… If you haven’t already, you simply must listen to the Carly Rae Jepsen album ‘EMOTION’. Do it. Do it NOW!
Carly Rae is a curious beast indeed. Whilst many uninformed outside observers may be tempted to take her sugary, ‘butter wouldn’t melt’, fairy princess popstar persona at face value, I believe there is much more depth to young Carly than simply what you see on the surface. For starters, she isn’t young at all. She’s actually 31.
In my mind Carly occupies a similar space to renowned Swedish singer Robyn. Probably now best known for ‘Dancing On My Own’, thanks to an awful UK talent show cover version performed by some depressive whiny moany Scottish man, Robyn has long been occupying a niche of popstar does “crazy girl”. Robyn is the girl who seems completely normal until you break up with her, and then she can’t help but do some weird shit. Perhaps she’ll stalk you in the train station, or sit in the corner of a club all alone, so she can watch you getting intimate with your new beau. She might urge you to ‘Call Your Girlfriend‘ and break up with her, because Robyn knows that you and her make a much better couple. However, she’s thoughtful with it, even going as far as to instruct the guy on how to console the girl! She knows she’s crazy (‘You can’t handle me’ / ‘You never were and you never will be mine’) but she simply doesn’t care. All she wants is for you to ‘Hang With Me‘. The clever thing about this narrative is that it runs through all of Robyn’s work. Whether or not it is authentic matters not, because her artistry and attention to detail is simply stunning. It is impossible to untangle the real person Robyn, from the crazy pop songstress Robyn who we have all come to know and love despite, or perhaps because of, her craziness.
I have read articles that criticise Carly for not having any popstar persona. For essentially being a bit of a personality vacuum, with indistinctive vocals to match. I simply refute these claims as absolute tosh. I believe that, like Robyn, Carly also weaves an extremely carefully crafted narrative through all her work. For evidence of this I will first need to discuss some of Carly’s previous work, before going on to discuss the amazing album ‘EMOTION’ which you should all buy.
Carly hit the scene with mega unstoppable smash hit ‘Call Me Maybe‘. In this song, she has literally just glimpsed a guy out of the corner of her eyes, and immediately she wants to start a relationship. She’s the one girl who thinks Tinder is for finding your next husband. Her next solo single was ‘This Kiss‘. ‘This Kiss’ sounds so instantly shimmery and glittery that it’s easy to miss the fact that it’s actually a song about cheating. It’s literally all there in the lyrics, if only you could hear past Carly’s syrupy vocals. (‘And she’s a real sweet girl / And you know I got a boy / Details we both forgot to mention’). Carly’s 6 months on from ‘Call Me Maybe’ and already she’s cheating on the guy she was so into.
Next single? ‘Tonight I’m Getting Over You‘. The telling lyric here is ‘I’ll keep dancing till the morning with somebody new’. Carly isn’t over the breakdown of the relationship at all. Despite the fact that its demise was all her fault, she decides the best way to get over the guy she fell in love with at first sight 6 months ago, is to throw herself at some strangers. She doesn’t care who she dances with, as long as she dances with somebody.
In other words, Carly’s first album campaign was fucking genius. In three singles she’s managed to guide us through the entire cycle of a relationship, to the point where she’s likely as much of a mess as Robyn is in ‘Dacning On My Own’. But what makes these songs so Carly? The linking feature of all three songs has to be Carly’s crazy behaviour in each scenario. This is an idea that Carly runs with. Having given you this background, I now feel confident we will be able to observe and decode the continuation of this narrative in her most recent full-length studio album, 2015’s ‘Emotion’.
First single: I Really Like You
I still don’t rate this song, not ‘really’ (excuse the pun). However, it is important to note that for the casual observer, ‘I Really Like You’ would actually be the first they’ve heard from Carly since breakthrough ‘Call Me Maybe’. Certainly from a UK perspective, I’m not sure ‘This Kiss’ or ‘Tonight I’m Getting Over You’ even made it onto UK radio, and even if they did I don’t think the casual listener would remember them. Therefore, ‘Really’ is a continuation of the storyline arc of ‘Call Me Maybe’ Carly. Viewed under this lens the song makes perfect sense. It is the ideal sequel to ‘Call Me Maybe’. It’s the next stage of the relationship. Having given her number to that hot guy, she’s seemingly now in some sort of ‘relationship’ with him. How do we know this? ‘Late night watching television’ says it all. Carly is trying, her absolute best, to refrain from going into crazy mode. After going through the whole dating cycle last album campaign, Carly is wary of things happening too soon. Carly has a rare moment of clarity. ‘I really want to stop…. It’s way too soon, I know this isn’t love’… but this is Carly Rae Jepsen we’re talking about. She can’t help herself! ‘But I need to tell you something’ and with that, out come all those ‘reallys’ like a bad case of the shits. Carly does show signs of being older and wiser, not to mention more self-aware, this time around; ‘Did I say too much? I’m so in my head’. The breakdown however shows us that actually, Carly hasn’t changed one bit. She’s just as crazy as she was last time. ‘Who gave you eyes like that, said you could keep them?’ utters Carly, in that trademark syrupy rasp. This definitely sounds like a lyric that is straight out of a Robyn song. The summation? That Carly is still the same crazy girl we know from before, equally likely to jump on top of you and lick your face as take you to Las Vegas to get married on a whim.
