.' And they were like, 'OK, you grunted. I think we get it.' I think it just came out. People ask me if I'm a romantic and I realized that I'm a realist when it comes to relationships. I don't fall in love very easily. I'm quite practical, actually. In music, that's where I cannot be as nervous, just kind of let everything be said. There are songs here that are definitely personal, but if I sat down with the guy I would never say any of that to his face. But in the song it's pretty easy.
Will we hear more of those 200 songs?
My goal after this was that I'm never going to write a song again. I'll just rework the ones I have. (Laughs) There are some that I want to still play around with. At one point, I thought I was going to do kind of an indie-folkie album. But I keep getting new ideas daily.
What will the "Gimme Love" tour be like?
It's really been the most enjoyable performing that I've ever done. It has more of a musical vibe than it ever did before. Mostly, though, this is going to be fun. I just want everyone to have fun and to sing along.
WHO Carly Rae Jepsen
WHEN | WHERE 7 p.m. Wednesday, Irving Plaza, Manhattan
INFO $25; 212-777-6800, livenation.com