We’re a few months removed from the release of Carly Rae Jepsen’s newest album, Dedicated — the more low-key followup to 2015’s blockbuster E•MO•TION — and Jepsen has spent much of that time on the road. But today she’s back with some new visuals, a music video for “Want … More »
In just a handful of years, San Francisco native Gryffin has asserted himself into headliner-status prestige, aside some of dance music’s most critically acclaimed acts. To formally discover himself atop the electronic apex, Gryffin shaped out a formerly untrodden pathway early on in his career by establishing an exhaustive record of hungrily streamed indie SoundCloud-hosted reworks, for Grammy-associated talents such as Ellie Goulding, Tove Lo and the late Whitney Houston. After formally anchoring down with a batch of original productions, including his debut release “Heading Home” in addition to “Whole Heart” featuring Bipolar Sunshine, Gryffin was properly equipped to roll out the first segment of his freshman effort, Gravity beginning in late 2017.
Meticulously stamped with Gryffin’s rhapsodic acoustic arrangements, Gravity, Pt. 1 surfaced nearly one year thereafter, having spawned six imaginative productions including “Nobody Compares to You,” “Remember,” “Just For A Moment,” and perhaps Gryffin’s most famed original thus far, “Tie Me Down.” After a mild interlude following the album series’ first arm of releases, the producer sought to conclude what he started with another scattering of singles during 2019’s first half. Four tracks have been credited to Gryffin’s name since the year commenced, including numerous high-profile collaborations alongside Slander, Aloe Blacc, and most recently, Carly Rae Jepsen. Surprisingly enough, the fourth output from Gryffin in 2019 was something that his core audience had been longing for as he re-entered the aural avenue that helped jump-start his career with an official remix for Shawn Mendes’ hit single, “If I Can’t Have You” this past July.
As Gryffin set his eyes on the premiere of “OMG” just days before he was bound to appear at Chicago’s Lollapalooza, he noted to his fans that the album was still slated for an early fall release, though he was still fine-tuning the project’s final tracklist. During the Saturday afternoon preceding Gryffin’s sensational GRAVITY LIVE spectacle during Lollapalooza Perry’s Stage sunset slot, Dancing Astronaut took the chance to down with him to learn more about his plans for Gravity, Pt. 2, readying its coinciding GRAVITY II LIVE show at The Brooklyn Mirage, honoring Avicii alongside Aloe Blacc at Coachella, and more.
During your Coachella set this past April, you treated fans to not just one, but two unreleased originals, including an early version of your Carly Rae Jepsen collaboration, which is officially out now. How did “OMG” actually come together?
I basically had been working on that one for a while and the end of last year was when I really started finishing it. Ali Tamposi was the vocalist. She’s an incredible writer along with Andrew Wyatt, who are a lethal team that’s made so many smashes together. She was an amazing part of the song and she wrote an amazing record so once I finished the production on it, I was just sitting on it for a while. I was just trying to figure out what was missing in terms of who could cut it and some of the production elements weren’t quite there. I then played it at Coachella and as a Hail Mary. I messaged Carly’s team and said “You know what would be sick for this record is if Carly Rae Jepsen sung it.” Through some channels we got to her management and they were like “Hey so we actually really do like it and we’re going to play it for her. She’s super selective on this stuff.” Within the next day, they said that Carly loved it and wanted to cut it next week in LA. The next week I met her in the studio for the first time and we were cutting it and within the first five minutes of her singing the hook, I just had crazy chills. It felt really strong and I was so excited about it so it took me a couple weeks to finish it all up.
Towards the end of 2018, you released the former half of your debut album, Gravity and now you’re officially three singles deep for the latter portion of it with “All You Need To Know,” “Hurt People,” and now “OMG.” What can we expect from the remainder of the project and can you disclose any other collaborations you have in the works?
I’m basically finishing it up right now but I honestly can’t say anything about who’s on it. There’s some big things coming though and I’m trying to put it out in September because my tour starts in October. It’s just a matter of how fast I can finish up these records in the next few weeks.
This is set to be your first Lollapalooza appearance since 2017 and it wasn’t explicitly labeled on the lineup poster, so are we experiencing a ‘GRAVITY LIVE’ show or a Gryffin DJ set? Either way, what do you have in store for it? Any surprises we can prepare for?
