Cutting to The Feeling With Carly Rae Jepsen

(I didn't take this photo; it's from The Armory's Instagram Page)

The two worst gin and tonics I have ever had were served to me within a few city blocks from one another. 

The first was less than a year ago at a wedding reception—the wedding of one of my wife’s co-workers. The ceremony itself and the continued celebratory festivities of the evening were all housed in an event space in downtown Minneapolis called The Depot. Less than a decade before that, at least part of the building was an ice skating rink where I, in my late 20s, went ice skating for the first time and only time in my life—terrified, frustrated, and clutching onto an ice walker to keep myself upright as the crowds of people gracefully glided past me. 

But now, the skating rink was long gone, and it was an enormous, theatrically lit event space that I felt entirely too poor to be in. During the social hour, before the wedding reception began, there was a small window of time for an open bar where, from the limited selection of drinks available, I ordered a gin and tonic—it was made with what was a flat bottle of Schweppes Tonic Water, a tiny sliver of lime, and a lot of ice.

It didn’t taste like anything—not even gin, and I drank it as quickly as I could so I could get rid of the burden of holding onto a small glass while preparing myself to engage in more small talk with my wife’s co-workers.

The second was more recently—the end of June, at The Armory—a concert venue inside a heavily renovated historic building located in downtown Minneapolis that, in its current state, opened its doors in 2017 and holds roughly 8,000 people. My gin and tonic is served to me approximately two and a half hours before Carly Rae Jepsen takes the stage; it is made quickly and seemingly without much effort by the bartender, who was the specific bartender to my location within The Armory—there are bars, and bartenders literally everywhere, especially on the venue’s main level. 

When I had made my way onto the balcony, I was told the name of my bartender by the usher, who greeted me with alarming enthusiasm, and assured that this bartender would be taking care of me during the evening.

The venue is out of hard cider, I learned, a few minutes after I had gotten through the security checkpoint, and got my bearings—and I learned this after I had inquired at a different bar from a different bartender who struggled to hear my request for a hard cider over the loud, pre-show music echoing through the space, and the fact that I am wearing two masks over my mouth and nose. 

She was confident I had said “hard seltzer,” and continued waving her hands in front of the can of White Claw on display.

And once I find where my seat is, and realize that it might be a while before the show begins, I wander to the bar and order the gin and tonic—again, the cup is mostly ice, the smallest wedge of lime, Hendrick’s gin, and tonic water sprayed into the cup from a soda gun.

I try to stop myself from wondering how clean the nozzle of the soda gun is as I pay $13 for my drink, plus another $4 for a small bottle of water, plus the $3 I leave as a tip.

I wonder if it is a shitty tip, or if the bartender even gets many tips at an event like this since I guess that he will spend the bulk of his evening opening tall cans of Grain Belt or White Claw people.

I take a sip of my drink, and there is a hint of what a gin and tonic is supposed to taste like, but it is underwhelming at best.

Regardless, I continue to nurse it with precision while I wait for Carly Rae Jepsen to appear on the stage below me.


Maybe a year or so ago, my wife and I came up with this inside joke about the fine line between being “spontaneous” and being “impulsive.”

Because, you see, the joke is one of those implies you are fun.

One of those implies that you are the type of person who will suggest something exciting or new without little prompting or planning.

The other implies that you make poor choices, often without thinking them through completely—let alone thinking about the consequences.

It implies that, perhaps, you might not be doing so well, like, personally or emotionally. 

And I am uncertain either how impulsive or spontaneous I was feeling in the moment when I bought two tickets to see Carly Rae Jepsen perform at The Armory—it is, after all, a fine line between the two—a line that often can become blurred. 

At the beginning of May, I saw something about the concert mentioned on Twitter—the show itself organized as an event in conjunction with the Minneapolis Pride Festival occurring at the end of June—and upon seeing this news, I gasped, out loud, to absolutely no one in my house, except my dog, who probably stirred in his sleep just long enough to give me a side-eye and wonder, “Jesus Christ, what is this guy buying online now?”

And because I am in the demographic where I would, and have, referred to myself as being entirely too washed to comfortably and patiently stand during a concert, when I saw that The Armory had limited balcony seating available, in an act that blurred the line between feeling spontaneous, or feeling impulsive, I selected two tickets for balcony seats that hovered near enough to the stage, and bought them without batting an eyelash. 

Later—and retrospectively, perhaps shortly after picking my wife up from a public transit station on an unseasonably hot day in the spring, at the end of her long workday, was not the best time, or the right place, to mention how spontaneous and/or impulsive I had been—but as we are driving back home, with the rare tone of excitement in my voice, I say, “Guess who is performing in Minneapolis at the end of June!?!?”

My wife, from the passenger seat, holding onto our dog, who keeps shifting his weight on her lap, trying to get comfortable, is uncertain how to respond.

“CARLY RAE JEPSEN!!!,” I blurt. 

A moment passes before she asks, “So…did you…did you buy tickets, or…why are you telling me this?”

I tell her with enthusiasm that yes, I bought two tickets for seats on the balcony.

Regardless of if this was a moment of spontaneity or impulsiveness on my part, my wife appeared nonplussed by my decision. 


The year following the widespread success of “Call Me Maybe,” Carly Rae Jepsen performed at the Minnesota Zoo’s outdoor amphitheater as part of their annual summer concert series, but since her reemergence in 2015, with the album Emotion and becoming what I wouldn’t hesitate to refer to as a “critical darling” who makes bright, accessible pop music that has earned her a loyal, cult following partially made up of people whom you might, at first, not think would be all that interested in listening to bright, accessible pop music (like myself), Jepsen has performed in Minneapolis twice. 

