Justice for Carly Rae Jepsen in a Taylor Swift Press Cycle

“The Loneliest Time” by Carly Rae Jepsen feat. Rufus Wainwright

When Carly Rae Jepsen first announced that her new album, which was released this week, would be called The Loneliest Time, I huffed a little. Wasn’t that a little on the nose? Did we have to be reminded that everything is a little redolent of eau de trash? Which says more about me than about her. I’m a grumpy gremlin, but Jepsen is a precious sprite who made her name with pop songs about infatuation, full-throated adoration, and only the winsome kind of disappointment. In fact, there’s nothing more CRJ than an album title so earnestly emotional that it could be the name of a book about a shelter kitten that has been rejected by 500 potential adopters.

The title track is not my favorite song on the album. (That’s “Western Wind,” whose balmy opening beats make me tear up every time.) It comes from the theater-kid end of her creative spectrum, complete with a guest appearance from beloved balladeer Rufus Wainwright and a nursery-rhymeish bridge: “We reached the moon / But lost in space, I think we got there all too soon.”

That bridge ends with an extremely razzle-dazzle flourish that you probably know, even if you haven’t heard the song, because it has taken off as a TikTok sound. Jepsen delivers the couplet — “I’m coming back for you, baby / I’m coming back for you!” — with a wide-eyed optimism. It sounds like the sweetest high school performer, warm under the gymnasium spotlight in sequined top hat and dance tights, grinning and breathing hard at the end of their big solo.

Thousands of users have paired it with videos that make loving use of its enthusiasm. Jepsen posted a choice selection to Instagram: One person mouths “I’m coming back for you” to their half-empty can of La Croix; a harried mom guiltily walks away from a cute baby stranded in a high chair (“When you have three babies but only two arms” the text reads). A home cook grimaces at her box of salad greens; a sneaky shopper hides a coveted item in Target so nobody can get it before they come back on payday; this person admits they only clip their toenails once every four months. Nobody’s perfect!

That’s the magic of Carly Rae. Her sweetness is contagious, her loyalty absolute. When she says she’s coming back, she means it with her entire being. When we sing along, we try to mean it — we really try — but ultimately have to admit we don’t always do what we say. We have the best of intentions, but aren’t as pure of heart as she is. Anyway, with her help, the rest of us can finally pretend we’re at her level (I’m coming back for you!) for a moment, at least. —Estelle Tang

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