Review Summary: Unabashedly sweet, but also savoury enough to be more than just a guilty pleasure.
To say that my expectations were low heading into Carly Rae Jepsen’s newest album is an immense understatement, just as it is to say that it blew away a good portion of the preconceptions I had about her. Remember, this is the girl that utterly dominated the airwaves in 2012 with “Call Me Maybe” – a sugary, if rather insubstantial piece of teen-pop that still managed to wriggle its way into my mind and have me unwittingly miming the chorus in my day-to-day activities. However, if most people who claimed to love that song – and, by extension, Jepsen herself – were pressed to name just one other track from her, they were quite likely going to say they had just received a text message and quickly dart to the Kiss
tracklist on Wikipedia. This near-universal perception as a one-hit wonder was also responsible for my own ignorance, and so it’s safe to say I was a little dumbfounded when I found myself routinely coming back to E MO TION
thinking “how the hell could I have been so wrong?”
E MO TION
isn’t a stablemate of innovation, nor does it have an elaborate, all-encompassing concept; its allure stems from its consistency, with each and every track seamlessly passing the baton to the next without any significant dip in momentum. Yes, “I Really Like You” boasts an unusually juvenile vocal hook, as Jepsen simply belts out the song’s title with a particular emphasis on the word “really”, but the loveliness of the content that surrounds this little grievance is more than enough to compensate. If anything, the frivolous nature of that song’s chorus may be, in turn, more of a benefit to the album than a detriment. E MO TION
doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not, it’s still a mainstream pop album, and this is still Carly Rae Jepsen – are you honestly going into this expecting Joanna Newsom? I hope not, for your sake. With that said, there are still moments where Jepsen does away with her infatuations, most notably on “LA Hallucinations”, in which she cheekily slates both TMZ and BuzzFeed for their invasive and shallow approach to pop culture “journalism”. For the most part however, E MO TION
falls back on the strength of its bangers, and is it ever chock full of them.
“Run Away With Me” opens the album in as grand a fashion as dance-pop limitations will allow, and is one of the most infectious, happy-go-lucky songs you’re likely to hear this year. Stadium-reverbed synth lines and Jepsen’s soaring vocal melodies laced with the odd, percussive “hey!” possess the listener to dance and sing with all the giddiness of an inebriated high-school junior. Throughout the rest of the album, the listener is rendered powerless in their aversion to Jepsen’s charm, which will probably result in more than one embarrassingly enthusiastic performance while stuck at a set of traffic lights. Rest assured though, you’ll be having far too much fun to care. “Boy Problems” is one of many highlights, showcasing Jepsen’s syrupy voice in tandem with some deceptively elaborate instrumentation, reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’”, albeit filtered through a 21st century lens. But the ‘80s panache really
comes to the fore during the slower, more contemplative tracks like “Gimme Love”, “All That” and “Let’s Get Lost”, with breezy synthesisers, chimes and remarkably organic beats underpinning the arrangements. The inclusion of these little numbers adds a crucial element of stylistic diversity, and their upstanding quality ensures that E MO TION
continues like a freight train until it reaches its intended destination.
I can’t speak for Carly Rae Jepsen’s “evolution” as an artist, given my near complete unfamiliarity with her work prior to this, but the resolute sublimeness of these dozen songs indicates to me that this is something she was always capable of. In short, E MO TION
is no fluke. It doesn’t grip you by the heels but instead lures you into a full-bodied embrace that is iron-clad, it’s simply up to you to give it the chance to do so.