Once in the spring of 2016, out in support of Emotion, where she played at the Varsity Theatre—a smaller venue near the University of Minnesota’s campus, which holds less than 800 people.

The second time was in early July of 2019, two months after the release of Dedicated, where she played at the State Theatre in Downtown Minneapolis—one of three historic theaters in the downtown area. It holds a little over 2,000 people. 

I was not in attendance at either of those shows. 

It is difficult for me to remember a lot about the spring of 2016, or how many months prior it would have been when Jepsen’s tour in support of Emotion was announced, but if I had to guess, the probability is relatively high that I saw a news blurb about the tour on a site like Pitchfork, noticed the Minneapolis tour date, and had a moment of pause where I gave consideration. 

And, if I had to guess, that moment of pause where I gave consideration did not last very long at all, before I fell into the pattern of what I usually do when it comes to the very notion of going to a concert—I quickly talk myself out of it, and try to move along.

And when she was returning, in July of 2019, much to my surprise in this specific situation, I already had tickets to a different concert, happening just a few blocks away—going to see Andy Shauf's band Foxwarren performing at the 7th Street Entry with my wife, my old boss, and her husband. 

It was overcast, I think, and extremely humid as we drove down Hennepin Avenue, before meeting my former boss and her husband for dinner a few hours before the show, selecting a restaurant near the venue —and when we slowly rolled by the State Theatre on our way into the heart of the city, I saw Jepsen’s name on the marquee, and had the slight sense that I had, perhaps, and inadvertently, selected the wrong concert to attend that night, and in doing so, I would be really be missing out on something.

The Foxwarren concert at the 7th Street Entry, in July 2019, was the last concert I would go to until April 2022. 


Up until the evening before Carly Rae Jepsen’s performance at The Armory on Saturday, June 25th, the supporting act was listed as “T.B.D.”—and truthfully, because I have both reached and surpassed the age where a late night out is increasingly unappealing, with the show’s advertised starting time as 8 p.m., I hoped that, in the end, there would be no supporting act—that Jepsen would take to the stage around 8, play for, like, 90 minutes or two hours. Then I’d be back in my car, headed home, perhaps getting there at 11 p.m. at the latest.

A supporting act, however, was announced at some point on Friday evening, long after I gave up perusing The Armory’s poorly updated social media pages for any information—on Saturday morning, I learned that a local DJ, QueenDuin, would be playing a set before Jepsen’s performance.

And I had presumed that she would play about a half hour’s worth of music, then Carly Rae Jepsen would make her way out shortly after that. But I quickly learned I had been erroneous in my presumptions. 

When DJ QueenDuin made her way out onto the stage, taking her position behind a small table that held both her laptop and a large mixing board, the house lights illuminating the venue hadn’t even been turned down to signal to the crowd of those who arrived early—relatively small, still, but growing slowly and steadily—that something was happening. 

It was 7:30 p.m. when QueenDuin unceremoniously began her set. A half-hour earlier than any information about the show’s start time had advertised. I thought this was strange, yes, but I also thought it perhaps boded well for things wrapping up earlier, rather than later.

7:30 p.m. turned into 8 p.m., and she was still pumping out more songs from her laptop, occasionally grabbing a microphone between tunes and asking, “You guys excited for CARLY!?!? She’ll be out here really soon.” But how soon is “really soon,” I wondered, as 8 turned into 8:30, and I thought this would surely be wrapping up after an hour. 

I thought, looking at my watch, while an enormous and bombastic song like Icona Pop’s “I Love It” played from her laptop—a song that whipped a large portion of the crowd standing near the stage into a frenzy—I thought well, this is undoubtedly an enthusiastic tune to end with. This will certainly be the last song of her set. 

It was not.

The majority of her set was made up of relatively contemporary pop songs—things like the most recent Lizzo single and the new house music inspired Beyonce, along with an attempted catering to the crowd who had attended any of the Pride-related events during the afternoon, with a song like “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga, a song that I heard not only in the context of QueenDuin’s set, but would hear at least two additional times during the venue’s pre-show playlist. 

And I would say that I imagine DJ’ing—in any form- is incredibly difficult, and I would say that to the extent I can, I understand the difficulty. Because I am known to several people simply as “guy who likes music,” which is not what my entire personality is based around, but maybe, despite my best efforts, it is—it’s because of that, twice in my life I had been asked to DJ at the reception of friends’ weddings. 

So on a comparatively much smaller and less intensive and intimidating scale, I have an idea of how much work goes into preparing—what songs to play, the order to play them, how to transition from song to song, et. al.

And you hope that, as you transition from song to song, you aren’t going to totally kill the vibe—or completely clear the dance floor.

You hope that the collision of one song’s ending and another’s beginning isn’t going to create something disastrous or awkward to hear.

From my perch above the crowd, still nursing my gin and tonic, which was growing more watered down by the minute from the melting ice, QueenDuin was doing her best. Still, she had to stretch that best out for roughly 90 minutes, which, by the end of the night, as I was driving home from the concert, I realized was, like, 15 minutes more than Jepsen even performed for. 

And within those 90 minutes, admittedly, not everything is going to work, or land with the audience the way you might want it to—there were transitions or segues between songs that felt and sounded a little rough or disorienting, and the inclusion of not one, but TWO songs from Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia was a curious decision. 

