Release Date: Aug 21, 2015
Record label: Interscope
Genre(s): Pop, Vocal, Pop/Rock, Dance-Pop, Pop Idol, Teen Pop
Even if you don’t know who Carly Rae Jepsen is, you probably remember her asking you to call her, maybe, or that she really really really really really likes you. But can her ability to write a hook and get you in the heartstrings extend beyond a catchy radio hit in the crowded pop marketplace in 2015? We had a long Gchat about her new album Emotion to find out. Sammy Maine: I feel like this should've been the first single because every first single needs a saxophone intro.
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.
Something happened in July: a seismic shaking-up of the natural order of things. While the tremors may not have troubled the streamer or supermarket shopper, it was an event horizon for anyone who ever wished away significant portions of their life by knowing on which particular Mondays new albums were scheduled to be released. That thing was “New Music Fridays”, a global accord struck by the recording industry to release music on a Friday, to combat the supposed scenario where listener A buys and uploads album B for impatient listener C, unwilling to wait a few days more.
Carly Rae Jepsen was nearly a victim of her own success. Her breakthrough single "Call Me Maybe" wasn't just big -- it was one of 2012's definitive songs, with a presence so massive that it overshadowed just how good Kiss, the album that housed it, was. After taking time to regroup, Jepsen returns with E-MO-TION, another set of songs that are better than the average Top 40 hit.
Unanimously adored by critics and consumers alike, Carly Rae Jepsen's “Call Me Maybe” was a come-on song for the ages, done up in ebullient strings and deft guitar figures that capture the bottled-up optimism and anxious anticipation of a youthful crush. In fact, perhaps the crush seemed too youthful, as many felt that Jepsen was pandering to the Disney Channel crowd with calculated bubblegum pop. Sharing an agent with Justin Bieber didn't help her cause.
To the ignorant, Carly Rae Jepsen might have seemed easy to write off; her meteoric rise following the success of "Call Me Maybe" made her seem an obvious one-hit wonder candidate, the song a lucky break for a middling talent from the pop music industry machine. They'd have been wrong.Jepsen's been writing songs for over a decade, a fact that's immediately evident on E·MO·TION. The new LP is a showcase for a songwriter to whom hooks and pop universalism come easily, produced by Ariel Rechtshaid, who brings the same verging-on-darkness, R&B-informed, '80s-style production here that made his records with HAIM and Sky Ferreira sound so timeless.
Pop music is all about desire, but nobody wants like Carly Rae wants. The Canadian singer’s breakaway single, “Call Me Maybe”, scored countless lip-sync videos and ironic-but-not-ironic remixes with its fake strings, sing-along melody, and breathless, gushing vocals. It also articulated a thorn in the side of every lovestruck teenager who’s ever tried to play it cool during that first brush with an all-consuming insta-crush.
No music critic has failed to realise, let alone mention, the fact that Carly Rae Jepsen’s mega-hit “Call Me Maybe” put a worryingly-sized shadow over the rest of the Canadian Idol finalist’s material that also featured on the much anticipated second LP Kiss since its release back in 2012. But let’s be honest, it’s a good thing it did. Kiss, forgetting momentarily its revered one-hit-wonder, was a paean to the middle-of-the-road electro-house, with its sickly synths and its tireless four-on-the-floor rhythm that has come to characterise youth-orientated pop music in the last decade.
Carly Rae Jepsen's ambition for her new album E•MO•TION could not be clearer. "We had the biggest single in the world last time and didn't have the biggest album," her manager Scooter Braun told the New York Times in July, referring to her 2011 breakout hit, "Call Me Maybe". "This time we wanted to stop worrying about singles and focus on having a critically acclaimed album." It's an ambitious campaign, but the Shellback-produced opener "Run Away With Me" announces it with clarion synths that sound like battle-call horns: Carly Rae is at the gates with an army, hellbent on returning home with your love.
What the f—k does Justin Bieber’s manager know about critical acclaim? “This time we wanted to stop worrying about singles and focus on having a critically acclaimed album,” quoth Scooter Braun to the New York Times on making (well, packaging) Carly Rae Jepsen’s third effort (don’t forget 2008’s Tug of War). Can’t wait for Psy, another Braun client, to release his difficult arthouse record. Thing is, critics do like singles.
After her bubblegum pop banger ‘Call Me Maybe’ became inescapable in 2012, Carly Rae Jepsen seemed destined to become a classic one-hit wonder: Toni Basil for the Twitter era, if you will. Instead, the 29-year-old Canadian has regrouped and made a surprisingly sophisticated ’80s-influenced pop album. ‘Emotion’ is packed with frighteningly relatable songs about love, longing and heartbreak co-written by Jepsen with trendy collaborators including Dev Hynes, Haim producer Ariel Rechtshaid and Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij.
