Carly Rae Jepsen has always had a soft spot for theatre.
She has starred in a Broadway revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” and played beauty school dropout Frenchy in Fox’s 2016 “Grease Live!” special since her 2012 breakout song “Call Me Maybe,” which spent nine consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
So, when it came time to film a video for “Surrender My Heart,” the upbeat first single from her new album, “The Loneliest Time,” Jepsen wanted to pay homage to her musical roots. The meta clip was shot in two days at New York’s United Palace theatre in collaboration with technology brand Lenovo. It stars renowned ballerina Isabella Boylston and “30 Rock” star Jane Krakowski as a hilariously self-absorbed director in charge of Jepsen’s new video.
“We wanted to capture a little of the chaos of show business, as well as the feeling that every time you put on a performance like this, it feels like a mini-miracle,” Jepsen explains. “This shoot was no exception. There were many moving parts, but it all came together in the end.”
Jepsen, 37, is also riding high on the viral success of the “Loneliest Time” title track. The song, which features fellow Canadian Rufus Wainwright, has gone viral on TikTok thanks to its memorable bridge. She discusses this and other topics with USA TODAY.
What inspired the song “Surrender My Heart”?
Jepsen, Carly Rae:
My first experience with grief left me shaken when I lost my grandmother. It was influencing how I wanted to love, feel, and move in the world. That resulted in a lot of learning and going to see a therapist, who said that lovely line about “softening up” and “opening up.” And, rather than “toughening up” for the world, be prepared to feel the difficult things: the good and the bad. Because you can’t block one thing without blocking everything else, and that’s no way to live.
So, when we turned that concept musically into a music video, the meaning of the song didn’t change, but it took on a more theatrical tone. We’ve got the big outfits, the big clothes, and the stage feeling. To me, being on an empty stage singing a song is the epitome of what it means to be vulnerable, and I wanted to highlight that in a big way.
“I’m coming back for you, baby,” a lyric from “The Loneliest Time,” has gone viral on TikTok. What surprised you the most about the success of that song?
I’m starting to realise, decades into my career, that when you’re not overthinking, that’s the thing that connects. This was a very happy writing session in the studio with Nate Cyphert and Kyle Shearer. “There should be some sort of spoken monologue-y part about what it is to go back for love that was once lost! ‘What happened was, we reached the moon!” I was saying. It was just one take of me explaining what I wanted. At the time, Kyle was recording, and they exclaimed, “That was it!”
Fast forward to see that it has a TikTok (trend) – the irony is that I am, like, a grandma. I do not understand TikTok at all. I’m learning more about it, but it’s still a new toy to me.
What does Rufus think about its popularity?
We talked about TikTok, and the way he phrased it was very cute. “You and me, we’re just two grandmothers going viral!” he exclaimed. “It’s true, you’re not wrong!” I exclaimed. It took an entire campaign for me to get him on the song: gently reaching out, having him come over to my house, and hearing his voice for the first time. That’s when we both became excited. The juxtaposition of our voices had something to do with it, with his deep vibrato and the melancholy to that, and my brighter voice. In general, I enjoy combining light and dark elements.
You recently reposted the “Loneliest Time” video by Reese Witherspoon. Do you have a favourite variation on the trend?
One of my personal favourites is the guy who made the (video) about the half-empty LaCroix. The whole thing reminds me of the “Call Me Maybe” days, when friends would send me small gifts. I’m definitely feeling some of that energy around this TikTok moment. It’s not so much the celebrity ones that blow me away – and this is something I loved about “Call Me Maybe,” too – but rather the creativity of anyone who takes the time to make it.
You’ve stated that you were more nervous than ever before about releasing this new album. How do you feel now that it’s been out in the world for a few months?
Putting out an album at this age has been one of the coolest experiences. I feel like I know myself better than ever before, but I’m also okay with what I’m learning and what I don’t know. This album was a little of both, which is probably why it felt so scary to share. It’s not like I have all the answers to love or anything close to it. I’m just going through it and documenting it as I go.