Artist: Carly Rae Jespen Album: E•MO•TION Side B Location: Vancouver, British Columbia Date Of Release: September, 2016 Genre: Pop Reviewer: Penfold For Fans Of: Brenda Russell, Madonna, Prince
Earlier this year when you were fucking around with Harambe memes and tugging your dick at the blossoming idea of donning a clown costume and freaking out some meth-addled teenagers, the darling of cult-pop released an EP that has even more to offer than the salad bar at Toowong Sizzler. Like Sizzler, it pairs well with an eightball and it’s dripping with barrels of 80’s nostalgia that you better believe you’ll be going back to again and again to eat yourself into a stupor. I am of course talking about Carly Rae Jepsen‘s latest offering, Emotion Side B.
Side B is a collection of tracks which didn’t make the original cut for her incredible 3rd studio album Emotion, but don’t let that faze you. There are tracks on Side B that knock some that made the standard edition right outta the park. Emotion was released late last year to almost universal critical acclaim (including from us at IPHYB) and was widely regarded as a complete 180 from Jepsen’s original saccharine-sweet “Call Me Maybe” persona. Whilst it didn’t set the world on fire commercially, Jepsen is now officially cooler than Swifty for her efforts.
Side B is not a full album, and shouldn’t be listened to in a cohesive manner, but what it does offer are eight tracks with unlimited replay value. We’re greeted by bright synths, driving basslines, and melodies like crack with the opening song, ‘First Time’. The overriding themes of most the tracks on Side B is lost love, and Jepsen has never made heartbreak sound so good in the first track.
The second track, ‘Higher’, was released as a semi-single-sort-of-thing and is one of the only tracks on Side B (or Emotion for that matter) that doesn’t have a Jepsen writing credit. Don’t get me wrong, it is in no way a bad song but it is outshone by the rest that the EP has to offer. The chorus in ‘Higher’ is huge, the synths are big and the performance from Jepsen is acceptable, however it lacks the heart of some of the other tracks.
As if to prove every Buzzfeed millenial dating article right, ‘The One’ is a song about an easy relationship. Those ones that start out “for the fun of it” only to move into a serious place before you knew it. Jepsen sings about being held but not wanting the pressure of commitment, making it an incredibly relatable song for the five people reading this who have been in a relationship with a human-person before. The song isn’t overly complicated but it drives some melodies into your brain that you’ll be humming all day long.
The next song on Side B is easily the stand-out for the entire EP. ‘Fever’ is a song about heartbreak and the intense feelings of longing, loss, and desperation when a lover moves on. The synths are massive, but don’t come across as cheesy. We’re treated to a very CHVRCHES-esque vibe during the chorus, but also manages to pick up some John Paul Young vibes. The track is produced perfectly and keeps you listening well past the midway point of Side B.
‘Body Language’ comes next and changes the mood straight away with a stack of upbeat synths, bouncy basslines, and group vocals. In the wrong company, this might seem corny, but seriously fuck anyone that finds fun music corny. The only complaint I have about this track is that it finishes abruptly. Maybe that’s a testament to the big nature of the track, but it could have gone another eight bars without an issue.
Jepsen dives into a couple of less-memorable tracks on the pointy end of the album. Lyrically, ‘Cry’ is a bit cringey. The content is about communication problems with a boyfriend and predictably so. But the instrumentals on the track are so wonderfully produced and packed full of subtle nuances that you’ll forgive Jepsen for the lyrics. The next track, ‘Store’, sees Jepsen role-play as Benji & Joel from Good Charlotte‘s dad with an “I’m just going to the store kids, I’ll see ya later” vibe. Probably my least favourite of Side B with its repetitiveness.
Finally we come to ‘Roses’, the final track of Side B. This is more of an 80’s style modern ballad with some really nice melodies, but the winner of this track is Jepsen herself producing one of the best vocal performances on Side B. Her signature whispery-indie-girl sound is here but not overdone as it has been in the past, we also get these soaring chorused highs over a stripped back (at least for her) track. It’s another song about lost-love, but it works and it ends Side B so well.
If you’d told me a year ago that the ‘Call Me Maybe’ chick was going to release two of the best pop albums in the last five years, I probably would have kicked you in the dick. But shit, here we are. Side B shows that Jepsen didn’t fluke it. Emotion was a killer album hamstrung by poor marketing choices from her label, Side B won’t be a commercial smash by any stretch either. But what it is, is an collection of music from an artist that has found her stride and her vibe.
It’s a promise that this newfound springwell of genius isn’t about to dry up any time soon.