But regardless of what song was playing, she never cleared the dance floor, because it would be impossible for the entire audience to turn on you in a venue like that. Still, I could tell there were moments where things did not connect the way QueenDuin had perhaps thought they might—older songs like Diana Ross’ iconic anthem “I’m Coming Out” would seem appropriate in theory, given how a bulk of the audience had been to Pride during the day. Still, the contrast between the untamed exuberance of dance and pop music made and released over the last decade with a song released three years before I was born visibly brought the excitement down. 

Including “Don’t You Want Me” by The Human League—again, a song released shortly before I was born—had a similar effect, and an attempted “call and response” of dropping the sound out entirely and encouraging the crowd to sing the song’s chorus felt incredibly forced from both sides.

Even with what was a test of endurance for QueenDuin as a DJ, she kept her levels of enthusiasm high while each song played—often doing what seemed like small Bachata steps between her table of equipment and maybe two or three feet back from it, while either singing along with, or lip-synching for her life to literally every song in the set with a dramatic flair.

And I will admit I felt, as the evening continued, it was apparent that disorganization and abruption were themes, albeit unintentional ones.

During parts of QueenDuin’s set, it was very obvious that she was receiving vague signals from people off stage left. They seemingly involved a sequence of flashlight bursts at one point, presumably giving her some update on how much more time she needed to keep the crowd moving. 

And it was a little after 9 p.m. when she was given the very urgent signal from the backstage crew to cut things off immediately, so as unceremoniously as she had stepped on stage and started her set, she faded whatever song she was playing down quickly, and gave a gracious, hearty. Maybe a little rushed goodbye before the house lights turned back on again, The Armory’s pre-show playlist came back on in the background, her equipment was carted off stage, and Jepsen’s road crew came on to do one final sound check. 

During the break between QueenDuin and Carly Rae Jepsen, I try to be as polite and as apologetic as I can as I, again, shuffle in front of the two young women sitting to my left, discard my drink cup, and visit the bathroom for a third time that evening. 

The young women seem to be losing patience with me each time I get up, and return.

“Born This Way” played again, echoing through the cavernous, old building. 


How many times have I stared at a list of recently announced tour dates on the screen of my laptop, or my phone, and had that moment of pause where I consider noticing a date in the Twin Cities—more often than not, in Minneapolis.

The moment of pause where I give consideration lasts only a few seconds—a minute long at best, before I fall back onto the pattern of what I always do when it comes to the very notion of going to a concert.

I talk myself out of it.

I tell myself that there are so many things that will prevent me from having a good time.

I close whatever website I’m on where I saw this tour announcement and try to move along as quickly as possible. 

I was seven years old the first time I went to a concert—I was in second grade, and it was to see the New Kids on The Block. They performed at the Metro Centre in Rockford, Illinois, the next largest town to the east of the small community I grew up in. My friend Janelle had gotten tickets to the concert for her birthday that year and had asked me, along with a handful of other kids, to go with.

Janelle shared a few photographs taken at that concert at some point on Facebook, and in the one where she tagged me, a lot of the people in it are looking at the camera—huge smiles, faces washed out by the flash of the camera. I’m the only one not looking toward whoever took the photo, though. I’m wearing sunglasses inside, looking down and reading the concert program that I bought once we made it into the venue.

I think you can see either the checkerboard pattern or lightning zig-zags, that had been expertly shaved into the side of my head by Rex, the barber I went to as a child.  

When I was in high school, I went to two concerts during my senior year, when I was 17.

An only child, I had no older sibling to either go with me to something, or at the very least, drive me and drop me off; a big ask, either way—Chicago, a destination on literally every tour ever, is ultimately not as long of a drive east across the state as I thought it was when I was young, in the backseat of my parent’s car. However, it is still close to two hours of travel, one way.

I was never invited, or never thought to try including myself somehow, in the hard rock and heavy metal outings of my peers during my first two or three years in high school—the one or two older brothers who would drive a rowdy pack of teenage boys to Ozzfest during the summer, or to the inaugural Family Values Tour in the autumn of 1998. 

During my four years in college, I went to three concerts total.

One of them was shortly after arriving during the fall of my first year. 

The rock band Fuel, kind of in their “moment” during the success of the songs “Hemorrhage (In My Hands)” and “Bad Day,” had been brought to the small civic center in Dubuque, Iowa, by one of the three small, liberal arts colleges in town. I went with my R.A., and a few other friends I had made during the early weeks in school, and found myself standing a few rows back from the stage, perpetually getting kicked in the head during the show by people trying to crowd surf. 

And what I am asking myself now is when did the novelty, and the excitement, wear off?

Because there was, at one time, shortly after I had moved to Minnesota, a novelty to how close I was living (less than an hour south) to Minneapolis—at the time, in the mid-2000s, a regular stop on the nationwide tours of bands I was interested in seeing live.

Because there was, at one time, a feeling of excitement to the prospect of going to concerts—it was something that I wanted to do. 

At least, I think it was something I wanted to do.

When did the novelty and excitement wear off, and when was it replaced with visceral anxiety and a sense of dread—the kind of anxiety and dread I felt in a crowd of people years before the onset of the pandemic.

When did those moments of pause and consideration give way to talking myself out of whatever I had been interested in, and then moving along as quickly as possible.