Second single: Run Away With Me
First things first, ‘Run Away With Me’ is much more representative of ‘EMOTION’ as a body of work. The sax intro soon gives way to gentle, soothing synth sounds, a mainstay of the album. Like in the first album campaign, there is definitely progression of a narrative as we work our way through the singles. Here, Carly finds herself clearly further along the timeline of a relationship. She’s definitely met all his friends and family by now. In ‘Really’ Carly and her beau were stealing odd moments here and there to spend with each other, such as the late night when she went round to his place to watch TV with him, but certainly they were not spending large amounts of time together. Things have evolved so that Carly, previously wary of telling the guy that she ‘really’ liked him, is now confident enough to shower her lover with affections such as ‘Hold onto me / I’ll never want to let you go’. Carly and her beau have planned a romantic weekend away somewhere. However, once again crazy Carly bubbles to the surface. Whilst the guy doubtless thinks it’s just a weekend away, that they’ll be back home and ready to work on Monday morning, Carly clearly has different ideas. Carly wants to never come back, probably so that she can have the guy all to herself. Carly doesn’t like having to share the guy with his friends and family. Whilst she does urge her lover to confide in her, the silence from him implies that this is vert much a one-sided affair. Starting to feel familiar?
Not an official single but has a video on YouTube: Boy Problems
‘Boy Problems’ starts with an INCREDIBLE spoken word segment. This song is about Carly’s friend, who Carly obviously rings on the regular. You just know that Carly drinks gin by herself and then calls this particular friend at 3am in the morning when she’s feeling disaffected with the world and has nobody else to turn to. Yep, Carly is that kind of friend. Anyway, Carly’s friend is ‘so tired of hearing all your boy problems’. As in ‘Really’, a more mature, sensible Carly tries to assess the situation fairly (‘And I know she’s right / And I should not be offended’). Yet Carly just can’t stop herself from singing about her boy problems. Worryingly, Carly doesn’t even seem to know what the situation is herself, ‘I think I broke up with my boyfriend today and I don’t really care’. However, do NOT be fooled by the blasé lyrics. This is all a front. This is all for show. Carly is hurting deep down inside and she’s probably already hit the bottle again. Indeed, when Carly muses whether to choose the guy or her friend, it is seemingly a nobrainer. BROS BEFORE HOES and CHICKS BEFORE DICKS, am I right?! Yet she shockingly decides to side with the guy. The very same guy she keeps having ‘Boy Problems’ with. Then again, this is Carly we’re talking about. We shouldn’t be surprised that Carly sides with the guy. I have a funny feeling about this, like an impending sense of doom.
(As an aside, ‘Boy Problems’ is incredible. The melodies in Boy Problems are fabulous. Try singing along for yourself and you’ll see what I mean). A rock-solid pop-gold 10/10 moment.
Third (Official) Single: Your Type
‘Boy Problems’ found Carly wrestling with issues with her fellow but refusing to acknowledge them and instead hoping to ignore them away into obscurity. However, things have most definitely moved on by the time we meet Carly in ‘Your Type’. She’s finally dumped the guy. However, as with ‘Tonight I’m Getting Over You’ in the last album campaign, Carly is definitely not over the guy. Carly has matured and so this time, she’s going to stay friends with her ex. Oh, Carly! Surely a recipe for disaster with your disastrous track record. An exploration of the lyrics paints Carly as slightly tragic, desperately pining after her ex. ‘I still love you I’m sorry I’m sorry I love you / I didn’t mean to say what I said’. She admits she has a problem; ‘I miss you, I mean it, I tried not to feel it, I can’t get you out of my head’. Sadly for Carly, her ex has already moved on, and she can’t help but picture her ex with his new beau (like Robyn!) ‘I bet she acts so perfectly / You probably eat up every word she says’. When Carly says ‘I’m not the type of girl for you?’ heartbreakingly, it is actually a question rather than a statement. Poor old Carly can’t accept that she made the wrong choice. What she does so expertly throughout ‘EMOTION’ is manage to convey deep feelings and dark times through the medium of bouncy pop songs, and this is certainly the case on ‘Your Type’. If you weren’t paying attention to the lyrics, you would likely have no idea at how much despair Carly is suffering.
