It’s hard to think of any pop artist who has had a career trajectory quite like Carly Rae Jepsen’s. A few years after bursting into the Billboard Charts with her hit Call Me Maybe, Carly Rae Jepsen somehow managed to move from the newest exponent of the mainstream to an indie pop icon and critical darling. Her music has gained a fervent cult following and, in a way, her 2015 album Emotion is largely responsible for this. While her previous album Kiss already gained her attention, Emotion was the one that displayed her talent at the fullest. This past Friday marked the five year anniversary of this album and revisiting it is a poignant reminder about why Carly Rae Jepsen is one of the most unique pop artists working today.
The most obvious factor behind Emotion’s success is that the songwriting and production are just filled with personality. From the opening saxophone melody of “Run Away With Me” (which has rightfully inspired a plethora of memes), there is a very clear sense of the album’s identity and style. While Jepsen and her producers openly borrow from different subgenres of 80s pop, the album never becomes pure pastiche. Carly’s performances are often just as dynamic and lively as her instrumentals: whether she is belting over a final chorus or singing a more subdued melody, her vocals are always engaging.
Something that adds to the personality of the album is that, just like any great pop album, it is packed with memorable moments that will instantly stand out to the listener. The rhythmic and infectious guitar line in the title track’s chorus, the bass line in “Boy Problems,” and Jepsen’s performance in the hook of “Let’s Get Lost,” are delivered with a great amount of charisma, and Jepsen’s obvious enthusiasm is extremely contagious. Emotion is also very consistent: none of its 12 tracks feel like filler or something that should’ve been cut. Even the “Deluxe Expanded” version of the album, which features five more songs, also holds up, as most of the bonus tracks live up to the album’s standards.
One of the most enduring aspects of this modern classic of pop music is one that has revealed itself with time. Most of the pop music that has risen in popularity in the last five years is often self-aware. As time moves on, pop singers seem every day less contempt to just write pop music and tend to deliver a slight wink to the audience while engaging in popular sounds. This is especially true in the more indie and experimental side of pop, as artists like Charli XCX and the PC Music label won’t shy away from taking pop music’s trends and turning them over their heads.
Carly Rae Jepsen, by contrast, is completely genuine. There is never the sense that she is using pop as a tool to develop her own style. Pop is her style; pop is the message. This is some of the least self-referential pop music that was released this past decade, and I believe that this is what has made Jepsen’s music so appealing for so many people. Her music might be cheesy or corny to some, maybe even Carly herself, but she delivers it without any indication of shame or restraint. Emotion is pop at its purest and, in the current musical landscape, that is becoming increasingly rarer.
After this album, Carly Rae Jepsen managed to maintain this creative momentum, as her follow-up album Dedicated was received with equal warmth and her records of B-sides, EMOTION SIDE B and Dedicated Side B, have become cherished by fans. And yet, it is easy to realize how Emotion was the beginning of her creative streak, and a record that will inform the rest of her career.
An article by Leonardo Lopez Carreno