Carly Rae Jepsen - Emotion.png

2020 Album Draft- Round 9 Pick 6- Aphoristical selects- Carly Rae Jepsen- Emotion.

I was sitting in an aircraft on the tarmac in Sydney airport in January 2018, reading about Captain Beefheart. I selected Canadian pop-star Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion: Side B from the aeroplane’s music library. I’m sure a bunch of readers are rolling their eyes at this selection – Jepsen’s widely known as a one-hit wonder for her inescapable 2012 hit ‘Call Me Maybe’. I was aware that 2015’s Emotion had flipped the script for her, making her into a critical favourite, but hadn’t given her much attention.

The first song is ‘First Time’ – it opens with a neat trick of starting with a tinny, distorted snippet of the chorus before launching into full pop. I was hooked in ten seconds. 

Jepsen wrote more than 250 songs for Emotion – she rejected the mass-production writing method used by many pop artists. When Emotion gained a following, she announced a sequel made from Emotion outtakes, released the following year. Naturally, Emotion: Side B follows the same formula as Emotion – combining 1980s textures with alternative production. Jepsen’s not a powerhouse vocalist, but her seemingly infinite enthusiasm is infectious. Sometimes you can tell that these eight songs are outtakes – in particular ‘Store’ sounds like she glued random song ideas together into a strangely satisfying whole. ‘Higher’ is melodically strong, but without Jepsen’s writing input the lyrics are frustratingly generic.

Most of these outtakes, though, are top drawer. ‘Fever’, as is often the case with  Emotion-era Jepsen, doesn’t concern an actual relationship,Instead it examines infatuation and obsession, with moody verses, a soaring pre-chorus, and a dance-tastic chorus. The bridge “my lights stay up/while your city sleeps” is a thing of beauty.

On the other hand, ‘Body Language’ is relentlessly upbeat. I like to use it for my alarm in the mornings – it breathlessly builds, with nary a pause between sections, culminating in Jepsen’s declaration “I think we’re overthinking it”.

The Japanese edition of Emotion: Side B includes ‘Cut to the Feeling’ – it was cut from Emotion: Side B to be used in the animated film Ballerina, which effectively means that it’s an outtake from an outtakes album. But it’s one of Jepsen’s best, euphorically soaring through the chorus.

The last decade has seen a lot of quality pop music – some celebrated in the mainstream and some in the fringes. While mainstream guitar rock feels like it’s run out of ideas, pop’s able to constantly incorporate new rhythms and textures. Jepsen’s sugary pop isn’t for everyone, but if it connects with you it’s a massive burst of adrenaline.


  1. I learned of her through your site mostly but since I have heard some of her music out. She does have some good melodies underneath what is going on in the song…not the type of music I normally listen to but I always appreciate a good melody no matter the type of music.

  2. Well, I always thought ‘Call me Maybe’ was a decent, catchy little pop tune, but I’ve not heard anything much more by her. So it’s surprising but neat to see her picked, she is more productive than I would’ve realized, that’s for sure. Just listening to the first video posted above, it sounds OK… maybe not something I’d pick myself but much more palatable than much of what I hear when I have to listen to ‘hit radio’ these days. She seems like one of the nicer young pop stars too; way to go Canada! Thanks for introducing many of us to this record, Aphoristical

  3. I honor your selection and am very happy to see another female artist in the desert island lineup, Graham. Not my kind of music at all, but variety is the spice of life as my mom always says.

  4. The only song of her’s I am familiar with is “Call Me Maybe” which you couldn’t escape- a good pop tune. Will have to give this a listen.

  5. I guess I pretty much share the sentiments expressed by others who have commented thus far – not the kind of music I typically listen to. But I can’t deny her the upbeat and catchy nature of Jepsen’s songs. Plus, if I see it correctly, there have been relatively few selections in the draft from the current century, so it’s good to see some diversity.

    • She actually started off doing folk-oriented music – I’d describe her first record as coffee-shop folk. Early in her career, she covered John Denver and Joni Mitchell. It just turns out that she’s better at pop music.

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