So it’s going to be the live Gravity show. I’m going to have Quinn XCII for an edit of “Winnebago” and Elley Duhé is coming out for “Tie Me Down” so I’m really excited for that. For these multi-genre festivals, I try to always do it live and even though I’m on the Perry’s Stage, I felt it’s a better representation of my music.
Earlier this summer, you re-entered the remix game with your very first since 2017 with a spin of Shawn Mendes’ “If I Can’t Have You.” What was the driving force behind the decision to release another remix and do you have a particular preference between doing those versus creating original music?
Nowadays I’m definitely a lot more focused on my originals with the album. I always like to do a remix because it’s fun and that’s how everything got started for me anyway… but I just haven’t prioritized it for a while. Shawn hit me up, asked me to remix it and we were communicating back and forth on feedback. It was a cool process working with him that closely and I just felt like it was a cool opportunity because I really liked the original. I immediately had an idea of what I wanted to do with it so it just worked out that way and I’m going to do remixes again for sure but right now it’s just total album mode.
Throughout the length of your career, you’ve obviously worked alongside a list of some impressive names. If you could narrow it down to just one, who was your favorite artist you’ve worked with?
That’s so tough because they’re all so different and awesome in their own ways. For a producer collab, working with Illenium was really cool because we just vibe on a personal level really well. We’re both from the Bay Area and we’re both chill people so it was a really fun process working on that record. On the vocal side, probably one of my best friends out of all them was Bipolar Sunshine. He’s one of my favorite human beings and he’s one of the coolest dudes ever. The Carly track was honestly really cool too because I had never really worked with an artist that was that big in the pop level so that was a cool experience. Even working with Aloe Blacc too.
That Avicii tribute at Coachella on the first anniversary of his passing was seriously nothing short of unbelievable...
Thanks man and it was Aloe’s idea too. I didn’t even put that on him at all. We were just planning to do “Hurt People” and he said to me “Hey, what do you think about this tribute?” So he was the one who pitched the idea and I had thought of it but I definitely wasn’t going to make Aloe do that. If he wanted to do it, I was down.
If you could pick just one release that you’re most proud of between all of your remixes, originals and collaborations, which would it be?
My personal favorite is “Nobody Compares To You.” That’s one of my favorite tracks that I’ve ever done because that was just a really meaningful record to me personally and I was really proud of that production. On the songwriter side, “Feel Good” and “Whole Heart” were both really fun to do. Honestly some of these upcoming ones too are big ones for me so I just really feel fortunate because lately I’ve been able to work with a lot of really cool artists on both the production side and singer/songwriter side so it’s been a good ride and I’m excited for the new music.
You’re set to premiere the official first performance of your GRAVITY II LIVE show at The Brooklyn Mirage just a couple of weeks following Lollapalooza. What do you have in store that we may not be able to experience here in Chicago?
It’s basically going to be the most Gravity II show of the tour. I’m not going to play the full album because it won’t be out by then but I am going to sneak in three or four new records that people haven’t heard yet so I’m really hyped about that. I haven’t even been able to go there yet but my team wanted me to play there so I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve got a lot a prep to do before then but everyone tells me that it’s the spot to watch music in the summer.
Featured image: Lollapalooza
A new kind of pop star: In a musical landscape full of false messiahs billing themselves as game-changers, it’s easy to scoff at the notion, but truly transformative figures come along more often than you’d think. How many musical inflection points have been sparked by a magnetic persona who synthesizes a bunch of trends and … More »
Gryffin’s mellifluous presentation beneath the seminal Coachella fixture, the Sahara Tent, this past April reverberated through the livestream and well beyond. Aside from being joined onstage by omnipresent vocalist, Aloe Blacc for both an Avicii memorial and the unveiling of a brand new collaboration, Gryffin teased a second unreleased union alongside pop sensation Carly Rae Jepsen.
Not even two weeks removed from a glistening rendition of Shawn Mendes’ “If I Can’t Have You,” Gryffin is seeking assistance from another Grammy-nominated moniker, as he and the “Call Me Maybe” superstar have officially delivered “OMG.” The collaboration serves as the third offering from the second portion of his debut LP, Gravity, currently slated for release later this fall.
