Carly Rae Jepsen

Interscope/School Boy, 2015


REVIEW BY: Melanie Love


Way back when in the summer of 2012, there was a little song called “Call Me Maybe” from Canadian singer-songwriter Carly Rae Jepsen. There was no escaping this charming, frothy ode to infatuation at first sight as it rocketed up the charts and spun endlessly on radio, ultimately becoming the best-selling single of the year worldwide. The only problem? Kiss, the album supporting the pop smash hit, went largely unnoticed, potentially dooming Jepsen to one hit wonderland. So on her latest outing (and her third full length), Jepsen took her time, painstakingly recording over 200 songs in order to cull the fifteen tracks that make up E*MO*TION. The goal was to create a cohesive album experience that wouldn’t collapse under the weight of expectations for another lightning strike of a single.

For the most part, Jepsen succeeds. The songs here are pure, ineffable pop, shimmering with a palette of ‘80s synths and the clarity of Jepsen’s lyrics, not to mention the flirtatious yet totally commanding tone of her vocals. Sonically, E*MO*TION reminds me a bit of that other pop behemoth record of the year: Taylor Swift’s my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 1989. From the warbling horns that open up first cut “Run Away With Me” to the towering choruses on “Making The Most Of The Night” and “I Really Like You,” there’s a similar sense of ‘80s soundscapes being thrust into the present and refashioned into modern pop greatness.

“Call Me Maybe” showed Jepsen’s skill at capturing the tenderness of love at its beginning, and here, that mantle is upheld by moments like the utterly adorable “I Really Like You” (whose video, featuring Tom Hanks, is a must-see) and the longing “Gimmie Love.” Still, she’s even more interesting when she deviates from this sweet spot. For instance, “Boy Problems” pairs a deceptively bubblegum-sounding vocal with lines like “If you’re gonna stay, then stay / He’s not gonna change anyway / So tired of hearin’ all your boy problems,” teasing at the lovelorn obsessiveness that’s a mainstay of pop music. Meanwhile, “All That” is a swooning, slow-burning torch song, twinkling with cascades of synths and “LA Hallucinations” explores media expectations with a burbling synth backbeat and the standout line “There’s a little black hole in my golden cup / So you pour and I’ll stay stop.”

Overall, E*MO*TION is as solid a pop album as you’ll find. Nevertheless, I come away from this record with the sense that I could just as easily put these tracks on shuffle or cherry-pick my own playlist of the best songs here and enjoy it just as much. Sometimes, Jepsen can skew too lyrically vague for her own good, like on “Emotion” or “Favorite Colour,” and some specificity of experience is what takes pop over the top for me, making it more than a catchy yet ultimately forgettable consumption. None of these songs necessarily need to be listened to in order, which takes away from the power that an album can have to shepherd you through a feeling and leave you in a different place at its conclusion than where you began. Still, E*MO*TION probably has no less than five hit singles, which means that Jepsen has more than succeeded in proving her endurance beyond “Call Me Maybe.”

Rating: B-

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© 2015 Melanie Love and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Interscope/School Boy, and is used for informational purposes only.