Because the landscape runs amok with oversized personalities, the pop music world doesn't always know what to do with artists who aim themselves at the mainstream but push the music over their brand. Carly Rae Jepsen is the most current representation of this trend (though Donna Lewis and Mandy Moore are older examples). Regardless of how she's been treated by pop radio after her megahit "Call Me Maybe" and its sturdy album, Kiss, Jepsen has spent the past three years collaborating with other songwriters to craft the best pop record of 2015, Emotion.
Kiss waded into 80s bubblegum confection, but Emotion dives deeper into those sounds. What results is an album composed of 12 expert, catchy tunes--all with spot-on nostalgic productions (synthesizers and drum machines abound) and strong choruses. The songs work without hitch, starting with the excellent opener "Run Away With Me" and continuing with the title track, the lead single "I Really Like You," the Sia-assisted "Making Most of the Night," the sweet "Let's Get Lost," and the house-focused "Warm Blood." There is simply not a bad song in the bunch, and it's a joy to listen to from beginning to end.
If I had to pick a standout song--a challenge, given the overall high quality--it would be "Boy Problems," a sassy self-critique about always venting your romantic issues to your friends. Because Jepsen is smart enough to step back from discussing her dating woes with the song, the track not only works as a fun ode to friendship but also enriches the album as a whole.
Some critics have claimed Jepsen has no identity. This is not the case. Rather, her musical persona is that of the girl-next-door, and her sweetness helps the pop tunes on Emotion play without obstruction. Her new album is so good it cannot be ignored.