By now, listeners know to never expect a Gryffin production to arrive without a downpour of acoustic components. “OMG” promptly convenes as deepening strums mingle alongside Carly Rae Jepsen’s temperate vocals before breaking off into a sensual lyrical harmony and some unsurprisingly arresting guitar riffs from Gryffin himself.
As “OMG” swiftly starts to tower the dance pop charts over the next few days, Gryffin’s timing could not be more exact, as the release stands to erect an astounding level of anticipation for his Saturday performance at Lollapalooza’s Perry’s Stage. In addition to the collaboration’s official release, Gryffin took the time to craft an exclusive Orbit Playlist on Dancing Astronaut‘s Spotify channel, featuring 15 of his fondest tracks of the moment, including, of course, “OMG,” as well as music from Jai Wolf, Flume, RÜFÜS DU SOL and Kygo among others.
Featured image: Juliana Bernstein
A couple of months ago, boutique-pop queen Carly Rae Jepsen returned after a long wait, releasing her new album Dedicated. And now she’s got another new song, though it’s not actually hers. On the new single “OMG,” Jepsen is the guest of Gryffin, a Los Angeles EDM producer and prodigious remixer who’s made … More »
If you’ve seen Carly Rae Jepsen live at any point in the past few years, you know that she commands an absolutely ecstatic crowd response. It doesn’t matter if she’s singing her big singles or her deep cuts; her audience will always react with absolute rapture. Last month, Jepsen released Dedicated, her long-awaited … More »
Can you believe it’s been less than 10 years since Miley Cyrus released “Party In The U.S.A.”? The song, which reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and became her bridge from the Disney Channel to a grownup mainstream audience, feels like it has existed for several lifetimes. It was in fact released in August … More »
Carly Rae Jepsen
[School Boy/Interscope; 2019]
Carly Rae Jepsen embodies a pop ideal so quaint and so counter to the perceived wisdom of being famous in 2019 that she’s often looked upon as something of a unicorn: a singer whose reputation is premised on the merits of her work rather than her brand of politics or IG-ready cool. There are structural factors at play as well: shifts in streaming and the primacy of rap, the triumph of poptimism and genre-less new stars, but none are exhaustive in explaining her unique cult of non-personality.
Jepsen is profoundly a white girl, a reality that she doesn’t outrun, plead with, nor publicly apologize for. Beyond the benefit of a doubt, Jepsen’s afforded a vast emotional latitude that isn’t circumscribed by coolness nor siloed off as anything other than mainstream (see the complete history of R&B as “urban” music). But where her white girl peers in the pop music sweepstakes (she’s too Canadian to have rivals) sour this unqualified goodwill by hectoring for attention (Katy Perry), passing their psychic complexes off as relatable (Taylor Swift), or nakedly plundering “black” aesthetics (Miley Cyrus, Iggy Azalea), Jepsen redeems herself by being genuinely selfless.
Instead of imposing her personality on the public, Jepsen sidelines it almost entirely. Her songwriting is rich in aesthetic and emotional signifiers but short on personal details. This blankness at the heart of her work feels like an act of generosity rather than an evasion or front. Jepsen’s best songs are feats of scale as much as they are flexes of musicality; massive tunes for her audience to project their most basic feelings onto, which she rewards in turn with the kind of fleeting rapture and resolution that only the purest pop can provide.
The title of Jepsen’s 2015 breakthrough album literally sounded out her concerns as an artist: E•MO•TION , an all-caps, millennial pink promise to honor one’s feelings as they bubble to the surface. On latest album Dedicated, her music undergoes a subtle, more mature evolution, asking what it means to honor another person’s heart while remaining true to your own.
Compared to E•MO•TION — which will be the active listening experience for many — Dedicated is a more emotionally incisive and insular album; smaller in scope, but no less polished. The muscular synths and booming drums that marked tracks like “Your Type” and “I Really Like You” have been toned down, as Jepsen locks onto calmer musical tropes and wrings them for all their worth. Tracks like opener “Julien” and “Happy Not Knowing” are built from unwavering synth-lines that gather and pop where they’d once explode, while the sparkling, minimal elements of “Real Love” and “The Sound” are held together by Jepsen’s voice.