Around 9:30, the house lights dimmed, and, in the darkness, there was an eruption of enthusiastic cheering and applause from the crowd. The members of Jepsen’s band—three musicians and an additional vocalist, took their places on stage and launched into a short introductory, instrumental piece to build up the anticipation for Jepsen’s entrance—she slowly saunters out from stage left, greeted with a thunderous rapture from the crowd, then takes her place front and center while the band slid from their instrumental build-up to the pulsating opening notes of “No Drug Like Me,” the slithering, and slow-burning second track from Dedicated. 

Jepsen’s set, an impressive 19 songs crammed into roughly 70 minutes, gave the most attention to both Dedicated and Emotion, playing nearly half of each record, leaving room for the obligatory, late in the set appearance of “Call Me Maybe,” “Summer Love,” one of the songs featured in the Dedicated Side B collection released in 2020, the light and breezy new single, “Western Wind,” which is expected to be included on the yet to be announced album she has been working on, and, as Jepsen often does, closing with the anthemic non-album fan favorite, “Cut to The Feeling.” 

The first four songs of nearly every set Jepsen performed throughout 2019 in support of Dedicated, as well as her foray into shows in 2022, are always the same—the first two songs from both Emotion and Dedicated, sequenced in a particular order, and I see why she continues to do this. The four tunes, when presented this way, create the initial balance of give and take in terms of energy, and she and the band try to maintain that balance as best as they are able throughout the rest of their time on stage.

There was little, if any, room to take a breath in between songs, especially during the first four tunes of Jepsen’s set as the band went right from the lusty “No Drug Like Me” into the dazzling, technicolor double shot of “Emotion,” which is one of Jepsen’s many songs that are based around the sheer volume the song soars to during its chorus, and “Run Away With Me,” complete with the iconic appearance of the saxophone in the song’s opening notes. 

It wasn’t until an instrumental break during the wonky, synth-heavy, post-disco-infused shimmer of “Julien” when Jepsen first addressed the audience at all—I am remiss to refer to her asides to the audience throughout the evening as feeling “rehearsed.” Still, the times she did speak before the beginning of a song all felt very premeditated. During “Julien,” she talked about how the song was named after a guy she had dated—she confessed it is a beautiful name, but that he “was a dick,” an admission that elected laughter and cheers from the audience. 

There’s a piece from MTV News written by Hanif Abdurraqib about Jepsen’s appearance at Terminal 5, in New York, during the early 2016 tour in support of Emotion. Abdurraqib, who has written much about Jepsen over the last six years, said during this show, that when she spoke in between songs, it was a rushed sentence or two.

Some musicians don’t carry on much interaction with their audience because they have no interest in it,” Abdurraqib writes. “With Jepsen, you get the sense that she is just so excited to play these songs that nothing else matters. She is like the person handing you a gift on Christmas morning, tearing into the wrapping paper before you can start to, with an eagerness that says, ‘I made this gift for you, for all of you. And I want you to have it, while there’s still time to enjoy it.’ It’s hard for me to imagine anyone wanting an actual friend this close to them, asking them to feel everything.”

Jepsen’s banter, as the evening went on, was less rushed, and felt more obviously planted—“I really really like this room!,” she said into the microphone before the band started playing “I Really Like You”; later, after the show’s halfway point, she told a short anecdote—I am uncertain how much truth there was in it, or if it was just a set up to get into the next song, but she said something about starting a relationship with someone during the pandemic, and that he got used to seeing her only in sweatpants. 

In a lilac-colored dress while on stage at The Armory, the story's punchline was, as Jepsen explained, once this guy saw her in outfits “like this,” she emphasized while pointing at what she was wearing, she exclaimed, “What? Is this too much?”

Following the joke, she gave a kind of pep talk to the crowd about how nobody should ever let anyone tell them that they are “too much,” while the band eased itself into the blippy synth sequencing and shuffling percussion of the next song, aptly titled “Too Much.”

Even if her between-song banter left a little to be desired in terms of its authenticity, from the moment she hit the stage; it is apparent that Jepsen is a hell of a singer and songwriter, but also an entertainer. From the highly endearing interactions with the front of stage security during the second chorus of “Call Me Maybe,” to the small, yet effective, and very charming synchronized dance moves she would effortlessly fall into with backup vocalist Sophi Bairley, Jepsen knows how to command the stage, keeping the enthusiasm high, and keeping the audience mostly engaged.

And I say mostly engaged because, even during a show this rapturous, with the crowd near the stage perpetually writhing up and down in time to the rhythm of every song, and even with as cacophonic as the sound could grow to, near the final third of her set, there were moments where I could hear the low, muffled rumble of people’s conversations.


There was a point early on in the evening, and I am not sure how far along into the evening I even was—perhaps during DJ QueenDuin’s set, or maybe even before that, as I just took it all in upon arrival, but I determined that The Armory is a strange venue. 

Not, like, a strange venue, or the wrong forum, to house a show like this—but just in general.

It is enormous—The Armory. I can’t even call it a mid-size venue, because a capacity of roughly 8,000 people is big. Still, I think as a venue trying to fight for its place among other establishments in the Twin Cities area, even after six or so years, it is, perhaps, still struggling to find its identity or figure out what kind of place it wants to be, what kind of acts it wants on its stage, what kind of experience it wants to offer.

