Higher
by Emma
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.

 

Carly Rae Jepsen - "Higher"
Carly Rae Jepsen - "Fever"
Carly Rae Jepsen - "Store"

Twice in my life now - and only twice - I have met people who did not like E•MO•TION. Carly Rae Jepsen's last album came out last summer, at a time when everyone I knew was nursing an all-consuming, life-on-fire crush on someone else they did not know that well. This whole city, it felt like, was falling desperately and hopelessly in love with a near-stranger; everywhere you went everyone was just shot forward and wanting, uneasy and thrilling and charged. Even the stillest parts of the city, if you looked close, vibrated like a VHS on pause. You'd see two strangers brush against each other on the street and just from the contact one of them would turn into a bolt of pure neon, while the other burst into a cloud of silver and pink glitter. Just from all the floating, frantic energy. All summer, this went on. The whole city. It was madness. And E•MO•TION - sugar-high, bright as the internet and twice as speedy - was its hymnal.

One of the times I encountered any real, serious opposition to the album, I was in a car full of a bunch of dudes, and all it took to convince them that every single song on this album was a ray of pure beautiful sunshine was to get them to actually listen to it. But the second time was worse; I got into a protracted argument with a friend of a friend at some party. "She doesn't have a personality," he said to me, gesturing like a man with an opinion. "Her songs are all just so empty."

Here's the thing: insofar as Carly Rae has not built her entire catalogue of synth-deep pop hits around coy lyrics that lace a glossy love life with lite feminism and meme-worthy one-liners - insofar as her songs are just really good pop songs about really liking someone - then I suppose her music does not have a persona. But personality can mean a lot of things, and art that is well-constructed enough to give its audience a lot of beautiful space in which to project their own feelings (crushes, heartbreaks, likings) is a special subtle kind of generous. This is what really good pop music does, and that's what E•MO•TION is.

E•MO•TION: Side B has some perfect songs on it, and it also has some really really good songs that are also kind of funny and wonderful in a different way. B-sides are B-sides, and this whole album does not gleam in quite the same marquee-flawless way E•MO•TION does. THAT SAID: every song on this album is limned with the same kind of shimmer that rushed all the way through E•MO•TION-classic, and aside from Colouring Book, I cannot think of an album this year that has made me feel as completely swept off my feet by sheer summer delight as this one.

Plus, there's something else in these songs that makes me feel good in a different way, because it takes me back to that argument with that guy at that party and just proves me righter: these songs are proof positive that "personality" isn't always in the details a text or a song or a person chooses to reveal. Sometimes it's the structure, the mechanics, the nature of the gesture itself. When Carly does try to bedazzle her songs with specifics, they're always funny and a little off-base - like the details about the bike in "Fever" or the kind of totally insane premise of "Store"'s endless hook. A chipmunk-adjacent chorus that breaks up with you by saying it's just going out for some milk and a pack of smokes and don't wait up should be laughable, not dance-freakout-inducing. A song whose soaring, point-towards-the-horizon verses describe the borrowing and subsequent returning of a bike lock and helmet should be silly, but instead there's that rise and drop into the pulsing chorus. It's perfect even when it shouldn't be. That's personality for you: Carly Rae can't even touch a story without turning it into gold, into glitter, pure feeling.

[buy E•MO•TION: Side B]

Posted by Emma at August 28, 2016 11:56 PM
Comments

Emma I think you're becoming one of my favourite writers, your writing is everything I wish mine could be and more. Thank you for this.

Posted by Brennan at August 29, 2016 11:15 AM

Brennan! What an incredibly lovely thing to read. Thank you!

Posted by Emma Healey at August 30, 2016 12:53 AM

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Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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