I’m not going to be that guy who pretends to not love “Call Me Maybe.” Sure, I can say that pop music is a marketing-driven industry that aims to crank out uninspired and derivative singles to exploit impressionable teenagers, but at the end of the day I’ll still be singing Carly Rae Jepsen’s smash hit song in my car. With its catchy lyrics, stellar production, and youthful charm, “Call Me Maybe” is a near-perfect pop song. Anytime those violins in the song’s intro start plucking, I can’t help but sing along (with my volume determined by who I happen to be around).
The only problem with Jepsen’s hit single is just that-it’s only a single. The rest of the singer’s second album, Kiss, didn’t shine nearly as brightly. It was almost as if the success of “Call Me Maybe” was used as a template to create eleven more unimaginative clones. Listening through the album, I couldn’t help but feel that Jepsen’s creativity was being stifled by a marketing team who were only looking for that next big hit. Eventually, the “Call Me Maybe” craze died down, and Jepsen fell back from pop music consciousness.
Listening to Emotion, I can happily report that the Canadian singer’s third album is her best yet, and maybe one of the best pop albums of the year. More than anything, I am stunned at how ambitious the album is. Jepsen and her songwriting team perfectly balance, creating a diverse soundscape that doesn’t sound like a convoluted mess. Unlike many pop albums, which are often created with the focus on the “single”, Emotion is best experienced as a whole. Right when one song ends, another is right there to suck you in again.
One reason why these songs are so effective is because they don’t carry the same narrative baggage that many other pop artists bring to their music, even unknowingly. When I listen to a Taylor Swift song, for example, I feel like I’m listening to a song from her perspective. It’s very likely that any given melody of hers was inspired by specific incidents that are widely available on any celebrity gossip website. While this doesn’t diminish Swift’s talent for making great pop songs, I never feel truly connected to her work like I do with my favorite artists. In the case of Carly Rae Jepsen, her life isn’t as highly publicized as her pop-cohorts. Yes, her songs may be about specific people and events, but when I hear this album I hear songs about my life from my perspective. For me, this creates a whole new level of connection to the album.
While Emotion is great, it would be silly of me to pretend like this album is earth-shattering. The song lyrics focus on love and loss, which is pretty well-worn territory in the music world. But pop music is supposed to be simple and fun. It’s what we turn on when we’re dancing with friends, driving down the highway at night or just feeling heartbroken. It reminds us that while there is definitely more complicated and deep music out there, sometimes it is the simplest words and themes that can really resonate with us. While Carly Rae Jepsen is communicating ideas that are practically as old as time, she does it in a way that is fresh, unique and definitely worth digging into.