Carly Rae Jepsen is making some of the best pop music in the world right now, but when will she get the praise she deserves? The 29-year-old singer has been saddled by the heights of her 2011 hit “Call Me Maybe” (made popular by little-known Canadian Justin Bieber). Maybe it’s time that we — to borrow the phrase of another pop luminary — shake it off. Those who call Jepsen a one-hit wonder display the same sort of rockist ignorance as those who protest Kanye West concerts. They aren't even paying attention.
Sure, her debut album, Kiss, was the product of a label wanting to ride the waves of a #1 single. She had two months to write and record an album that went largely unnoticed, overshadowed by the success of “Call Me Maybe.” A blessing? A curse? Whatever it was, she took 3 years off to buckle down, and emerged with upwards of 200 songs. Last week, she returned with 12 brand new lip-biting, '80s-indebted, anthemic pop tracks about yearning and heartbreak.
"Run Away With Me" is a smash. "I Really Like You" is a smash. "Boy Problems" is a smash. The best song on the album, "I Didn’t Just Come Here To Dance,” is a bubbly, tropical hallucination that’s tucked away on the Deluxe Edition. E•MO•TION as a whole is a neon-signed, hyper-speed night drive through Tokyo with all your best friends — hood down, hair blowing in the wind, shooting toward sunrise where a brighter day begins. It perks you up, straightens your spine, and gives you the electricity to be a better person.
The album’s lyrical content doesn’t rise far above 'girl likes boy,' but that’s okay. She’s fully aware of what she’s creating. She’s found her own lane, gotten comfortable, and is blasting down it at a speed no one can catch her at. She’s the best pop musician in Canada, and E•MO•TION should boost her into the realm of fame befitting a hitmaker backed by a deep catalogue (that’s you, Taylor Swift and Katy Perry).
It’s a mystery how Carly Rae’s ebullient pop music hasn’t been as universally regarded as that of her contemporaries. How does she get past the stigma of the one-hit wonder? She responds with an album brimming with hits — that's certainly a start. She fell into this position when “Call Me Maybe” became so popular so quickly. The song was overplayed and people found it easy to hate on. In turn, the rest of her work was dismissed simply by association. But, to this day, anyone on command can recite those lines, “Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy/but here’s my number, so call me maybe.” If that's not the sign of an expertly crafted pop song, I'm not sure what is.
When a single blows up too fast, it can follow the artist around for their entire career; anything released that doesn’t follow the same pattern or doesn't surpass that high bar tends to get rejected. That’s the case with Kiss. The songs were catchy, but they could’ve been so much more. She didn’t have time to hone in on her sound and tell us who she really is — when E•MO•TION does just that.
Carly’s most powerful weapons are sitting right on the surface. Fun, relatable, and most importantly, catchy — it’s the first three ingredients in every song on the album. Beyond that, it's easy to digest and so self-aware that you don’t feel guilty listening to it. Eschewing the EDM-pop hybrid move, E•MO•TION doesn’t sound like any other pop album in 2015. What’s not to love? There’s the glossy polish of a mainstream pop act, kept fresh by more experimental, indie pop touches (thanks to collaboration with Devonté Hynes, Ariel Rechtshaid, and Rostam Batmanglij). Warm glowing synths, chewy bass lines, and space-like atmospherics that reach for the top and grab your hand to bring you along. Like eating Starburst, you’re not going to have just one. You don’t have to try too hard to like it — it’s going to happen whether you want it to or not.