“Carly Rae Jepsen’s new album is amazing!”
Someone said this within the first few days I arrived on campus this semester, and at the time I believed it to be quite the scandal. Sure, you hear a lot of shocking things at Wesleyan, but in my four years on campus, I never thought I would experience the name Carly Rae Jepsen used in the context of such a praiseworthy sentence.
Of course, there is always a time and a place for Carly Rae Jepsen (CRJ). With singles such as “This Kiss” and, more prominently, “Call Me Maybe” that just ooze with simplistic pep and purity, she holds her own as a prime “bubblegum” pop star. However, beyond being fun and cute in the way bubbly bubblegum music is, CRJ’s work normally does not achieve much else, let alone reach the status of “amazing.”
But surely enough, as my initial days at Wesleyan passed by, the CRJ hype continued. It seemed that devoted CRJheads were emerging from every nook and cranny of campus, claiming that they love CRJ, adore her new album, and (here’s the kicker) think that said album might even be better than Taylor Swift’s 1989. So, as I like to be in touch with what the kids are talking about these days, I decided to give the latest CRJ creation, Emotion, a go.
While listening to Emotion, I experienced a sense of simultaneous recognition and disbelief. I would liken the feelings that came over me upon first hearing album to those felt by an adult who, while at a high school reunion, finds that the bookworm who sat quietly and undetected in the corner of hir classes has somehow become an ambassador, or a model, or something of that caliber and the most outgoing, successful alum of the bunch.
Of course, in many aspects, Emotion is close kin to CRJ’s previous singles, hence the aforementioned sense of recognition. As in “This Kiss” and “Call Me Maybe,” the subject matter presented in each track is simplistic and pleasurable like a good rom-com, telling of young love and its basic array of ups and downs. The succinct titles featured on the album, such as “I Really Like You” and “Boy Problems,” work to enhance the simplicity of the songs, as they are straightforward and (with the exception of more ambiguous titles like “LA Hallucinations” and “Warm Blood) pretty much tell you exactly what the song is about before you even listen.
However, what sets Emotion apart from previous CRJ works and, by extension, caused me to feel that high school reunion-like disbelief during my first listen, is the album’s sound. Classified in the genre of dance-pop and, of course, featuring CRJ’s sweet-like-candy vocals, the new tracks boast the typically upbeat infectiousness of her hits on Kiss, but, even with this familiar style, they also possess a blatantly evolved quality that elevates them, ever so covertly, to a place that is just that much more superior to the old stuff.
Exuding all the giddy, wide-eyed excitability of an infatuated schoolgirl (or, if the accompanying music video is any indication, a lip syncing Tom Hanks), “I Really Like You” is the Emotion track that is most well known among audiences. However, as it is very much cut from the same cloth as the pop star’s initial hits, it does not truly exemplify the evolution of the CRJ’s work.
It is instead tracks like “Run Away With Me,” the album’s opener, that are more indicative of CRJ’s growth as a musician. With a sound that is both ethereal and epic, it acts as a suave and modern pop anthem with an infectiously perky 80’s twist. As its rather trance-like quality is mirrored in the majority of the subsequent tracks, this song serves as a bold (and appropriately titled) invitation to run away with CRJ into the world that is Emotion.
In its entirety, CRJ’s album possesses the kind of hypnotic power that is essential to constructing quality pop music, and this is a result of the fact that it was created with genius cohesion. As previously mentioned, the sublime sensibilities presented in “Run Away With Me” are echoed throughout each one of the following tracks. This parallelism of sound, however, acts as well-crafted, nuanced theme rather an overly repetitive, hit-you-over-the-head motif. Therefore, despite the obvious stylistic parallels of each song, the album still manages to maintain a satisfying variety.
In addition to the two tracks previously mentioned, highlights of the album range from tunes, like “Emotion,” “Boy Problems,” and “Making The Most Of the Night,” which possess the highly charged energy that has become so hallmark of the CRJ sound, to others, like “Gimmie Love,” “All That,” and “Warm Blood,” which give off a steamier, more suggestive vibe. All, once again, possessing that dreamlike 80’s-esque effervescence, these tracks are arranged in such a way that the listener is able to appreciate their individuality while also subconsciously recognizing their inherent relatedness.
The result of this composition is one of transporting proportions, for, after a few short minutes of experiencing the simultaneously similar and dissimilar tracks of Emotion, one cannot help but enter a youthful, romantic, bubblegum-filled trance and, in the end, really (really, really, really, really, really) like it.