Unless you were living under a rock in 2012, the name Carly Rae Jepsen should bring forth some semblance of memory. Listening, willingly or not, to “Call Me Maybe”, one of the most popular songs of all-time, Jepsen’s infectious, earworm qualities clicked with some, while others viewed her as charming yet immature. Whether she was responding to critics, the general populous of fans/detractors, or her own desire to advance as an artist, her newest effort, E•MO•TION, aims to fire at those looking for a cohesive, sophisticated pop record from the “Call Me Maybe” girl. Jepsen gives us a tightly packed, calculated effort, that is deeper than anything we may have seen from her in the past.
Looking to the 80s as a muse of inspiration, E•MO•TION doesn’t try too hard to force Jepsen’s evolution. She doesn’t drop her team of producers and co-writers to make something that may appear more genuine than “Good Time” or “Tonight I’m Getting Over You”. If a peak at the album credits is any indication, she actually gets even more producers and writers on board to help her out this time around, albeit from a great variety of sources. From hit factory producers Shellback and Jacob Kasher, to Sia and Vampire Weekend member Rostam Batmanglij, the team behind E•MO•TION is deep. However, rather than get spoon fed Kiss 2.0, Jepsen takes an active role in making a strong pop record from start-to-finish, and the results speak for themselves. This record isn’t too much of a departure from EDM and synth-inspired dance-pop, as much as it is a newer, fresher, take on the well-worn, single-based, formula that Jepsen thrived from three years ago.
It is clear from the start that this album is meant to make an impression. The opener, “Run Away With Me” spells future hit all over it. While the lead single, “I Really Like You” doesn’t do much to fight back against the typical pop detractor, this song possess an even mix of pop and electronic influences. It takes on tone darker than what we’ve seen from Jepsen. Her maturity is indicated a tad bit on “Gimme Love”, with her not-so-subtle sexual hints driving behind a track that carries without a massive hit, rather a continuous groove that doesn’t stretch beyond the “woah-oh’s” that lead it out.
Testing the waters with “Glory and Gore” rhythms on “LA Hallucinations”, classic 80s sensibilities on “All That” and a unique musical and melodic delivery on “Warm Blood” are a few examples of how Jepsen isn’t only doing what she’s familiar with, but doing what she wants us to become familiar with. She wants us to see the many sides of her musical ability. Not only can she deliver Forever 21 ready hits like the title track, but can tread on the experimental, nostalgic, even anthemic. It’s tough to find a dance-pop record worth talking about like E•MO•TION, but even with it’s generic tappings into love and “mature” love, the album is a glance at all the things the “Call Me Maybe” girl can do.
As an avid Taylor Swift fan, it appears as if Jepsen is molding herself in a similar manner to the superstar. While 1989 was seen by some as a cop-out in pursuit of greater pop stardom, Swift didn’t let the confines and conventions of pop music limit her creativity. If anything, she took them to her advantage. In tandem with her already-established songwriting abilities, Swift brought in producers, writers and collaborators from many walks of the musical world, to make a pop record that didn’t sacrifice integrity or popularity in the name of making pop music. E•MO•TION seems to follow in Swift’s footsteps, with a sense of awareness about what it means to make good pop music, and the shortcomings artists face when sacrificing good albums for hit singles.
While she may not be on the same footing as Swift, this album has enough zest to get the wheels turning on the Carly Rae Jepsen stardom train, with Jepsen’s songwriting ability shining through the abilities of her collaborators and power in making good pop music. Songs like “Making the Most of the Night” has an 80s romp to it that doesn’t have to be a single to captivate an entire arena or stadium. One of the greatest strengths of 1989 (you can read about the rest of them here) is the fact that the album came first. Jepsen didn’t make two or three songs for radio play and the rest for those listeners that might actually buy the record. This whole album can be given to someone and played through from start-to-finish, with Jepsen managing to reign in the variety of sounds and collaborators on the record to make something that works well throughout.
With the pop landscape diversifying year after year, one would be hard-pressed to find a traditional dance-pop record that can imprint itself in a world run by the minimalism of Lorde, superstardom of Beyoncé and Taylor Swift and general appreciation for stars that may have been off the pop radar five or ten years ago. What makes E•MO•TION strong is how Carly Rae Jepsen takes the tenants of the changing pop sphere and, rather than conform to them with a new style, she adapts her old style to suit these tenants. Her dynamic sound, taking from variety of musical perspectives and simply the fact that Jepsen has grown up, make this record a surprise to her passive fans and detractors alike. If things go well, this record may lead to bigger things in Carly Rae Jepsen’s future.