It’s not Target Center big, or Xcel Energy Center big. But The Armory is much larger than places like First Avenue, or the trio of historic theaters. And the more I have sat and thought about this, I have wondered if it is attempting to position itself to take the place of a venue of similar size, like the Roy Wilkins Auditorium—located in St. Paul, adjacent to the Xcel Energy Center, the Roy Wilkins1 was equally as strange in its layout, and had some of the worst acoustics I have ever encountered.

Once you enter onto the main level, the size of The Armory is disarming, but perhaps that has to do with the fact that the main floor by the stage is, quite literally, surrounded by a bar that seemingly does not end. It isn’t a sensory overload, not entirely, but it is close.

Disorienting, I guess, is the best way to describe it.

I think the thing that was the most perplexing about the venue was its VIP mezzanine—tucked in between the main level, and the balcony. A venue offering a more expensive and luxurious level for concert attendees is nothing new, but what I didn’t understand was what I continued to witness occurring within the VIP section I was facing from my balcony seat.

Throughout DJ QueenDuin’s 90-minute set, I would occasionally see whom I assumed to be Armory staff prancing in time to the music through the darkness of the VIP mezzanine, many of them holding LED sparklers in either hand, and a few others, near the front of the line they had formed, holding other things that lit up brightly across the darkness of the venue—it was difficult to tell what, exactly they were supposed to be. 

A guitar? An enormous bird of some kind? The venue’s logo? 

One of them looked like a small waste basket.

The gaggle of Armory employees would converge in one area of the VIP level, surrounding a group of people who were, perhaps, just minding their own business, then proceed to dance around them half-heartedly—not with them, really but around them, awkwardly, waving their LED sparklers and objects around.

This would go on for maybe a minute or two, and then the employees would retreat, back to wherever it was they came from, through the darkness, before they had to come back out and do this again.

A strange sight every time I caught it from the corner of my eye; it was maybe during the second time it occurred, I was able to accurately liken it to when you’re out to eat in a restaurant, and somebody within the dining room is having a birthday—and the staff is all forced to come out and surround the person to sing, or give them a dessert that’s on fire. 

And I could liken it to that, yes. Still, for some reason, watching the shadows of Armory employees move through the darkness, seeing only shadows and outlines illuminated by their LED devices, seemed like it was far more demoralizing for everyone involved.

This was far more depressing for me to see.

And it was in these moments, watching the half-hearted dancing of venue employees, through the darkness, that I recognized a loneliness that I had been trying to ignore, and felt the anxiety I was trying to keep at an arm’s length creeping in closer. 

Because regardless of if my decision to purchase tickets to Jepsen’s concert was something one could consider spontaneous or impulsive or not be able to tell because the line between the two so often becomes blurred, what I had not anticipated was the challenge I would be presented with when finding someone to accompany me to the show. As it turned out, my wife’s initial nonplussed reaction after informing her of my impulsive/spontaneous decision was not because I had chosen an inappropriate moment to tell her my news—she just had no interest in going.

“Besides,” she told me a week before the show, after I had inquired again. "I’ve got D&D that night.”

And I already, really, knew the answer even before I asked. Still, I also wondered if since I was playing against type by even thinking about going to a concert, perhaps she would also play against type and agree to go with—with great caution, I approached my best friend, Andrea, who as politely as she could, declined, saying that the “old her” would have eagerly said yes, but the her of today expressed concerns over the very same things that I was beginning to even second guess my interest in going—a large crowd, a large crowd during a pandemic, a loud event, and an extremely late night out. 

And I don’t even know why I would have felt like I needed to tell Andrea the show’s start time was advertised as 8 p.m, but as I was doing so, she cut me off and started laughing, saying, “8 p.m.? HA! I’m usually in bed already by then, reading!”

My wife, choosing what I affectionately call her “nerd shit” over going to the concert. 

My best friend having slightly worse concert anxiety than I even have—and when I tell her, the day after the concert, that Jepsen didn’t even take to the stage until 9:30, she gasps at how late I was out, and says, “Yeah it’s a good thing I didn’t go with you.”

And I almost, maybe two or three days before the concert, talk myself out of going completely—keeping a ticket reseller tab open on the computer and wondering if and when to list them, and how much (or how little, really) I should sell them for with the hopes someone would take them before Saturday evening.

But those moments, days in advance before I’m even out of my comfort zone in the balcony of The Armory, and just sitting on the couch in my house, next to my dog—those moments full of concert anxiety, and the giving into my debilitating depression, believing I won’t have a good time anyway, so why should I even try—those moments are eventually swept away in an extremely rare wave of optimism. 

I am going to try.

And it is a friend of a friend—Cody, who, up until she plunks down in the seat next to me shortly before Jepsen takes the stage, I had not met in person but know through our few year’s worth of exchanges on social media, is interested in using my other ticket. 

And it is well beyond the halfway point in Jepsen’s set when she makes another quick, more than likely rehearsed aside to the audience before the band launches into the kaleidoscopic, 80s-inspired “Boy Problems,” and Cody lets out a legitimate shriek of joy, then more or less grabs my shoulder and hoists me out of my seat. 

And I can hear her voice, through the mask, and just barely over the music, yelling at me, “Kevin, you have to stand up for this song!”


From its smoldering, impressive four-song opening, right up until its final, dazzling, soaring moments, Jepsen’s set at The Armory rarely faltered in terms of its levels of enthusiasm. Really, there was arguably only one real misfire, if that, in the 19 songs she could squeeze into her time on stage. 

Since positioning herself as an artist making this specific kind of meticulously crafted, brightly colored pop music in 2015, following the release of Emotion, one could make a strong case that Jepsen, overall, has not spent a lot of time slowing the tempo down to what you could comfortably call a pop ballad. 

