In the 2010s, as in any other decade, there have been a few songs that kind of stop pop culture in its tracks for a few moments. Songs that literally everyone knows, but even better, everyone likes, among them: “Get Lucky”, “Happy”, “Shake it Off”, “Blank Space”, “Uptown Funk”, and especially, Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe”. In my lifetime, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a song get so big, except for maybe “Happy”. Since that 2011 single though, Carly hasn’t released anything nearly as big as that one song, and we all took that as a sign to just write her off as another one-hit wonder. But alas, it’s 2015 and everyone (at least music listeners) is going crazy for this new Carly Rae Jepsen album. And while I don’t think it will yield her an all-time big song like “Call Me Maybe”, “E·MO·TION” is a pretty superb piece of work.
Really, the quality of this album comes down to two main things, the first of which being Carly’s masterful songwriting. Clearly, she has not lost a step when it comes to catchy and instantly memorable pop songs, as this record is filled to the brim with absurdly catchy melodies, and excellent use of the verse-chorus structure in that almost every chorus feels like a gigantic release. This is perfectly exemplified on the stunning opener, “Run Away With Me”, which has quiet verses that subtly build toward a massive, inspiring, and wonderfully melodic hook. And while almost every track follows a similar formula, it never fails, and why should it when most of the songs here are “stuck in your head for days” level of catchiness? (Especially on anthems “Run Away With Me”, “Boy Problems” “I Really Like You”, “Emotion”. and “Your Type”. It’s almost scary how perfectly sticky these songs are.)
However, possibly the biggest factor of this album’s greatness is the wonderful 80s inspired production. But unlike many albums and artists that reach back to the past, “E·MO·TION” comes out sounding original instead of merely being a retread of past ideas. The sound here is updated instead of rehashed, which works wonders for Carly’s pop tunes, backing them up with head bobbing and toe tapping grooves, and deeply detailed production. There are plenty of slap bass lines, synth flourishes, and even a vaporwave inspired beat on “All That”, and this all reminds the listener of specifically the 80s while never appearing unoriginal, and this aesthetic and embracement of this decade is one of the main attractions of this record. It doesn’t work all of the time, as “All That”, while the vaporwave-ness of it is cool for a little while, it’s just too slow moving to be that engaging, and “Warm Blood” suffers a similar fate. This song is notably darker than the rest of the record, and the pitch shifted vocals on this track are super-interesting (brought to you by Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij), but it doesn’t build to anything really noteworthy, unfortunately. However, overwhelmingly, “E·MO·TION”‘s production is simply breathtaking.
“E·MO·TION” is pretty easily one of the best big-budget albums released this year so far. With its incredible songwriting and highly creative production, this record simply stunned me, and save for a couple of songs, Carly Rae offers up some up some of the catchiest tracks of 2015, proving “Call Me Maybe” was not a fluke at all. Maybe nothing here will get that big, but that’s fine when we have breathtaking anthems like “Run Away With Me” and “Your Type”. It’s pretty impossible to just pick out a standout song or two from this record because nearly every single one is so infectiously melodic while also backed by fantastic big budget production. I don’t know about you, but that’s exactly what I want out a pop album, and “E·MO·TION” offers that up in spades.
Standout Tracks: “Run Away With Me” “Emotion” “I Really Like You” “Boy Problems” “Your Type” “Let’s Get Lost”