Carly Rae Jepsen, the Most Useful Pop Star

Even her B-sides are reliably great soundtracks for falling in love and going to the store.

Brendan McDermid / Reuters

A Carly Rae Jepsen song is an irony-free zone. Unlike with the Beyoncés and Taylor Swifts of the world, there are no meta-narratives about fame and personal lives to untangle, no satirical winks, and few expeditions to unexpected musical traditions. It’s just 2010s pop technology recreating 1980s pop carefreeness, reliably spitting out giddy, deeply felt, and well-crafted tributes to such simple things as falling in love, falling out of love, and …

Going to the store!

Those little videos above and all the other ones like them online are the result of the internet discovering the fabulous utility of “Store,” from Jepsen’s new collection Emotion: Side B. The song is technically about walking out on a relationship by saying you’re going out to pick up some seltzer or something, but really it’s destined to become a soundtrack for actually just going out to pick up seltzer or something. Those hard string jolts, that jock-jam rhythm, the way Jepsen yelps “store” as “stoh” (?)—it’s music to skip to, and unlike most such music, it describes a mundane activity you might well be doing as you listen.

Jepsen is a very good songwriter of the mundane, putting little images and unique but simple phrases into her love stories to make memorable. Her mega-smash debut, “Call Me Maybe,” hinged on one word, “maybe,” that’s underused in pop music but overused in real life. “Store” is similar in that attention to relatable detail, as are the other seven songs on Side B, an add-on to her great 2015 release Emotion. It’s her most consistent and unapologetically retro group of songs yet—the highs are not the highest of her career, but there’s not an un-strutworthy song in the bunch.

Jepsen hints at her make-’em-feel-and-make-’em-move mentality of the album with the Flashdance bounce of “Body Language,” where she keeps cautioning a lover, “I think we’re overthinking it.” “First Time” sets you up for a “Like a Virgin” theme but actually uses the theme to describe heartbreak. “Higher” cribs its aching verse melody from “How Will I Know,” which is no sin at all. The dewy synths on “Fever” evoke a hot summer night as Jepsen narrates a very emotional bike ride. And it’ll be a shame if the excellent ballad “Cry” doesn’t inspire at least one prom slow-dance singalong next year.

The “Store” videos represent the third or fourth great meme the internet has made from Jepsen—there were all the “Call Me Maybe” covers back in 2012, the Vine jokes featuring the glorious sax peal from 2015’s “Run Away With Me,” and there’s also a running gag where people call her “the queen of” various ridiculous kingdoms. It’s all a sign of how Jepsen inspires a unique kind of ferocity. She’s chart pop’s great underdog: Despite two and a half wonderful albums, she’s nowhere near shrugging off the “one hit wonder” tag in the mass consciousness, perhaps due to the endearing fact that she just wants to sing rather than conquer all media formats and dominate all conversations. Jepsen simply makes music to live with—a gift for the pop listener, the kind you can’t just go out and buy.