There are slower songs, yes, or songs that have a slightly lower level of energy to them than others, or songs that do not soar to nearly the heights that some of them reach, but even when the band went from the sheer enormity of a song like “Now That I Found You,” to the comparatively much more restrained sounding “Gimme Love,” the song still has a groove the grabs you almost immediately, and regardless of if you are on the floor of the venue near the stage, or sitting relatively comfortably in a balcony seat above the action, Jepsen is making the kind of pop music that doesn’t just want you to move your body, or even ask you to move your body. Still, it demands it of you, and all you can do is respond accordingly. 

Jepsen’s new single, “Western Wind,” was placed roughly during the set’s halfway mark. Even with as big of a fan of hers as I have been for the last seven years, and with even as grateful as I am for the implications of, albeit a slow one, the rollout of a new album, I can admit that during my initial listens of the song, it’s incredibly relaxed and loose nature took me by surprise. I didn’t dislike it, but it did not have the same immediacy that other songs of hers have had in the past. 

It was not a surprise that “Western Wind” was going to make its way into her performance at The Armory, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much better, or at least how much more compelling and livelier it was in this setting—I think primarily due to the added depth that having a live drummer. The studio version of “Western Wind” is structured around a few intricately woven layers of drum machines, and seems to find itself in a holding pattern that it is never really able to escape from to take off—on stage, with the impressive and steady percussive work from Jepsen’s longtime and very stoic drummer Nik Pesut, “Western Wind” is given that extra boost it needs. It, like so many of her songs, almost effortlessly rides a slinking groove through you as you listen.

And even with the almost contractual inclusion of Jepsen’s breakthrough single “Call Me Maybe,” and the polarizing first single from Emotion, “I Really Like You,” the only song that I felt didn’t work in this setting, or perhaps brought the level of energy down to its lowest place in the evening, was the Dedicated track “Everything He Needs.” 

Jepsen’s sets, at least throughout 2019’s tour in support of Dedicated conclude, in the encore, with the non-album track “Cut to The Feeling.” Released two years after Emotion, but two years before Dedicated, the song was written during the sessions for Emotion, but was, per the song’s Wikipedia, “too cinematic and theatrical” to be included on the album; it was also in the running, a year later, for the album’s companion piece EP, Emotion: Side-B, and eventually found its home on the soundtrack to Leap!, released in the United States in 2017, but in Jepsen’s native Canada, the year prior, under the name Ballerina. 

Critically acclaimed in 2017 and certified gold in Japan, “Cut to The Feeling” is extremely cinematic and theatrical, but that’s what makes it such a good, fun song—it is perhaps more kaleidoscopic and bright than the boldest moments from Emotion, and it makes sense that a song that scales this height would be the final song of the night.

And I am uncertain how an artist decides to, or not to do, an encore.

The act of the encore itself, in a sense, is presumptuous and performative—saying goodbye to the audience before sauntering off backstage, waiting a minute or two as the applause and cheering continue, then coming back out for a few more songs, pretending to be surprised that people want you to keep playing.

Are encores dictated by how much time you will have on stage? Do ticket sales dictate them? If a show is not sold out, like Jepsen’s performance at The Armory, is giving just a little more after you’ve given your all an impossibility?

And I am remiss to say that Jepsen’s set at The Armory came to an abrupt conclusion, but abruption and disorganization were recurring themes throughout the night. 

Following the final note of “Cut to The Feeling,” Jepsen gave a breathless, rushed goodbye to the crowd, then she and her band quickly jogged off stage. Once “Cut to The Feeling” had started, Cody had, for the second time that evening, hoisted me out of my seat, and as we both stood, clapping and cheering, I went from wondering if she would come back out for an encore, to realizing the show was done—like done done, in a matter of seconds.

Jepsen’s road crew came out and began dismantling the drum kit, and taking down the floral patterned fabric attached to the risers set up across the stage. Then, the house lights came back on, and the venue’s pre-show mix of music began to play.

I turned to Cody and said, “I don’t think she’s coming back out. I think we’re supposed to leave.”

I hoped I made it out of the venue and back to my car before “Born This Way” played again.


And what I find, in the days, then later, the weeks, that follow the Carly Rae Jepsen concert is that I am ruminating on the very notion of cutting to the feeling. 

In the song, Jepsen, as the protagonist, doesn’t just want to cut to the feeling, but literally demands it with how much conviction is in her voice as she utters that phrase. But we, as listeners, are left uncertain if she arrives at it, or if she doesn’t.

In another, more involved piece from Hanif Abdurraqib about Jepsen’s music, and her 2017 performance in Toronto with a symphony orchestra backing her, he discusses the idea of her music, and live show, as living in a “kingdom of desire.”

In it, he says that “pop music desires a body—a single, focused human form as an object of interest.

“Emotion fails in this, I suppose,” Abdurraqib continues. “Because its primary characters are desire and distance,” later explaining that because Jepsen’s music is not “the kind of pop music that relentlessly desires a body,” it means that “desire itself is the body.

And there is, when you think about it, a palpable sense of longing in almost every Carly Rae Jepsen song—there is an ask, or a want, and yes, a desire, but that’s where those stories end.  

And what I am ruminating on is the very notion of cutting to the feeling, and I am wondering what feeling, exactly, Jepsen wants to cut to, if she can.

I am wondering what feelings I want to cut to.


