Friday, June 26, 2015

E•MO•TION | Carly Rae Jepsen

The follow-up to an artist's mainstream breakthrough album is a crucial piece of work, even more so for an artist slammed with threats of a permanent spot in the one-hit wonder hall of fame; the stakes are high and the chance for a career-ending misstep is even higher. The Ting Tings jumped off the deep-end with Sounds from Nowheresville, Robin Thicke rushed into a heartbroken mess on Paula, and Cher Lloyd somehow forgot to market Sorry I'm Late altogether.

Carly Rae Jepsen, the Canadian Idol contestant who was pushed into overnight stardom by Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez in 2012, is no stranger to the struggle. After the success of the multi-platinum single "Call Me Maybe" and Owl City collaboration "Good Time," Jepsen took a hiatus from the spotlight to fulfill a lead role in a Broadway rendition of Cinderella and to form a full-length follow-up. Flash forward three years after Jepsen's initial wave of success, and her third studio album, E•MO•TION, has finally come to fruition. She may have taken a hit commercially due to her time away, but she used that time to perfect a sturdy pop album.

Jepsen's Kiss was unabashedly cute, yet somewhat misguided. In addition to "Call Me Maybe," the album was a mixed bag of '80s-tinged synthpop tracks ("Tiny Little Bows," "Curiosity") and modern radio-appeasers ("Turn Me Up," "Tonight I'm Getting Over You"). For E•MO•TION, Jepsen has chosen to focus solely on that nostalgia-inducing synthpop. She targets the sound of the core divas (and short-lived teen stars) of the 1980s - Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Debbie Gibson, and Tiffany, to name a few - and cultivates her influences better than most of her contemporaries have. Taylor Swift's mega-record 1989 was applauded for mere splashes of sounds from the decade, but Jepsen's album is so immersed in the time period that it could camouflage itself as a multi-platinum effort of an authentic '80s teen-pop titan.

The blanket of automated drums and synthesizers complement Jepsen's bubbly personality well. She doesn't veer off of typical pop topics - love, heartbreak, and the like - but she knows how to craft well-written declarations of her affection and some ear-catching melodies. While her lyrics are not always the most mature, she only delivers a few lukewarm lines (e.g., "I really, really, really, really, really, really like you / And I want you / Do you want me? / Do you want me, too?" and "Boy problems, who's got 'em? I've got 'em too / Boy trouble, we've got double / Don't know what to do") that are glossed over by her bright melodies and radiant production anyway. In fact, these particular tracks - lead single "I Really Like You" and the Sia-assisted "Boy Problems" - prove that lyrics do not have to make or break a song, given the song is spotless in other rights.

And when she is on her A-game in every aspect, Jepsen is an unstoppable power; for proof, check out "Run Away With Me," with its horn-accented instrumentation and its shouted "Baby, take me to the feeling / I'll be your sinner in secret when the lights go out" chorus, or "Making the Most of the Night," in all of its explosive, glitchy glory. None of the album's 12 tracks are without grand hooks, either. Dare I say that the blossoming choruses of "Your Type" and "E•MO•TION" in particular ensure they will stay fresh months, if not years, from now? Actually, the same could be said about most of these tracks. In fact, even the album's only ballad, "All That," is an anthem in its own lighter-raising right.

With its cohesive coating of clean-cut synthesizers and heavy dance beats, E•MO•TION is clearly a product of the post-La Roux era. Current American contemporary hit trends, however, do not favor Jepsen's sugary-sweet synthpop style, which may force her to bask in a cult viral following à la Marina Diamandis. That shouldn't be a problem, though, considering she still boasts a Twitter following of over 10 million users and isn't holding back in terms of quality. "Call Me Maybe" may have proved that Jepsen can produce a hit, but every track on E•MO•TION validates that she craft sugary sweet pop music like a seasoned professional.

E•MO•TION has already been released in Japan and will be released August 21, 2015 in the United States under School Boy Records and Interscope Records. Standard and deluxe editions will be available.

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