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E•mo•tion, released about a year ago, is the album that no one saw coming and none of us deserved. Carly Rae Jepsen was the pop star with nothing to prove, since, truthfully, people had stopped checking for her. Her first major album, Kiss, was a killer album with some of the most exciting pop melodies of the year, but it had been overshadowed by that song, and people had all but chalked Carly Rae up to a one-hit wonder. Kiss gave us every reason to think otherwise, but very few actually did.
Then Carly handed us E•mo•tion, and that all changed.
As fast as she had become a household name back in 2012, she became an indie darling and made it cool to like pop music again. An artist with no gimmicks that seemed incredibly likable, almost to the point of being normal, gave us a record so good that we couldn’t help but have on repeat all summer long.
Even more unusual, the album leaked so far in advance that it couldn’t be promoted with all of the the Instagram reveals, emojis, and hashtags that we're all so used to seeing. We all got a hold of the record before we were meant to, and the music spoke for itself, making it the album of the summer/year before it had even been released.
Carly always said that she had written more than 250 songs for E•mo•tion and had to pick and choose which ones made the final cut. It wasn’t until a few months ago that rumors of a B-side album started to swirl. Could it be? It seemed too good to be true. But then again, so did E•mo•tion existing at all. By the sound of it, she definitely had the material to support a second offering.
Last Friday, E•mo•tion: Side B was released, reigniting my love for the original album and giving us a deeper look into what went into creating the album and what didn’t make the final cut for the original.
E•mo•tion: Side B doesn’t play like your typical collection of B sides, which tend to be scattered, unpolished, and a little more raw. Instead, each of the eight tracks could arguably be switched out for a spot on the original album without us being any the wiser.
Pop albums, just like lipsticks or fragrances, are products made to sell. They’re made to appeal to the largest number of people at the same time, which is why you’ll often find then stacked with producers and features. The exchange is that there is often a lack of cohesion of sound and style. Take Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman or Rihanna’s LOUD, which happens to be one of my favorite of Rih’s albums. A lack of cohesion does not always translate to a bad album. Also, pop music is no longer created to be consumed in the form of an album.
Sometimes an album doesn't need to be a concept or tell a story, sometimes it's OK to just have something to listen to that makes you happy. It's these grab-bag albums that I reach for when getting ready to go out with my friends or I'm putting something on at a party. You don't always need to be invested in what the music is trying to say; dancing is fine.
That being said, E•mo•tion showed that an album that feels like an entire body of work is still possible. On the flip side, what it lacked was a theme. It wasn’t a breakup album, but it wasn’t an album about being in love either. There was a song for and from every point in a relationship. Was it written from the perspective of being in a relationship and seeing it from all sides, or as an outsider looking in, dreaming about it? From falling in love (“Run Away With Me”) to asking someone if they want to take the next step (“All That”) to realizing that they don’t deserve you (“When I Needed You,”) there was a song for every stage.
Side B seamlessly finishes what E•mo•tion started. Incredible pop melodies, cheeky '80s production, and addicting choruses that I haven't been able to get out of my head since my first listen, from even more aspects of this would-be relationship.
You can’t ask for much from a B side; it’s (usually) enough just to have a couple more tracks from a favorite artist, so a lack of theme is barely worth touching on. If nothing else, these eight tracks give us eight more perspectives on love, and the lack thereof. After E•mo•tion, which was pretty heavily focused around the act of falling in love, it's nice to hear that other experiences within a relationship are just as normal, and worth talking about.
E•mo•tion didn’t do much to touch on what happens after you run away together, but on “Fever,” a song so good that I can’t believe it didn’t make the original set, Carly is dealing with what happens when you lose your grasp on love but it doesn’t lose its grasp on you.
The moody, '80s-tinged ballad sees her grappling with the old adage “If you love something, let it go,” hoping that that they realize what they’re walking away from, only to fear that they’re feeling nothing at all. We don’t often see her dealing with these kinds of emotions, but it’s easily a standout.
“Higher” is another example of how Carly crafts a near-perfect pop song for any age. The synths, pulsing percussion, exciting gang vocals, and a chorus that rolls forward. It sounds plucked from the best of the '80s but somehow feels at home in 2016.
Though Carly isn’t exactly known as one of today’s vocal powerhouses, her soft, almost wispy voice is perfect for the throwback pop sound that fills E•mo•tion. “Body Language” gives us a rare moment of Carly really letting it fly. “I been lonely, baby,” she sings, with an almost rock-style rasp in her voice, something we had yet to hear from her but I’d definitely like to get more of in the future.
Side B proves that lightning can strike twice. Though these tracks were from the original E•mo•tion sessions, they show that Carly really was sitting on a gold mine last year and what we were given was the best of the best. With her second round of tracks being as strong as most artists' final cuts, it makes me wonder what other gems were left on her cutting room floor and makes me even more eager to see what’s next for Carly.
By the sound of it, we won't have to wait much longer.