Carly Rae Jepsen faces an unusual problem with her third studio album. There’s no pressure on her to follow-up her last album Kiss because – for all the million or so copies it sold – frankly, no one remembers it. The praise and acclaim that surrounds her name is all to do with ‘Call Me Maybe’; that glorious 2012 track that seemed to become universally acclaimed with its sugary innocence, its abundance of hooks and those delightful strings.
So to whom does the ostensible one-hit wonder turn? The answer is to the coolest producers that pop has to offer. Emotion sees credits go to the likes of Dev Hynes, Sia, Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij and Ariel Rechtshaid (the producer who has worked with Beyoncé, Usher and HAIM, to name a few).
It opens with the oddly captivating siren-call of ‘Run Away With Me’. The track packs a punch with its whirring strut of a chorus and its full, glossy production; it’s a banger, and the album is quite literally full of them. This perhaps shouldn’t be surprising, given that Jepsen reportedly amassed 200 songs ahead of the album, before whittling them down to just the 12 on Emotion. Famously, groups like The Beatles and ABBA used to treat every song like it might be a single, and their LPs would consist entirely of songs that had the potential to be a hit – it feels like the thought-process behind this album was very much the same.
The title track is a propulsive ’80s-style number – all airy, candyfloss choruses, twinkling melodies and wispy, saccharine vocals that occasionally bring to mind Janet Jackson. But that is only an occasional sentiment throughout the album – if we are being nit-picky then, while Jepsen’s voice is sweet for sure, it is never breathtaking or hugely distinct or interesting. You come away from the record elated, yes, but arguably with no real sense of who Carly Rae Jepsen is – as though Emotion, while extremely well crafted, is ultimately perhaps a bit soulless. But, then again, this is pop, and songs like ‘I Really Like You’ hardly need an Etta James-type to validate their place as stupidly catchy, uninhibited gems of the genre. All the same, the record overall lacks a personality – the lyrics at times have that Taylor Swift-esque overbearing sincerity, yet Jepsen overall lacks the personal appeal that Swift has amassed.
‘Gimmie Love’ is all warm waves of euphoria while Hynes-produced ‘All That‘ is a gorgeously romantic number with immersive, ornate instrumentation. ‘Boy Problems’ has a deliciously Daft Punk-feel to its musicality, with a gloriously fluid bass-line and a chorus so simple it could be a nursery rhyme.
There’s not really a weak track – the meticulously crafted ’80s vibe pervades the record, and each song grabs you for the time that it’s playing. ‘LA Hallucinations’ perhaps loses some points for the lyrics referencing Buzzfeed and TMZ, but then all is immediately forgiven when the weirdly juddering ‘Warm Blood‘ begins. It’s Batmanglij’s track and is up there with the better dance-pop tracks of the year – it glides and glitches with a supreme confidence, while Jepsen almost whispers: “Warm blood, underneath my skin / Warm blood, my heart is pumping”.
Then the album closes with ‘When I Needed You’, and it’s just as superbly put together as the rest. It’s a standout in fact – it glimmers with an almost tropical warmth, with a humid bass undercurrent and its wonderfully cheesy chorus. The synths sparkle, the repetitions of “hey!” aren’t annoying and the melismatic harmonies on the word “you” are all kinds of fantastic.
Emotion is probably one of the best pop albums you’ll hear this year. It’s just too bad that Carly Rae Jepsen probably isn’t one of the best pop stars.