Carly Rae Jepsen, “Party For One”

Originally Posted on The Yale Herald - Medium via UWIRE

Everybody loves a good breakup song. There’s something about it that captures both the best and worst in us, whether it’s the mourner or the forgiver or the pissed off car-keyer. And while there’s a time and place for those bleak lost-love songs, my favorite breakup genre by far is the celebratory one, the dancing-on-my-own, never-needed-a-man-in-my-life one. Lucky for me, that seems to be the theme of this year, as we’ve been gifted with a treasure trove of warm, loving songs exploring some of the ugliest emotions. Among the biggest hits in recent weeks (including Robyn’s new album and Ariana Grande’s fantastic “thank u, next”) is Carly Rae Jepsen’s return single, her first since the critically-acclaimed Emotion came out in 2015. “Party For One” is anthemic, blissful, and — exactly as the name suggests — an unapologetic celebration of being alone.

Ever since she released “Call Me Maybe” in 2012, Jepsen has developed a reputation for crafting stupidly catchy pop songs that turn foundational emotions into the best sing-along tracks. “Party For One” doesn’t stray far from this formula, and while you could fault Jepsen for staying within her comfort zone, you could hardly argue that she doesn’t dominate it. The song starts by acknowledging the difficulties of moving on — “Tried to let it go and say I’m over you / I’m not over you” — before the opening instrumental riff takes a backseat to lush synths, crisp percussion, and Jepsen’s increasingly confident declarations of self-reliance. The glossy production builds on Jepsen’s ownership of being alone, making it sound more attractive with every verse. “You don’t want my love / If you don’t care about me / I’ll just dance for myself / Back on my beat,” she sings on the chorus, with a slight rasp and carefree nonchalance. It’s not just a song about self-love; it’s a song that makes self-love sound cool. “Party For One” all but makes explicit the physical aspects of romantic independence (“Making love to myself / Back on my beat”) but it’s not just a song about masturbation, in the same way it’s not not a song about masturbation. There’s a lot involved in self-care, both physically and emotionally — all Jepsen seems to be saying is that it should be fun.

The music video for “Party For One” starts with Jepsen checking into a hotel, majorly channeling Margot from The Royal Tenenbaums. Once the song starts, it becomes a montage of vignettes looking in on Jepsen and the other idiosyncratic characters letting loose in the privacy of their rooms. From the older woman packing a dildo to the man eating spaghetti by the handful in the bathtub, everybody dances, cries, and finds freedom of expression in their solitude. At the pre-climactic bridge of the song, the power cuts out and forces everyone down to the lobby: a dozen individual parties converge on a moment of communal revelry as the song explodes in the background. But the video doesn’t end there, instead concluding with the cast silently taking the elevator back to their rooms, Jepsen closing her door and happily sliding to the floor. Both the song and video are a reminder that we’re not alone in feeling alone. But more importantly, they also remind us that even when given the chance to be with others, there’s value in choosing to dance by and for ourselves.

Carly Rae Jepsen, “Party For One” was originally published in The Yale Herald on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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