Carly Rae Jepsen’s unfettered E•MO•TION live in Manila

By MARTIN YAMBAO

No frills, no big production value, “Carly Rae Jepsen Live in Manila” was a show to remember. Last Monday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, Carly Rae Jepsen performed her slew of hit singles from previous outing “Kiss” and new material from her latest album “E•MO•TION.”

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Anyone who says they never sang along to Call Me Maybe, never mind liked or recorded-a-lip-dub-video like every other person with a Mac Book in 2012, is a liar. Her song amassed Internet cultural ground in ways that could only be described as the precursor to 2013’s Harlem Shake. Millions of YouTube hits, Iraq army veteran lip-sync videos and certified meme status later, Carly Rae managed to create the kind of pop cultural moment one could only have willfully ignored.

She piggybacked the global success of Call Me Maybe with an album called “Kiss” later that year; a Scooter Braun rushed production of sugar-fueled pop songs with an ‘80s nu-disco tinge. From the anthemic This Kiss to the deceptively slow burning yet club bang-y Tonight I’m Getting Over You, Carly Rae had a slew of perfectly consumable, chart-ready hits, all but floundering to achieve the same level of success of her previous single. Was her brand of radio-ready pop genius a fluke? Was she doomed to a one-hit-wonder status? Her new studio effort titled “E•MO•TION” proves otherwise.

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Three years after “Kiss” and Call Me Maybe, Carly Rae Jepsen returns with a critically-received album. “Jepsen isn’t selling her story as a product,” writes Verge.com, “and thus ‘E•MO•TION’ remains perfectly executed, thoroughly unscalable pop.”

Earlier that evening, I had a Twitter feed full of #JEPSIES hyping Carly Rae Jepsen as the second coming of “Canada’s Pop Princess,” a title currently held by Ontario’s Justin Bieber (“What do you mean?” he sings), but I, as a casual “Tiny Little Bows” streamer on Spotify, had yet to fully embrace Carly Rae’s gospel. I spent two days listening to “E•MO•TION” on repeat to psych myself up for the big night.

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She walked out on stage in snug pair of leather pants and black jersey crop top as the indelible horn section from Run Away With Me opened her set list. She performed live, with her signature airy vocals supported by a full band. She performed new tracks from her album — Gimmie Love, Boy Problems, Your Type, Warm Blood, among others, mixed in with her old favorites, This Kiss and Good Time, as her bassist filled in for Owl City’s Adam Young.

She coyly prefaced her penultimate song with “there’s one song in my repertoire that I have sung more than any other…” as the opening beats to Call Me Maybe plays. Crowd promptly goes wild. The concert closed with her lead single I Really Like You. Carly Rae Jepsen was pure magic.

In today’s iTunes-driven world, where you’re only as good as your last single’s chart position, Carly Rae Jepsen’s curse is living under the shadow of her most monolithic confection. But if the majesty of 12 songs of utter pop music delight is any indication, the world needs less image-driven scene queens with supermodel girl gangs and more unfettered E•MO•TION.

(Photos by MIKE REBUYAS)