Carly Rae Jepsen and Smino rock Welsh-Ryan Arena for A&O Blowout
Photos by David Deloso / North by Northwestern

Welsh-Ryan Arena came to life Saturday night as female pop headliner Carly Rae Jepsen and up-and-coming rapper Smino took the stage for A&O Blowout 2018. Both performers were loud and energetic, and the crowd especially came to life when Jepsen sang some of her more popular songs like "Call Me Maybe" and "I Really Like You."

"We look for artists that we think are going to put on a really good show and people have a good time with,” A&O co-president Jess Collins. Collins said that many members of A&O have been working since this past spring to prepare for this concert.

"It's definitely been a journey, but everyone's put in an amazing amount of work," Collins said.

Collins said she was proud to get two artists who have recently put out new music, with Jepsen having dropped a new single Nov. 1 and Smino having released his second studio album Nov. 8. This new material, in addition to each artist’s older catalogue, drew a substantial crowd of excited fans to the arena.

Smino opened for Jepsen, playing highlights from his debut album, blkswn, his recent project, Noir, and his older mixtape blkjuptr. He both sang and rapped with a smooth flow that captivated the audience and got the crowd to sway, jump and sing along. Between songs, he thanked the fans who have supported him through the years, and shouted out his hometown St. Louis (much to the excitement of a fan who was proudly repping fellow St. Louis native Jayson Tatum’s NBA jersey). 

After a brief intermission, Jepsen made her entrance. To some, she may have seemed a little outdated, with seven years having passed since the release of her massive breakout hit “Call Me Maybe.” However, she has gained a cult following in recent years for her 2015 album Emotion, which was acclaimed by both critics and fans. She performed material from this album, as well as her other work, for her headlining set.

Regardless of whether they hadn’t heard Jepsen’s name in years or they never stopped following her music, the crowd was electrified by her upbeat pop bangers. The energy started high as she walked on to “Run Away With Me,” and it didn’t die for a second until she finished her set with “Cut to the Feeling.”

Of course, “Call Me Maybe” drew a huge reaction from the audience, but the amount of dancing and cheering that every other song produced proves that Jepsen is more than a one-hit wonder.

After Jepsen left the stage, the audience was buzzing as they left the arena. Smino was highly praised by audience members, many focused on Jepsen’s high-energy set.

“I would say my favorite part had to be ‘Call Me Maybe,’ because that throws me back to my middle school days when all we sang was ‘Call Me Maybe,’” Weinberg freshman Christian Tam said.

Jepsen’s set was also the highlight for Weinberg junior Anisa Codamon. “My favorite part was seeing everyone’s enthusiasm and love for Carly Rae’s songs – it was so incredible,” she said.


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