By Shannon Carlin
Carly Rae Jepsen remembers sitting in her manager Scooter Braun’s office nearly a year after the release of her 2012 album Kiss trying to figure out what she should do next.
At that point she had released two moderately successful singles—”Good Time” with Owl City and “This Kiss”—but it was clear nothing could compete with “Call Me Maybe,” which would go on to be both Song of the Summer and a GRAMMY nominee.
“Even I was sick of hearing myself on the radio. It was just too big at that point,” Jepsen tells Radio.com. “So, I said, ‘Let’s just go out and be Cinderella for awhile.’”
Fulfilling a childhood dream of hers, Jepsen starred as the titular character in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella for three months on Broadway. But, just as Cinderella’s carriage turned back into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight, Jepsen would turn back into a pop star once the final curtain fell, heading to late night sessions at the studio.
Because of the unexpected success of “Call Me Maybe,” Jepsen only had two months to write and record Kiss. This time around she gave herself two years. “I just kind of took some time to take some time with it,” she says. “I’d rather come back with quality not quantity. I didn’t want to push new songs out just to push them out.”
To make things a little easier, Jepsen headed into the making of this album, which is set to drop later this year, with a vision of becoming Cyndi Lauper.
Jepsen had opened for Lauper at Japan’s annual Supersonic Festival in 2013 and remembers a brutally hot day in Osaka where people in the audience were fainting, but Lauper powered through.
“She had an oxygen tank and someone holding an umbrella and putting 70 cold cloths on her and she was a rock star,” Jepsen explains. “These melodies, her voice, the way it cut through all of the pop of today in my head, I was like, ‘I need to latch onto this, there’s something here that needs to come back in a big way.’ Just seeing how these songs stood the test of time….I would release ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’ today! I don’t even think I’d change the production.”
In that moment Jepsen knew she wanted to “make an ’80s record,” which in the scheme of things isn’t that remarkable since everyone at this point has made or is making their ’80s album. But, Jepsen says her album isn’t very specific to that decade, it’s specific to her.
“I want to make, music that does stand the test of time,” she says. “I’m not making a purely ‘80s album, I’m making something new with it.”
Jepsen enlisted a long list of producers and songwriters to help her find her new sound, which she says will shock some people. “It’s got a more mature thread to it,” she says, but like the first single “I Really Like You,” there’s also a romantic thread throughout. “Yes, I would say I’m an old school romantic,” she confirms.
Jepsen teamed up with Jack Antonoff, songwriter Greg Kurstin (Kelly Clarkson), her “favorite songwriters” Tegan and Sara and The Cardigan’s Peter Svensson. She says she also wrote a “creepy” song with Vampire Weekend‘s Rostam Batmanglij that is one of her favorites. “I can’t put my finger on why it’s creepy,” she says coyly. “There’s something a little off about it, in a good way. But you’ll know what I mean when you hear it.”
She teamed up with producer Ariel Rechstaid, who has worked with HAIM, Brandon Flowers and Madonna, who then brought in Dev Hynes to help give Jepsen’s stuff a little bit of his ’80s synth pop flavor, which she says funneled through her sounds like “old school Madonna.”
Jepsen wrote 250 songs for this album, but had already cut that list down to 22 maybes when Radio.com spoke with her in February and swore that in the end she would be able to narrow that list down to a final 11 songs for her currently untitled follow-up to Kiss.
To help her figure out which ones to keep, she’s been having listening parties at her SoHo loft. “I seduced them with food and wine and would be like, ‘Here’s a ballot, we’re going to listen to some stuff, you cannot put your name down and just tell me what you love and what you hate, feel free to be candid.’ I find that to be the most helpful,” she says.
Some though have gotten way more attached to the songs than even she has, namely her brother, who keeps calling her up nightly asking about the status of three specific songs.
“I have to be like, ‘Let it go,’” Jepsen says. “’You can listen to it on your own time.’”