If Dedicated is defined by a sonic motif, the way the dreamy sax on E•MO•TION elicits Pavlovian gay screaming, it’s Jepsen’s embrace of vocal science. Coined by the writer Anindya Bhattacharyya to describe the way that UK garage producers rearranged, warped, and piled on voices for heightened rhythmic and melodic effect, Jepsen employs the technique on Dedicated to more poetic ends. Where vocal science is traditionally used to incite dance floor rapture, the gasps and murmurs that buoy Dedicated suggest the buildup of potential energy and the formlessness of unnamed feelings.
The churning, cut-up vocals that intro “Now That I Found You” swell like butterflies in the pit of your stomach, as Jepsen sings the title with all of the wonder of someone who’s finally found real love. In the ecstatic, horny “Want You In My Room,” pitched-down cyborg vocals articulate Jepsen’s desire as her voice gets breathier and more consumed with feeling. But it’s employed to greatest effect on “Everything He Needs.” A sexy riff on “He Needs Me” from Harry Nilsson’s Popeye soundtrack and among the weirder songs that Jepsen has ever recorded, the chorus is bookended by helium and Ambien-pitched vocal processing that seem to reflect the spheres of Jepsen’s internal dialogue in real time: cool sexual confidence, heart-eye emoji rapture, and toe-curling ecstasy. “You know, not just physically,” Jepsen speak-sings of her lover in a progressively slower, deeper drawl, “Emotionally / Spiritually /Intellectually / Sexually / All the ways.”
At its heart, Dedicated is a concept album about neediness, the conditions for two people to have and keep love. Isabel Cole’s razor-sharp observation that “[Jepsen] writes about what lives before and lingers after love” remains apt, although in the case of Dedicated, “love” should be amended to “commitment.” Much of the album presupposes being in a relationship, but the emotional currents of each track find it either slipping out of sync or crystallizing into eternity.
Despite her adoption by hipper segments of the population, Jepsen’s neediness and insistence on framing that need in capital-P Pop disqualify her from ever really being cool. But the emotional exigencies of her work are more radical and necessary than the money-chasing cult of self-reliance that the reigning queens of pop traffic in, whose brands at their root are an aspirational kind of needlessness. These artists are embodiments of Oscar Wilde’s maxim that “Everything in the world is about sex, except sex. Sex is about power,” and whose self-possession in the bedroom and the boardroom is accordingly framed as a triumphant redistribution of power.
In this respect, Jepsen aligns more with artists like Amy Winehouse and Lana Del Rey, women who posit love as the fraught navigation of two psyches rather than a battle of the sexes or a lawyerly divving-up of power. Who ask “what is power if not leveraging need?” Jepsen doesn’t pursue the more frightening and masochistic implications of that question the way Del Rey or Winehouse do, and in that regard actually reminds me of Sade. The two women couldn’t be further apart sonically, but they’re similar in the impersonal way that they render desire, as a haunted, all-consuming state of being that has the equal potential of delivering romance as souring into heartbreak.
Jepsen lacks Sade’s gift for drama; she’s too wedded to the rhythms of the dance floor and the geniality of a pop star to really go for it. But the hauntedness of her work, from the Natalie O’Moore photograph that fronts Dedicated to the unknown other she sings to, is its most artistically interesting vein, suggesting that she could be a haunted synth-pop auteur à la David Sylvian if she’d really let her freak flag fly. As Max Landis’s obsessive, illuminating A Scar No One Else Can See project proves, it’s been a consistent stylistic thread throughout her work. I’ve never listened to her the same since a friend told me to pay attention to the lyrics of “Call Me Maybe”: “Before you came into my life I missed you so bad.”
Dedicated isn’t a perfect album — it’s overlong and occasionally concedes too much to chart tastes to be interesting. But by the time Jepsen takes a bow following bonus track “Party For One,” you’re reminded once again of her generosity, of all the space she’s cleared for strength and weakness, for personal epiphanies and communal release.
Carly Rae Jepsen released her new album, Dedicated, last week. As my colleague James Rettig put it in his review, Dedicated is “very much just a collection of pop songs,” some of which are pretty good, but most of which are just fine. But the CRJ stans beg to differ. More »