2015 should have been a breakthrough year for big pop players. Taylor Swift had “bravely” ventured into the nostalgic synth genre and made it mainstream mere months before 2014 ended. But incredible and big pop comebacks by North American legends Hilary Duff and Carly Rae Jepsen went ignored. Justin Bieber brought minimal and tropical house to the forefront, Selena Gomez pulled things back with sultry “Good For You” and Demi Lovato updated Perry's sapphic “I Kissed A Girl” with “Cool For the Summer.” The Weeknd did provide a few outright bangers, mining the ‘80s for both his much praised record, Beauty Behind the Madness, and number one single “I Can’t Feel My Face.” But while Abel channeled Michael, Jepsen’s channeling of Cindy Lauper went virtually ignored on the charts. But E•MO•TION proves to rival and improve upon even Swift’s best work on 1989.
From the thunderous propulsion of opening track (and contender for best single of 2015) “Run Away With Me,” to unrequited love anthem and exemplary sad banger “Your Type” (which happens to be the best in this genre since Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own”) all the way to the devastating cry-yourself-to-sleep Japan-only bonus track “I Never Get to Hold You,” Carly crafts emotive, danceable and infectious ‘80’s synth pop. So why did it remain deep outside the Top 40 charts?
Much has been written about this rejection by the general public. We ourselves have pondered if this is a result of Carly Rae’s anonymity. Do people have trouble relating? She herself has been vocal about telling narrative stories within her songs that aren’t always biographical. She is not a tabloid darling. The faces in her songs are blank. Who exactly is Jepsen dating? Who are these songs about? We can’t imagine a hunky Jake Gyllenhaal or a brooding Harry Styles as the dastardly gentlemen tormenting our heroine. Perhaps this anonymity makes it difficult to pinpoint Jepsen in the almighty racket of pop radio. But to say these tracks are anonymous does them a disservice.
For they tell the story of you - the listener. Who hasn’t begged a lover to “toss and turn” while desiring they “dream about me?” Who hasn’t felt “so in my head when we’re out of touch” because you just went to scream how much you “really really really really” like someone?
If given the chance, Jepsen’s music can transcend the tabloid drama we crave, and soundtrack the “tabloid dramas” that make up our own lives. I may or may not have listened to this record on repeat while mooning over a specific boy all summer long. And it may or may not, as with most summer romances, have come to a disappointing end. It was almost as if the great Prophet Jepsen foretold that we would “lose each other in the game” (the record leaked and was already on heavy rotation for me the day of our first date). But it is that bittersweet uncertainty, and that inevitable end, that Carly Rae finesses so well in her writing. And as titled, it perfectly synchronized with my own E•MO•TION(s).
Post break-up, I feared it would ruin the record for me, that it would be too difficult to see myself in the lyrics of “Your Type” or “When I Needed You.” But as Carly Rae reassured me, “boy problems, I’ve got ‘em too.” And this record is too important to allow something like a boy to ruin.
My personal relationship to the album may prove to be a bias (it is). And you may not feel that it is one of the best pop albums of our time (you’re wrong). However, the synthesis of both joy and sorrow in a record, capturing these tense, anxious and beautifully fragile moments is what makes a perfect pop album. And with E•MO•TION, Carly Rae has crafted something perfect, from start to Japan-only bonus track finish. It’s a rarity in this day and age, and it is a shame more aren’t witnessing her transition from “lol pop meme” to sophisticated pop performer.
But that’s where we at Neuropop come in. To evangelize. I don’t have much to say that others haven’t. And if you keep up with pop writing, you’ve heard it all before. But to those still resistant, I stand before you to to spread the good news. She is risen, and she holds in her hands our holy text - E•MO•TION.