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.