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Carly Rae Jepsen's B-Side Life

Preconcert painting time with the pop star (and her mom).

Jackson McHenry

ACCORDING TO OUR kindly painting instructor, Sabrina, Carly Rae Jepsen has chosen an unusual piece for us to replicate at our midafternoon BYOB paint-and-sip. We’re at the Painting Lounge on West 38th Street, hidden away on a second floor and highly airconditioned in the midst of a heat wave, listening to the Big Little Lies soundtrack, which was Sabrina’s choice, and trying to re-create Pablo Picasso’s 1932 portrait of a woman asleep and dreaming, Le Rêve, which was Jepsen’s. Sabrina has us working off stencils, so we don’t have to match the distorted outlines of Picasso’s woman on our own, but it’s still, in its relative way, ambitious. The Painting Lounge’s other templates tend toward the less pedigreed and more banal—sailboats and sunsets and city parks with bare trees—but Jepsen’s choice is arguably telling. She’s a pop star, yes, but she’ll work a little harder and wander in a direction you might not expect. Jepsen is surprised that people don’t choose this painting more often: “Who doesn’t want to pretend they’re Picasso for a second?”

Jepsen is stopping in for our painting class midway through the tour for her album Dedicated, which dropped in May. She’s playing the Hammerstein Ballroom that night—one of two shows she had in New York—which means we’re sipping Martinelli’s cider instead of wine, and she brings along an entourage that includes her glam squad, and her mother, Alexandra Lanzarotta, a jewelry designer who has flown in from British Columbia. (Jepsen, whose parents are divorced, checked in with her dad’s side of the family at a previous tour stop in Boston.) As it happens, Jepsen’s tour kicked off with a few shows in European cities, including Barcelona, where she went to the local Picasso museum. The visit made her think about how the artist was always on the way to becoming someone else. You walk into one room and you see him slowly invent and master a style; you walk into the next and he’s heading in another direction entirely. “And it wasn’t good yet!” Jepsen says. “It was inspiring for creativity in general.”

If you were to build a Museum of Carly (and someone almost certainly will one day), “Call Me Maybe,” the cheeky pop single that launched her to stardom, would be in the place of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. It’s the song that made her famous and wrote her checks; the one that became so unavoidably popular it’ll probably be used to establish that future period movies are set in 2012. Kiss, the album that followed “Call Me Maybe,” failed to connect, but her 2015 ’80sthrowback album, Emotion, did—which set fan expectations high for Dedicated, an effervescent yet deep pseudo-breakup album. Think of that as her blue period, with sparkles.

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August 5-18, 2019