Album track: When I Needed You
‘When I Needed You’ is typical Carly; that is to say it is delivered in the medium of an over-the-top cheery pop song, with added bells on for good measure. Of course, it doesn’t take long for crazy Carly to come to the fore in ‘When I Needed You’. At first glance the song is perhaps a celebration of the previously discussed break up. However, Carly wants to change for her guy. She has accepted that she wasn’t his type, and so states that ‘Sometimes I wish that I could change / But not for me, for you / So that we could be together, forever’. Although Carly acknowledges that this is not the correct path, ‘I know / I know that I won’t change for you’, it doesn’t seem in any way at all convincing. Perhaps it’s the repetition of the ‘I know’, implying that actually Carly isn’t 100% sure. Indeed, I’m not sure that she’s sure about anything on ‘EMOTION’. The narrative of the album to me is very much someone still struggling to find their personal identity. Someone who jumps from one relationship to another, not learning from their mistakes, and ultimately by the end of the tale, neither with a happy ending nor having discovered oneself.
One of the most fun moments of the album comes in the breakdown, when Carly adopts a hilarious voice and says that “You come to me at dreams in night”. If you’re still dreaming about him Carly, chances are you’re not over him. Indeed, she has to tell herself a staggering 4 times (!!) that ‘I’m not going to work it out’. Carly is still clinging on to hope beyond hope, despite all the evidence pointing that the guy is no good for her, probably never really really really really liked her, he didn’t want to run away with her, he caused problems between her and her best friend, and then declared that she wasn’t his type. Sounds like you got yourself a real keeper there, Carly!
Album track: I Didn’t Just Come Here To Dance
‘I Didn’t Just Come Here To Dance’ is the rightful sequel of ‘Tonight I’m Getting Over You’. Both songs are about hitting the dancefloor in times of desperation. ‘I Didn’t Just Come Here To Dance’ is wrapped up in the sound of a 90s piano house banger with clear disco influences, and it is surely a gay anthem in the making, sounding as it does like Kylie on poppers. The most important lyrical feature of this song is when Carly states ‘I didn’t just come here to dance / If you know what I mean / Do you know what I mean?’ We all know what you mean Carly, no meaningful wink or nudge needed. You’re on the pull in an attempt to get over the guy who said you weren’t his type. But crazy Carly is always lurking, even on an all out hands up banger like this. ‘Baby I / I’m not going anywhere without you / Walk me home cos I like every single thing about you’. Carly is starting the whole cycle off yet AGAIN. This woman is relentless! You’d think she’d learn from her previous mistakes in ‘Call Me Maybe’ and ‘Really’ but apparently not. In this way, ‘I Didn’t Just Come Here To Dance’ makes complete sense as the album closer for ‘EMOTION’. It also marks the perfect place to leave Carly for the time being.
Whilst it seems far-fetched that Carly can base her entire career out of rinse-repeating the same themes in her music, there’s absolutely no doubt to me that she has expertly crafted and honed her ‘crazy Carly’ persona. This is storytelling for a generation who have an attention span of flies, 10 second SnapChats and 140 characters being the order of the day. Who still buys albums these days, let alone consume them as they were intended to be consumed? Streaming has put paid to that. Nonetheless, it is rewarding and enjoyable to scratch deeper than the veneer of ‘perfect pop princess’ which may often – unfairly – be applied to Carly Rae Jepsen and discuss the artistic merit which lays underneath. Certainly, any artist who records over 200 songs for an album, and deliberates for years over which ones to include, deserves some serious plaudits and not to be discarded in the manufactured pop trash heap (along with The Cheeky Girls). This is intelligent pop. This is moody pop. This is emotive pop. This is ‘EMOTION’. I guarantee if you invest time in ‘EMOTION’ it will be repaid to you. It will enhance your life. For the good.
And that is the magic of Carly Rae.