Like all good pop records, Carly Rae Jepsen's Kiss distills her persona into a set of likable and catchy ditties. Of course, the real asset and liability of the album is Jepsen's girl-next-door image. While it can make for some memorable music about courtship, it can also overwhelm in large doses.
Outside of her megahit, "Call Me Maybe," Kiss has a lot of hooky, dancey, and radio-friendly fair. The opener, "Tiny Little Bows," makes a great use of a sample and sounds both contemporary and like straight-up 80s mall music. "Curiosity" shows that Jepsen can work an R and B beat, and the song has an ear-worm "oh oh oh" vocal during the chorus that sticks with you. However, the material that works best on the album finds Jepsen in a more wistful state, namely the closer, "Your Heart is a Muscle." While exploring the possible complications of long-distance romance, the smokier side of the singer's voice comes through. This grittier voice also comes through on the awkward but charming, "Guitar String / Wedding Ring." These are the songs that refute the critics who claim Jepsen is built solely for preteen listeners. Jepsen can sing about longing and loss with depth, and has a more expressive voice than she gets credit for.
Sadly, the album does make some saccharine missteps. It's two collaborations--the Owl City duet, "Good Time," and the Justin Beiber assisted "Beautiful"--drag the record down. How "Good Time" became a hit, with its grating production and lyrics, is perplexing. "Beautiful" has the opposite problem; the acoustic duet is so benign that it hardly makes an impression on a busy album. The song also fails to have any lyrical personality beyond seeming sweet.
Carly Rae Jepsen has the potential to become a pop star with staying power. Her brand of amiable, sturdy music could easily carve her a regular place in the Top 40. She can write a good hook and deliver a solid vocal as good as any of peers, and because of that she has crafted one of the more consistent pop records of 2012.