by EJ Coleman
“I just wanna get in my guest bathroom, which is the only room in my house without a window, just turn the lights off and sit in absolute darkness and put my headphones on and just let Jepsen carry me away. […] I wanna go on a Carly Rae voyage into myself.” — Griffin McElroy
My relationship with Ms. Jepsen has been… tumultuous at times. I first fell in love with her in 2012, when I caught the music video for “Call Me Maybe” while flipping past Disney Channel. It was (as you should know by now) incredibly enjoyable, and with a better twist than even M. Night could pull off. Every time it was on the radio I un-ironically turned the volume up in my earbuds despite my mom’s warning that “you’ll go deaf that way.”
Then came that fateful night. Carly Rae Jepsen and Owl City, two of my most played artists, were going to be on some late night show and I was going to actually stay up and watch it, even though I had a long day of getting ready for high school ahead of me. I sat through more bad jokes than I could stand and finally the camera panned over to the little stage area.
It was bad. Oh, it was bad. So bad that in fact you can’t even find it among the other 2012 late show appearances that are on YouTube.
To his credit, Adam Young was fantastic and I renewed my fan subscription for another year, but Carly…
I don’t remember exactly if it was truly awful or just so different from the recording that it put me off, but put me off it did. When Kiss came out that September I steadfastly avoided it in every Target I went to (which, it should be said, is a lot of Targets). I think she did a performance at the mall and I avoided that too. Even when E•MO•TION came out I avoided it like the plague, too afraid of getting let down again.
Among its peers (2015’s summer/fall of pop included heavy hitters like 1989, Communion, Delirium) E•MO•TION didn’t have a lot of room to breathe, but when it’s Taylor season, none of us do. Looking back, however, at more than just how I really really really really really really like the hits, it feels like E•MO•TION deserves more than we gave it credit for.
This is the album HAIM couldn’t make: a one-woman salute to what alt-pop could be again. The heavy 80’s instrumentals take the bounding leaps under the incredibly catchy lyrics, and while I wouldn’t necessarily describe her as a powerhouse, CRJ does bring it as best she can. From “Gimmie Love”, which sounds like 1989 took a step further, to “Your Type”, which you side-eye in a somewhat embarrassed but understanding way, every song is a bop you’ll probably get stuck in your head at least once.
“Boy Problems” is an absolute masterpiece that should be blasting from airwaves everywhere forever. Just as catchy as any pop love song hit, “Boy Problems” is less about its titular dilemma and more about realizing how those problems affect a much more important relationship with her best friend. The chorus makes it clear that the boy problems aren’t really problems when the solution is so simple and already taken care of, and when it gets the bridge it becomes apparent the real issue.
Underneath the cliche face value plot of dating issues lies the real subject of the song: what happens when the surface level drama is covering an insidious schism in a friendship more important than the boy problems. When you realize what the song has been about the entire time is an indescribably awesome feeling, but it does also show the cracks in the album. It’s a prime example of this album’s main strength and weakness in equal turns—in being vague, it fails to be relatable, and in being specific, it evokes deeper feeling than intended.
“Favourite Colour”, on the other hand, exemplifies the diversity of the album. Like some of its compatriots from the B-sides album, which came out a year after E•MO•TION proper, “Favorite Colour” (in all its Canadian-ly spelled glory) is a more restrained and smooth track than most of the summer jams. Throughout the wide array of songs are the right melodies for every exciting occasion—from “Making the Most of the Night” for a wild night out and “Warm Blood” for letting go of yourself and even “Store” for, you know, going to the store. E•MO•TION makes the mundane and cliche exhilarating.
I’m not saying it’s a perfect album and everyone can go home now because we won music; for all its self-proclaimed emotion, it’s pretty surface level stuff, vague and undefined for the purposes of making it as relatable as possible while at times failing to do so for the exact same reason. But I’m not not saying that either.
What I am saying is that E•MO•TION is very good at doing what it is meant to do. It exists only in the present. The “live like you’re dying” energy that exists in even the slower songs pushes everything forward and forward until you’re dancing on the edge of your seat, looking out over the precipice. It makes even me—a person who rarely wants to dance and never does—absolutely lose it alone in my bedroom. The fact that sometimes the lyrics are shallow and the melodies are repetitive don’t matter when you’re driving down the highway blasting it.
It’s so fun though, and sometimes that’s all that matters.