Carly Rae Jepsen is looking for more than a one-song stand. A barrage of tracks has preceded the release of her second U.S. album, suggesting she's desperate to prove that 2012's smash "Call Me Maybe" was no accident. That song was the sort of pop virus that can't be lab-engineered — but the album that followed, Kiss, drowned its tracks in lackluster beats like half-cooked hamburgers smothered in ketchup.
“Call Me Maybe” wasn’t just a “Song of the Summer”: it was a goddamn phenomenon. It reached a cultural plane that is shared only with rare gems like Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” or Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone”, songs that were so utterly ubiquitous and so unanimously loved that they generated thousands of original covers, hundreds of parodies, and ruled the charts for a good long while until we as a species got sick of it’s incessant overplay and were determined to never hear it again. For the wispy-voiced Carly Rae Jepsen, her success cut both ways, as she ended up selling a staggering 7.
Innocence isn’t easy to come by, especially in a realm that purports to epitomize it — teen pop.Much of the stuff labeled as such features production and writing by middle-aged men, cynically simulating the genuine yearnings of young girls.All of this gives Carly Rae Jepsen a leg up. Though she’s pushing 30, she sounds like 16 at most. At times, her voice could pass for that of a 6-year-old.
During "LA Threshold," the opening track to Los Angeles indie ensemble De Lux's recent sophomore record Generation, vocalist Sean Guerin ponders the fluid predilections of modern tastemakers: "All these people, they hate pop...all these people, they seem to love it now." While hardly earth shattering lyrics, it's an on the nail reflection of the fickle pretentiousness that surrounds pop music. What presumably started out as irony, has today evolved as scores of bespectacled, beard adorning indie kids mull over the production value and artistic merit of throwaway pop jaunts. .
We talk a lot about surprise nowadays, but experience it too rarely. Beyoncé dropped her self-titled masterwork from pop valhalla at the end of 2013. Ever since, our idea of surprise equates to the suddenness of an album’s release. Alas, the rose has lost its bloom. The practice has reached the ….
Despite ruling the summer of 2012 with the inescapable “Call Me Maybe,” Carly Rae Jepsen still feels like an underdog. Perhaps it’s because the Canadian Idol veteran’s music lands squarely on pop’s outskirts, never quite fitting in anywhere. The chart success of both “Call Me Maybe” and her squeaky-clean Owl City collaboration “Good Time” were anomalies: Despite being critically adored, her second studio album, 2012’s Kiss, barely made a cultural dent.
Deep-seated longing defines some of pop’s most indelible efforts, from The Ronettes’ thundering “Be My Baby” to Lady Antebellum’s late-night missive “Need You Now. ” Carly Rae Jepsen knows this all too well. The Canadian singer’s 2012 sensation “Call Me Maybe” balanced its effervescent flirtations with the line “before you came into my life/I missed you so bad,” which would have revealed Jepsen’s hand too clearly had it not been surrounded by the disco-stringed delirium that helped send it to the top of the charts.
There are myriad downsides to culture basically deciding that music is free—or at least that access to all music everywhere is worth ten dollars a month—but the fact that pop stars don’t need their albums to actually have great songs has to be one of the worst. In an era when album sales are a negligible sliver of an artist’s revenue, pop music has been relegated to brand-enhancement duty, and need not be noteworthy so long as the person singing it is getting attention. I’ve lost count of how many impotent Katy Perry choruses have been rehashed by her sound-alike du jour (“Black Widow,” “Domino”) or how many pop artists have utilized the easily-reproduced EDM “bap—bap—bap-bap—bap—bap” rhythm for easy airplay (Coldplay, Maroon Five, Rihanna).
It feels weird to write the words “Carly Rae Jepsen’s transitional album” but that’s what Emotion sounds like in a nutshell. Of course, her third album comes after mega-selling pop hit Call Me Maybe branded her a one-hit wonder, so it’s more concerned with solidifying the Canadian pop singer/songwriter’s standing as a talent with longevity than it is with replicating that surprise success. Overall, the sound is as direct, pristine and cheerful as you’d expect, but there’s greater emphasis on mood thanks to contributions from Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes, whose signature slap bass gets the Carly Rae sparkle on R&B ballad All That, and Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij on left-field gem Warm Blood.
The year is 2015, yet surly clouds of shame still hover over those fortunate enough to have had one spectacular pop hit. How many streaming services must die before these blessed artists understand that their one calling-card hit is a wonder not to escape, but to embrace? Carly Rae Jepsen, of “Call Me Maybe” mania — a fever that gripped the nation in 2012 — spends much of her ecstatic, slightly frizzy second major-label album, “Emotion” (Schoolboy/Interscope), trying to establish her bona fides in thinking-person’s pop, a fool’s task. “Emotion” is full of pure cotton candy — delicious, distractingly sweet and filling, with a mildly suspicious aftertaste.