The release of Carly Rae Jepsen’s third record Emotion is more under the radar than I was expecting for an album that started its campaign with a top three single. The album’s muted impact has something to do with its ridiculous staggered release dates (released in Japan in June, American in August and September in the UK). This method cost Charli XCX’s brilliant album Sucker sales and impact earlier this year, and will probably do the same for Emotion. This incredible record will be filed along with the great pop injustices of our time – Anniemal, Come & Get It, Overpowered, and Janelle Monae’s entire career.
Carly Rae Jepsen looked like she would be a one hit wonder for a while; I’m just going to pretend the Owl City duet never happened. ‘Call Me Maybe’ was one of the best and most successful singles of 2012. The accompanying album, Kiss, was a decent set of songs, but was dwarfed by ‘Call Me Maybe’. Curiously, for Emotion, Carly’s manager said they’re more interested in getting the critics on her side rather than having big hit singles.
Emotion starts out with the second single, ‘Run Away With Me’, which is the best song I’ve heard all year. It’s a gorgeously wistful song in which the atmosphere of the music sums up the hopeful escapism and romanticism of the lyrics. All the components come together perfectly here, from the subtle synths on the verses, to the explosive chorus, to her euphoric ad libs right into her backing vocals, blending with the saxophone.
If ‘Run Away With Me’ becomes another massive number one like ‘Call Me Maybe’, this time around, Carly should have no problem following it up. ‘Boy Problems’ would make a perfect third single. The first part of the chorus is already ridiculously catchy: “Boy Trouble/We’ve got double,” before she throws in the irresistible line, “I just broke up with my boyfriend today/And I don’t really care.” Most songs on Emotion feel like they’re bursting with hooks – and the songs often have two choruses, never sounding clumsy or overstuffed. The brooding ‘Warm Blood’ is another very good example, with three choruses that subtly change the mood of the song. This is a record that should spawn endless top ten singles.
The album’s lead single, ‘I Really Like You’ is a song that’s so good, not even a misguided video with Tom Hanks could ruin it. It was an obvious choice for the first single, but there’s even better on Emotion. It has another addictive chorus and a fantastic middle eight where Carly sings, “Who gave you eyes like that/Said you could keep them,” which is one of about a hundred amazing pop moments on the record.
‘All That’ comes across as a great lost Jam & Lewis song. It is co-written with Dev Hynes, who is already responsible for working on two of the best singles of the decade so far with Solange and Sky Ferreira. ‘All That’ is a gorgeous, slinky, slow jam that is made great by the warm synths and the climbing chord changes to the last minute. Emotion is one of those albums where every song feels like a highlight. ‘Making The Most Of The Night’ is another one. The moody and slightly misleading intro soon bursts into the chorus: “I know you’ve had a rough time/here I’ve come to hijack you/Hijack you/I love you/I’m making the most of the night.” The arpeggiated synths climb, complementing the thrill and conviction of the lyrics.
The 80s pop influences are all over Emotion, including Madonna, Prince, Janet Jackson, Scritti Politti and Cyndi Lauper. The most obviously 80s influenced song is ‘When I Needed You’, which starts with twinkling Fleetwood Mac synths and then uses slap bass in the chorus to great effect. It’s yet another outstanding moment on this flawless album. It works well as an ending to Emotion.
Of course, the album doesn’t have to end there. There is a deluxe edition with five extra songs that are all just as great as the songs that make up the main album. The 90s dance inspired ‘I Didn’t Just Come Here To Dance’ and the ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ influenced ‘Love Again’ are particularly brilliant. If you’re going to take a risk on this album, go for the deluxe.
Emotion isn’t the first recent pop album to take something from 80s pop music. In the last twelve months Taylor Swift, Charli XCX, Brandon Flowers and Tove Styrke have made albums with similar influences. Of these, Emotion is the most enjoyable because the influences never seem forced. It’s one of the most enjoyable and consistent records of recent years, where not a second feels wasted. Carly is not the best singer out there, but the way she adapts herself to the songs is one of her greatest strengths. In her delivery, you can hear a leap in confidence from her performance on Kiss.
It is an extremely ambitious album, but Carly never loses sight of what makes a truly brilliant pop song. There are over-the-top giddy pop rushes and moments when she holds herself and the music back. The execution is always just right. It’s a polished and stylised record, and at the core of Emotion, Carly is covering aspects of love and relationships. The album title is perfect, as is the record itself.