Up until one of Carly Rae Jepsen‘s songs went viral on TikTok earlier this year, she wasn’t quite sure how to use the video sharing platform.
Around the release of the Canadian pop singer-songwriter’s latest album The Loneliest Time in October, the bridge of its title track — a duet with Rufus Wainwright — became inescapable on TikTok, where almost 200,000 videos have since been made to the lyrics, “But you know what? / I’m coming back for you, baby / I’m coming back for you!”
“It would be hard to find a person who was less aware of how TikTok works. Me and Rufus, we’re the winners. He joked, ‘We’re two grandmas, and we both don’t know what we’re doing, but I think we’re taking off on TikTok,'” Jepsen, 37, tells PEOPLE. “We were both just dying at how little we both understood about the platform. But I am honestly starting to have way more fun with it — and I can see why people get addicted, because it’s kind of like catnip for people.”
Since topping charts around the world with her debut single “Call Me Maybe,” Jepsen’s seen several singles including “Run Away with Me” and “Cut to the Feeling” reach viral status on social media. Having celebrated the 10-year anniversary of her inaugural, Diamond-certified hit song earlier this year, however, the unexpected success of “The Loneliest Time” brings her back to the first time her music became the talk of the internet.
“That happened for me on Twitter with ‘Call Me Maybe’ when that was the most current [social media platform], and it was just fun to see the wildfire that can take to a song and give it traction,” she says. “So, it was equally cool to see a new platform help push the music along and get it to connect with people.”
Jepsen has many reasons to celebrate lately. On top of the album release and viral smash, she marked her 37th birthday on Nov. 21 in Los Angeles alongside her sister Katie, 5-month old niece Ivy and boyfriend Cole Marsden Greif-Neill — better known as Cole M.G.N., a music producer who’s won several Grammy Awards for his work with Beck.
“He was there to help with setting up the barbecue, making dinner and all the things for us,” she recalls. “It was really lovely.”
After months of keeping their romance under wraps, Jepsen decided the occasion was the right time to go Instagram official and shared a video of M.G.N. presenting her with a birthday cake and a kiss.
“I’m careful about [posting about the relationship] because it is something that I want to protect and keep for myself. But at the same time, it’s fun to show the development of something when you’re really excited about it, and I’m definitely very excited about him,” says the musician, who’s already crafted some songs with M.G.N. “We’ve done lots of things, but nothing for release — just for the joy of making.”
Perhaps the couple will share their creations with listeners in the future, but in the meantime, Jepsen’s still in the midst of a busy promotional cycle for “The Loneliest Time.” This week, she released the Broadway-inspired music video for the album’s opening track, “Surrender My Heart,” filmed at New York City’s United Palace Theatre and directed by Brantley Gutierrez, the same cinematographer who helmed the colorful, otherworldly clip for “The Loneliest Time.”
Created in partnership with Lenovo and Intel, the new, heavily-choreographed video features several high-profile performers — including the American Ballet Company’s principal dancer, Isabella Boylston, with whom Jepsen first teamed up for a last-minute performance of “Cut to the Feeling” during her So Nice Tour stop at Radio City Music Hall in September.
“It was enough of a magical moment that I was like, ‘God, it would be so great if we could get her to come down and be a part of this ,’ and she said, ‘Yes,'” details Jepsen. “She actually had to fly from a ballet that she was doing in Russia last minute to pull this off for us.”
The theatrical “Surrender My Heart” video concept, developed by Lenovo, was a perfect fit for Jepsen, who grew up performing in student productions of shows like Grease, The Wiz and Annie and starred as the titular role in Cinderella on Broadway in 2014.
“Since I was a baby and in the business of small-town theater productions, I knew that there was a spark there for me and a real excitement around looking at a musical as a way to emote and be creative,” says Jepsen, who’s interested in possibly pursuing theater again in the future.
“If I was going to venture back into the world of Broadway, it would probably be less for the performing side and more from the writing side, if I’m honest,” she says. “I’m in the brainstorming phase for sure — but I’ve been in the brainstorming phase for a few years, so we’ll see what happens.”