In her rushed goodbye, and in her hustle to get off stage, as the house lights came back up and the crowds of people were being pushed through the venue’s exits, I was a little surprised that Jepsen did not take a moment, at any point during her set, to show any kind of thanks, or appreciation, for Pride Fest itself—the event that her concert was advertised as being in conjunction with. 

And in a conversation I was having a few days after the concert with a woman from a book group I joined recently—Alyssa, who was also in attendance at the show, standing within the second row, right by the stage, the entire evening, and had been to see Jepsen at both the Varsity Theatre in 2016 and the State Theatre in 2019—she was also surprised that, along with neglecting to mention Pride, Jepsen did not say anything about the overturning of Roe v. Wade—the decision coming down a little more than 24 hours before the concert—regardless of gender, a decision that had to have been hanging heavily on the minds of many people in the crowd. 

Queenduin, a QTPOC, mentioned both—very proudly and very loudly, more or less asking the crowd, at one point during the night, to “make some noise if you’re gay,” then later speaking vehemently against the Supreme Court’s decision regarding Roe v. Wade—and in an effort to lighten the mood after her brief tirade, and also to uplift the women and female-identifying members of the audience, Queenduin faded in Whitney Houston’s cover of “I’m Every Woman,” from the soundtrack to The Bodyguard, initially performed in 1978 by Chaka Khan. 

A well-intended inclusion, but like the appearances of “I’m Coming Out,” and “Don’t You Want Me,” I could tell it left many audience members scratching their heads.

And that is what we, maybe, not so much want from people we admire—writers, or performers like Jepsen—but we’d like, or hope. We hope they are willing to take a stance on something important like the overturning of Roe. 

We hope that they share the same beliefs that we do.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision, other pop music figures took a stance, and speak out—on Twitter, Taylor Swift said she was “absolutely terrified that this is where we are.” 

“That after so many decades of people fighting for women’s rights to own their bodies, today’s decision has stripped us of that,” she continued.

Olivia Rodrigo, performing at the Glastonbury Festival the weekend the news was announced, was less eloquent and blunter—she was joined on stage by Lily Allen, and the two performed Allen’s 2009 song “Fuck You,” which Rodrigo dedicated to the five justices who were in favor of overturning the ruling.

I stop short of describing Jepsen, as a person, or even as a persona, as being aloof. Still, compared to her peers, she could be seen as much more private, specifically about her life outside of her career. 

And maybe that is by design—to keep her career as separate as possible from everything else—especially any kind of strong, politically charged stance—to minimize any potential alienation or offense of her listeners and fans. 

It is, in a sense, an unintentional extension of Jepsen’s music—the kingdom of desire, or of want, or of longing. There is a borderline wholesome, often playful nature to Jepsen’s lyricism. In contrast to some of her contemporaries, she is simply suggestive; winking at the listener, rather than being outright. The most ribald she has come thus far is the Dedicate track “Want You in My Room,” which finds Jepsen shouting the line, “I wanna do bad things to you!,” then cooing, “Baby don’t you want me too?,” at the end of the song’s chorus. 

Tame by the standards of a lot of other pop music, “Want You in My Room,” is as far as Jepsen will push the envelope lyrically. 

She takes you through, and then right to the edge of that desire—of that want or that longing. But what happens after that desire, want, or longing, is unknown.

She gives you just enough of the moment, or the feeling, that she wants so badly to cut to.

There have arguably been three acts, thus far, to Jepsen’s career—and I feel many casual listeners might not be aware of her life before the unprecedented success of “Call Me Maybe” in 2012. The first act includes her appearance on “Canadian Idol,” where she placed third in the show’s fifth season in 2007—the following year, she released her much less kaleidoscopic and bright debut Tug of War. 

And it is impressive, I think, that in between the second and third acts of her career, Jepsen was able to sidestep the very notion that she was a “one-hit-wonder.” She probably won’t write another song that becomes as ubiquitous—nor does she really have to, and probably doesn’t want to. She has gracefully eased into and embraced the kind of cult following she has amassed following the release of Emotion. When I think about Carly Rae Jepsen now, I think about another portion of the piece by Hanif Abdurraqib about her 2017 show in Toronto, backed by the orchestra. 

After writing about Emotion’s primary characters being desire and distance, he points out that the feeling of want “may be a machine that lurches us toward a newer, more eager want.” Still, that idea alone doesn’t sell records.

This is one theory as to why Carly Rae Jepsen, despite her ability to home in on a feeling and make it flourish, isn’t the biggest pop star in the world,” he continues. “But I am not really interested anymore in why Emotion didn’t sell a million copies, because I don’t care about how much an album sells as I do care about how an album lives.”

And since reading this, I find myself returning to the idea of how an album lives—how it can continue to live, and thrive, and grow long after its life expectancy. 

Regardless of how aloof Jepsen may appear, she is also extremely deliberate, and is not an artist who is concerned with the idea of the “album cycle.” Three years passed between Kiss, and the success of “Call Me Maybe,” before she returned with Emotion—four years passed between it and Dedicated. And there is, of course, no one but the artist themselves who should dictate the amount of time you take to make one record.

Four years can seem like an excruciatingly long time. Still, with Jepsen’s meticulous writing and recording process (allegedly writing hundreds of songs during the sessions for Emotion), the result is worth the time and effort it takes.

