Carly Rae Jepsen
E•MO•TION Album Review
Released August 24, 2015
Genre: Dance Pop, Pop, Synth Pop, A touch of ‘ol New Wave
“Call Me Maybe” is a polarizing topic when discussing pop music. While others found the smash hit annoying and uninspired, some found it catchy and enjoyable, which are merits of a successful pop tune. In my opinion, and in her defense, “Call Me Maybe” wasn’t a bad song. Well, it wasn’t as bad as most people say it was (Jason Derulo’s “Don’t Wanna Go Home” came out in the same year. So if you wanna talk bad pop songs, I think that one wins). However, the song has unfortunately attached itself to Jepsen’s name, as many people shrug her off as the “call me maybe girl” which is fine, but definitely not a good excuse when brushing off the news of her latest album E•MO•TION. When I was telling my friends about how good this album is, I was met with loads of apprehensiveness and questionable glares. Her latest single that she had released, “I Really Like You” (honestly one of my favorites of this year) was merely compared to the unabashed and shameless lyrical quips of “Call Me Maybe”. Moreover many overlooked her single ‘All That”, an incredible song that showed Jepsen maturing in just about every aspect of her music – songwriting, instrumentation, production, themes, etc. E•MO•TION is Jepsen’s most ambitious move yet, and the years of learning and maturing have paid off wonderfully.
The album opens with “Run Away With Me”, a track that showcases Jepsen’s sudden ambition and skills to make a finely tuned pop song. Propelled by a sumptuous sax riff and an uplifting chorus, the track pays off as a wonderful opener and no longer do her songs feel cheap or manufactured. The undeniable guilty pleasure “I Really Like You” has some questionable lyrical moments, but that doesn’t excuse the unapologetic catchiness or the solid and fine-tuned instrumentation. Like the lyrics or not, the track is a brilliant exercise in pop as it uses the traditional verse-chorus-verse structure to the best of its abilities with some of the finest instrumentation Jepsen has put out.
Jepsen goes back stylistically here with tracks like “Emotion” and “Boy Problems” which have a new wave and Bad-esque R&B feel, respectively. Producer Ariel Rechtshaid handles a lot of the synth and drum programming here, a sound he has been developing since his work on HAIM‘s Days Are Gone. The best production on this album is the album pinnacle and center piece “All That”, where we find Blood Orange and Rechtshaid lending their penchant for smooth R&B instrumentation fused with Jepsen’s sultry smooth vocals. The result is one of the best ballads of the year, and shows an undeniable maturation of Jepsen, both musically and as a whole.
The 80s synth-bits can easily be seen as Madonna hat tips (“LA Hallucinations”), which helps build up Jepsen’s character in this album. However, you can’t seem to pinpoint who Jepsen is. You have the strong-willed identity of other female singers like Taylor Swift and Beyonce, even the IDGAF persona of Rihanna is distinguishable amongst the other singers out there. Jepsen’s songs here are great; they’re enjoyable, fun, and maturity and improvement is exhibited with admirable skill and stylistic changes. One of the few gripes I have are with the hopelessly confused “Warm Blood” which, despite its best moments, can’t seem to find an identity for itself. Additionally, “Black Heart” overdoes the retro/modern paradoxical style by going heavy with the synths without letting anything enjoyable shine through.
It’s unfair to criticize a pop album for being shallow, since the point of pop music is to write catchy songs that can connect with the listener while reaching a broad audience. But a lot of these smart and well-arranged tracks fall victim to a lack of personality with the lyrics. Jepsen’s songs here still follow the same mistake that she made on her second debut: lack of personality. I’ll give this album credit for making some of the best pop songs I’ve heard this year, and proving that Jepsen can write smart and intellectual pop songs brimming with nostalgia and maturity. However, Jepsen doesn’t let herself bleed through these tracks; an unshakable vagueness runs underneath each song as you can tell she knows and understands the meaning behind each song, but can’t personally identify with it. Although Jepsen hasn’t fully realized her vision, the album isn’t a total wreck. There are strong pop dynamics, infectious hooks, and interesting production – enough to make this album incredibly enjoyable. It’s hard to see if Jepsen will have any staying power as a pop star, but this album proves that she’s one of the brightest stars out there, doing something useful with a genre so wrought with shitty flubs.
PRETTY NEAT MUSIC
FAV TRACKS: Run Away With Me, Emotion, I Really Like You, Gimmie Love, All That, Boy Problems, Your Type, When I Needed You, I Didn’t Just Come Here To Dance
LEAST FAV TRACK: Black Heart