The line between art and artist is thinly drawn—one that becomes increasingly obscure the more you attempt to define where the boundary lies. For Carly Rae Jepsen’s new album, it’s a necessary evil. E-mo-tion ultimately sees Jepsen charging back into the music arena in full-force to shake off the precarious one-hit-wonder label that was slapped on her following her infamous 2012 hit, “Call Me Maybe.” And it almost works.
From the opening synth blast on the fantastic “Run Away With Me,” the album absolutely oozes with thundering drums, sun-kissed synths, and playful guitar riffs over the course of 15 brilliantly-produced songs. Even her once-derided vocals now offer an impressive and notably smoky range. “Gimmie Love” provides layered pulsating beats and synth pads; “LA Hallucinations” is a cheeky exercise in bubblegum pop; and “Warm Blood” is a more nuanced take on Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams.” But the album reaches a stunning height with the fantastic “Your Type,” a throwback to a time in which uplifting melodies masked the lyrical heartbreak.
“Your Type” is so good it almost feels incredulous, but this sense of amazement is short-lived. Jepsen hired a multitude of big-name producers and recorded over 250 songs—only 15 of which made the final album cut—and unfortunately this mass-production infiltrates the album. It’s as if each of the 250 songs could have been interchangeably exchanged without altering the sound. It’s hard not to have a sneaking suspicion that Jepsen is hiding behind the shimmering production in hopes that it will distract from a seemingly aggressive attempt to distance herself from 2012.
Admittedly, the hooks and production—even the vocals—are far superior to the album’s most obvious competitor, Swift’s 1989 (2014). But if you approach the album as a cohesive effort then the lyrics should sustain themselves, and on E-mo-tion, they simply do not. “I think I broke up with my boyfriend today / But I really don’t care” is a jarring and eye-rolling case-in-point. If one was to ignore the fact that this is the same artist that brought us “Call Me Maybe,” then E-mo-tion just becomes a middle-of-the-road project with an overly-obsessive addiction to just about every retro-pop sound. Jepsen hasn’t carved out her own identity within the lyrics to provide the same fully-realized cinema that her pop-peers such as Swift, Rihanna, or Robyn have successfully cultivated.
It’s only fair to give credit where credit is due: Most notably the drastically-improved vocals, soaring melodies, and inclusion of some truly superb pop songs. But for all of E-mo-tion’s immaculate production and incessantly catchy hooks, what it’s lacking is the very feeling it’s own title conveys.