I am uncertain if we, as listeners, are to anticipate Jepsen’s forthcoming album yet this year, or if the large and somewhat unconventional (billboards were taken out with a mystery phone number) methods of promoting “Western Wind” were announcing the return of an artist who never left—not really. Jepsen and her band are embarking on a fall tour—Minneapolis, both surprisingly and unsurprisingly, was not included in the itinerary. 

And that omission in her tour schedule this fall was among the reasons that made me overcome the anxieties that were on the cusp of preventing me from seeing Carly Rae Jepsen at The Armory. I had already spent the last three years, off and on, regretting the fact that I was unable to attend her show in support of Dedicated, and the more I deliberated, the more I listened to the part of myself that didn’t want to miss, and then later regret, this opportunity.

The evening was disorganized and abrupt, yes—and one can speculate, and I have, about the length of Jepsen’s set, as well as the number of people in her band that evening—noticeably missing from the stage plot was both her bassist, and an additional back up vocalist. Was the money offered by the event’s organizers and sponsors only enough to get a certain amount of her band members on stage—her full band was present just two months prior during her performances at Coachella. 

The evening was disorganized and abrupt, yes—and one can speculate, and I have, about her set itself, like how late it started, but I guess, more importantly, its conclusion. Is that was she was brought in to do—play for roughly 75 minutes, and not a minute longer?

Did the performance itself feel phoned in? Not at all. Regardless of what might have been happening leading up to the moment Jepsen and her band stepped onto the stage, they did give it their all during those 75 minutes. But other elements surrounding the show itself felt like they were lacking—not that I need yet another t-shirt, but I was surprised at how paltry the merch table was. Tucked at the venue's very back, two t-shirts available, one Emotion era hooded sweatshirt (in June?), and a “Western Wind”-themed collapsable paper fan.

The closer the date of the show, the more The Armory’s promotion on social media—at least on Facebook, relied on ticket giveaways; the show itself was far from sold out, and upon arriving, the person who checked me in told me that I didn’t even have to go up to the balcony unless I really wanted to. Jepsen herself, aside from mentioning the show once on the day it was announced on her Instagram page, did little to remind people she was coming to Minneapolis.

It was four days after the show when Jepsen shared photographs taken during the show on her Instagram page with the caption—“Minneapolis last week, and I forgot to post cause I think I’m in Brussels now?”

The evening was disorganized and abrupt, yes, and even with the occasional mixing issue in Jepsen’s sound—the extremely cavernous, “boomy” nature of The Armory led to moments where there was a lack of definition and clarity,, I was still grateful to have both witnessed the absolute pop spectacle of Carly Rae Jepsen, and to have been able to push myself, albeit for only a few hours, out of the place where I allow my anxieties to dictate what I can, or cannot, do.

And what I find, in the days, then later, the weeks, that follow the Carly Rae Jepsen concert is that I am ruminating on the very notion of cutting to the feeling.

I cannot precisely find the moment when the novelty and excitement wore off, and when it was replaced with visceral anxiety and a sense of dread—the kind of anxiety and dread I felt in a crowd of people years before the onset of the pandemic.

When did those moments of pause and consideration really give way to talking myself out of whatever concert I had been interested in attending—opting to move along as quickly as possible.

Perhaps the moment was always there from the very beginning—from the long drives between Freeport, Illinois to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with friends from work to see shows at the Eagle’s Ballroom; or from being led around downtown Chicago by one of those very friends as we made our way to see Radiohead in Grant Park.

Perhaps it was always there and just, over time, began to overshadow any kind of fun that I might be able to have in the moment.

In the song “Cut to The Feeling,” Jepsen, as she is wont to do, is chasing after an idea—the desire, or the longing, between her and another individual. “I had a dream, or was it real?,” she begins. “We crossed the line, and it was on this time. I’ve been denying how I feel—you’ve been denying what you want from me.”

Part of the reason that “Cut to The Feeling” works, and works as well as it does, is because of the pounding rhythm it is built around during the verses, its use of repetition of the lyrics in those verses in time with the pounding, and then the ridiculous heights the song scales to in the chorus. 

I wanna cut through the clouds, break the ceiling,” Jepsen exclaims. “I wanna dance on the roof—you and me alone,” then, a few lines later, seemingly coy and suggestive, “I wanna wake up with you all in tangles—I wanna cut to the feeling.”

And the song, itself, is about desire, yes, but it’s about the desire, or the want, to get to the moments that come after so many of her songs reach their conclusion. 

And what I ruminate on the very notion of cutting to the feeling, what I have come to understand the feelings that I want to cut to are the few and fleeting moments—like when Jepsen herself finally stepped out onto the stage, or during a favorite off of Emotion (“Let’s Get Lost”) where I am able, temporarily, to forget about the anxieties that nearly prevented me from going, the loneliness, or the perpetual sadness that I am rarely, if ever, able to shake. 

I want to cut to the feeling, too, Carly—where it isn’t always going to be like this.

1- Hey, so, uh, I feel a little weird putting a footnote in this one, specifically because it’s an essay I have lost control of and it’s like 10,000 words long, but also because in the more recent things I have written, I’ve tried to get away from needing to tack on just one more thing. But, I was unable to shoehorn some anecdotes about the Roy Wilkins into the body of the essay. The venue itself seemed to be barely hanging on before the pandemic—it was a COVID testing site for a while, and I am uncertain if it is still used for that or not. The room has the worst acoustics I’ve ever encountered, and the two shows I saw there were a mess in terms of mixing and dynamics, as well as the overall “high school gymnasium” environment.