Carly Rae Jepsen just delivered the most polished pop album of the entire year and, unless you follow me on Twitter, you probably didn’t even realize it.
“Emotion” is Jepsen’s follow-up album to her 2012 debut “Kiss,” which featured the infectious mega-hit “Call Me Maybe.” While “Kiss” featured the biggest song of the summer, the remainder of the album lacked the luster of “Call Me Maybe” and the album received mixed reviews. It looks like Carly Rae may have flipped the script on that story with “Emotion.”
The big single from her new album is I Really Like You,” which is infectious and repetitive and seems to be a tailor-made hit, but fell short of those expectations. It peaked at 39 on the Us Billboard Hot 100 and never gained anywhere near the popularity that “Call Me Maybe” did. That’s a shame, because Jepsen and her team were unable to really create any buzz for her sophomore album and it is far superior to the first.
“Emotion begins with a droned out saxophone riff more reminiscent of an M83 record than that of an aspiring pop star. It then repeats throughout the chorus of the opening song, “Run Away With Me,” which is a superior song, both in pop hit potential and craftsmanship, than “I Really Like You” and probably should have been the leading single for the album. The saxophone creates a really interesting dynamic when mixed with the song’s up-tempo backing track and soaring vocals and is our first taste of a sort of retro 80’s feel that is prevalent throughout.
That transitions into my personal favorite song from the album, “Emotion.” It features spotless production, is glitzy without being annoying and has a classic hook that Jepsen has become known for. It’s far more developed and mature than anything on her debut album and marks a huge high point.
The majority of the album features more up-tempo pop tracks, but “All That” sticks out like a sore thumb in the best way possible. True to its ‘80’s style, this is a ballad in and out. Where Jepsen’s hits typically take a superficial, lighthearted look at the origins of a relationship, “All That” shows her yearning for a more meaningful relationship, acknowledging the simplicity of friendship as the beginning of something more powerful. It’s an amazing accomplishment of a record, and it’s more than I ever expected the “Call Me Maybe” singer to be able to create.
While the style of “All That” stand alone, the remainder of the album is filled with infectious, beautiful pop music. “Boy Problems,” a song I can relate to very well (boy problems, who’s got ‘em? Not me, that’s for sure!), is in the vein of “Call Me Maybe” and is successful in many of the same ways, though to a lesser degree.
“LA Hallucinations” is one of the first times we’ve gotten a glimpse into Jepsen’s views on fame and her abilities to cope with it, as she contrasts arriving in Los Angeles (“We were young freaks just fresh to LA/Never cared about the fake kids/We would write and sing and wear whatever”) with the realities of young wealth and fame (“No shop can fill me up/There’s a little black hole in my golden cup, so/You pour and I’ll say stop”). It strikes as particularly personal coming from a pop star more accustomed to lighter love songs than introspective ones. It also features of one my favorite bridges on the entire album, where she questions, “Buzzfeed buzzards and TMZ cros/What can I say that you don’t already know?”
Though very strong overall, the end of the album does lag a little bit. There are three or four songs that fall flat and don’t really do much either way for the listener. While most of the end of the album is a little bit weak content-wise, the penultimate song “I Didn’t Just Come Here To Dance” is a stand-out hit. It plays out as a fairly standard dance track, but it’s elevated by the attention to detail on the production by Jepsen and ther team and a testament to all of the hard work put in by the star over the years. It’s infectious and a joy to listen to, and I wish it had been the final song on the album, as it would have ended the record with a bang.
Jepsen is successful in making her own way in the somewhat crowded pop atmosphere, mixing retro ‘80’s vibes with a polished and glamourous pop sound in her sophomore effort. It actually reminded me of Taylor Swift’s “1989,” another immaculately produced pop record that I loved in recent years. I didn’t really love “Call Me Maybe,” but this album really impressed me. IT isn’t perfect, but it’s a huge step in a unique direction for Jepsen, and her next release is going to be a must-listen.