To the ignorant, Carly Rae Jepsen might have seemed easy to write off; her meteoric rise following the success of “Call Me Maybe” made her seem an obvious one-hit wonder candidate, the song a lucky break for a middling talent from the pop music industry machine. They’d have been wrong.
Jepsen’s been writing songs for over a decade, a fact that’s immediately evident on E·MO·TION. The new LP is a showcase for a songwriter to whom hooks and pop universalism come easily, produced by Ariel Rechtshaid, who brings the same verging-on-darkness, R&B-informed, ’80s-style production here that made his records with HAIM and Sky Ferreira sound so timeless. Songs like “Run Away With Me,” “L.A. Hallucinations,” “When I Needed You” and the intense “Making the Most of the Night” are all pop dynamite: big choruses, strong hooks, shimmering production and lyrics that feature surrogate “yous” and “mes” effectively harness the big emotions that the album’s title hints at.
There are a couple of small missteps here — “All That” is a serviceable if uninspired downtempo ballad, while “Boy Problems” is a little too sugary for its own good — but they’re negligible. More problematic is the vague feeling that Jepsen is holding back, if only just a little. She’s said in interviews that there’s more of her personality in these songs than on her last LP, Kiss, but there’s still a lingering air of prim professionalism that seemingly keeps her from letting it all hang out.
It’s a feeling so faint that might not even be apparent if not for E·MO·TION‘s pinnacle, “Your Type,” which finds Jepsen gushing about unrequited love with such gusto — her voice cracks gently on the chorus’s “I’m not the type of girl you call more than a friend,” and she repeats “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I love you” with such urgency that her lovelorn desperation hits home perfectly — that it makes the other excellent songs here sound just a shade more detached by comparison.
This might seem like nit-picking to expect Jepsen to hit even loftier heights than she does here, but it’s only because E·MO·TION demonstrates how little improvement could be made on her sharp, consistent songwriting abilities. These are perfect pop songs; a few more rare glimpses of their rougher edges would make them all the more spectacular. (604 Records/Universal)