Dusk used to be my least favorite part of the day. When the clock hits 5 p.m., I used to let out a little groan over things that I failed to tick off from my to-do list: forgotten assignments, articles left unwritten, bills unpaid, rest periods un-rested. Now, as quarantine has given me way too much time by myself, I always look forward to the comfort of seeing the golden sun slowly setting and reminding me of the anticipation I used to have for going out before the virus that closed everything down.
I never really had a booming social life before COVID-19. My reasons for going out at night were few, and all of them resulted in me either being left by myself or dissociating from whoever is unfortunate enough to witness my lack of vivaciousness. But regardless of my reasons for going out, I always make it a point to play anything that would pump me up for a lovely evening of caving in my own head.
Carly Rae Jepsen’s post-“Call Me Maybe” songs have always been a staple of these playlists. Rarely do I cater to overly-preppy or saccharine pop songs, but Jepsen’s music is different. In a nutshell, her songs are the sort of pure joy that still manages to bring a depth of feeling without being too sappy or pretentious about it. Her songs are the kind that can encourage even the most introverted and socially apprehensive people like me to take a more risks and look forward to the events that would unfold in the vibrant streets beneath the city lights. And if there was one Jepsen song that perfectly embodies this longing for life, it would be her 2015 hit “Run Away with Me”.
‘Cause you make me feel like
I could be driving you all night
And I’ll find your lips in the street lights
I wanna be there with you
I could blame my tendency to fall into nostalgia for putting “Run Away with Me” on loop over the past few weeks, but there’s just something about that saxophone intro that makes me stop in my tracks every time I hear it. Instead of the blaring of the alarm I was used to hearing every morning as I wake up for work, it’s almost like the school bell of my childhood reminding me that I’m now free to run through the corridors and spend a Friday night basking in the vibrancy of the city streets either by myself or with someone who won’t make me feel alone.
The video for “Run Away with Me” fits perfectly with the song’s vibe, too. It’s pretty straightforward: it just shows Jepsen traveling and having fun in Paris, Tokyo, and New York with the implied point-of-view of a lover. Most of it was shot using vintage cameras, evoking the sort of spontaneity that permeates the well-curated feeds of the millennial/Gen Z crowd. It’s exactly the sort of scenario in my head whenever I play that song. The earnestness in Jepsen’s voice paired with the excitement of the synth-laden beats are enough to make me imagine walking out the door to experience the sights and sounds of some city I don’t have the funds to visit.
Over the weekend
We could turn the world to gold, oh oh
Run away with me, run away with me
I’m not saying that COVID-19 robbed me of my 20’s, but listening to “Run Away with Me” has become a little sadder now that even the mere act of breathing freely outside has become a restriction and a luxury. Nobody is playing in the bars anymore. The mom-and-pops where people loved to gather are either gone or struggling. Here in the Philippines, our government is mandating the use of face shields on top of face masks in public areas. In mid-2020, the country surpassed the 100-day mark for community quarantine sparking outrage over the government’s lack of concern or sense of urgency. Since March, the days just melted on top of each other. Until now, we stay inside because we’re afraid of death. And yet, staying in isolation for so long has made us feel like we’re all dying anyway.
We are living in the era of doomscrolling and pandemic grief, and all I have is Carly Rae Jepsen to tell me that there’s a world out there that’s still worth living for. In a way, “Run Away with Me” evokes the more optimistic version of the pre-game emotions I felt when playing The Smiths’ “How Soon is Now?” where Morrissey sings a rallying cry to misfits and introverts desperate for human connection:
When you say it’s gonna happen “now”
When exactly do you mean?
See I’ve already waited too long
And all my hope is gone
Both are “Run Away with Me” and “How Soon is Now?” are about going out and the need to be loved, but the 80’s anthem now feels like a representation of the more cynical version of me that views the world outside with outright hostility. The thing is, I’ve finally outgrown that cynicism. “How Soon is Now?” was the armor for my shyness that is criminally vulgar, and “Run Away with Me” was the cure.
But “Run Away with Me” isn’t the only Jepsen song that renews my sense of hope and will to live. Released in 2016 as a Side B track for Emotion, “Cut to the Feeling” is bubblegum pop at its finest. I hit play on “Cut to the Feeling” and experience this weird surge of serotonin boost that makes me forget that I’m burnt out and dissatisfied with where I am.
<p”>It was a stroke of luck too that Jepsen released her self-love anthem “Party for One”, a single from her 2019 album Dedicated and a stylistic call-back to her pre-Emotion days, at a time when I felt like the most unlovable person in the world. A year ago, I was playing it out of hurt. Now, I’m just playing it because I’m literally stuck with myself and I needed escape. It was dangerous, these imagined scenarios, but what else can we do when we have nowhere to go?
Jepsen’s songs retain their purity and honesty regardless of whether it’s about the pain of heartbreak or the jubilance of the honeymoon phase. Her songs can be hopeful and optimistic, but they don’t fall into the trap of cheap and toxic positivity. Jepsen brings the sort of unproblematic vibe and sincerity that I was looking for in a world that constantly hurts and disappoints me. Her music got me through growing up in the 2010s, and they still manage to be that breath of fresh air that I needed at a time when everybody’s constrained by masks both literally and figuratively.
My musician boyfriend, a man I met in quarantine thanks to the dating app algorithms, once told me about how it’s possible for us to outgrow songs that once made us feel strongly about something. “There was a point in my life where I felt like that, but that’s not me anymore,” he once said to me when we discussed one of his most popular songs—an angst-ridden lofi ballad about some girl who didn’t reciprocate his feelings. Even if the pandemic goes away and we’re all free to live our lives fully again, I hope I don’t outgrow Carly Rae Jepsen. Her music expressed my heartbreak then and kept me from succumbing to despair now. At the rate that 2020 is going, who knows what’s in the near future that would make me blast Carly Rae Jepsen to drag me out of my comfort zone and pandemic despair?
<p”>In one of my transcription side gigs, I learned that economic experts forecast the return to normalcy to occur no earlier than the 2022-2025 period. This means that my readiness to run away to strange and foreign places to feel alive will only bear fruit by the time I hit 30, or at least pushing 30. My chances of listening to “Run Away with Me” in the car, in public transport, or wherever there is a gathering of people are nil at the moment. But that doesn’t mean I’m losing hope. Throughout quarantine, Carly Rae Jepsen gave me a chance to escape the shackles of my brain and imagine another version of me: the one in some parallel universe where COVID-19 never happened, happily living her life and making the most out of a world that still has something to offer.
So thank you, Carly Rae, for letting me run away even if it’s just in my head.