March 3, 2016
My Lord, pop music has gotten exhausting. It seems every second song is “AN EVENT”; a carefully structured meme generator on the state of race, gender and sexuality in the world today. Either that or it’s a chance for the artist to lift their head off of a snot and tear-stained pillow and tell the world, through revenge porn lyrics, about the folk -often famous, who didn’t appreciate ‘little ole me’.
Some of the above should be admired, even if-like Beyonce’s Formation, it can be self-aggrandizing and self-serving. Pop has a duty to incite.
But, occasionally, one does wish that there was more bubblegum around, sweet, disposable, throwaway tunes where the singer isn’t proclaiming from the chart tops about how they have matured, how they have reformed or how they have conquered.
Carly Rae Jepsen released an album full of them last year, called Emotion. You may have missed it, as it wasn’t accompanied by a headline baiting parade of media stunts wrapped in faux feminism and artistic integrity.
But while Taylor Swift’s 1989 consolidated her position as one of the most powerful musicians on the planet. Emotion marked Jepsen out as one of the more interesting women working in pop, based on her sound, not self-projected soundness.
Thematically reminiscent of Britney and Christina on their debuts, there’s little attitude here, rather an emotional sugar rush that will transport you back to teenage longing and quaint crushes where your heart, and not your loins, were a flutter. Drawing on the 80s as an era, but no one particular artist, Emotion is like a collection of quality one hit wonders from that time- which is ironic given that most of us thought (hoped) Jepsen would, herself, be just that, following the ear worm smash that was Call Me Maybe.
But there isn’t a bum track on Emotion. From the wailing sax on opening track Run Away With Me to the closer When I Needed You (that sounds like the theme tune to an 80s rom-com, played over a freeze frame of the final scene) Jepsen hits you with an “I Love You, Please Love Me” sincerity that is irresistible.
“Gimmie Love” is like having your nose shoved repeatedly into a hipster flirtation, the kind of poppy electro you can totally see being used at the end of an episode of GIRLS. “LA Hallucinations” about love being torn apart by the corrosive forces of fame, trills “we said we’d be the same, but we lost each other in the game” against a back drop of bleeping electronica and a driving beat, while “Warm Blood” drowns Jepsen in interference and echoes.
But the lighter Jepsen is, the better she gets. “Lets Gets Lost” see’s her with her fingers crossed that her crush will take the long way home with her; “Your Type” sees her mourning over the loss of a love that never was cause; “I’m not going to pretend, that I’m the type of girl you call more than a friend”, while the Sia Fuller penned “Boy Problems”, about a mate sick of hearing your continuous love woes, is pop perfection. Bouncy, irreverent, yet pointed.
It’s just a pity she decided to lead with “I Really Like You”, which, though fun, gives the wrong impression about what type of album Emotion is. It sounds like an out take from 1989, where Emotion is so much less calculating and juvenile. Taylor and her production team (Max Martin and Shellback) want to put an 80s stamp on their sound, but end up just smudging it in, so it sounds like its aping the era, rather than actually from it. Emotion embraces its concept overwhelmingly and “Making The Most of the Night”, another Fuller cut- a hyper-produced, love buzz, that swirls around manically before bursting out in pure joy, would have perhaps had less people dismiss what Jensen has achieved.
And that’s one of the most enjoyable pop albums released in the last 20 years, up there with Brandy’s Never Say Never and the Scissor Sisters debut, albums that can still be played straight through with no need to skip.