Deep-seated longing defines some of pop’s most indelible efforts, from The Ronettes’ thundering “Be My Baby” to Lady Antebellum’s late-night missive “Need You Now.” Carly Rae Jepsen knows this all too well. The Canadian singer’s 2012 sensation “Call Me Maybe” balanced its effervescent flirtations with the line “before you came into my life/I missed you so bad,” which would have revealed Jepsen’s hand too clearly had it not been surrounded by the disco-stringed delirium that helped send it to the top of the charts.
On her third album, “E•MO•TION,” Jepsen is once again admiring from afar, singing about romantic interests who, for much of the record, are just removed enough to still exist within gazing distance. It’s a gorgeously realized slice of pop, particularly for those who appreciate musical reference points hailing from the heyday of Cyndi Lauper and Madonna: a bass punctuating a heart’s insistent beat, synth lines designed to sound like pathways into space, flinty guitars and soaring saxophones. “Boy Problems,” co-written by Sia Furler and Greg Kurstin, combines the percolating pop-funk of Janet Jackson’s “Control” and a schoolyard chorus of sympathizers; the pleading “Your Type” brings together the sparkle of Lauper’s “I Drove All Night” and the gritted-teeth pulse of Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own,” creating a heartbreak-on-the-dance-floor anthem for the rebuffed yet still hopefull.
What makes “E•MO•TION” so potent, though, is its combination of the hyperattenuated pop atmosphere and the way Jepsen meticulously outlines the heart’s desires and frustrations. She became a pop star through the TV-talent-show route (“Canadian Idol” in 2007, to be exact), but her soprano’s true appeal comes from the way it can transform songs into shared secrets. The starlit “Making the Most of the Night” finds her playing therapist for an on-the-rocks friend on the low-key verses; the chorus’s uptempo new world is rife with the sort of anything-can-happen hope that can only be foreseen by someone with her heart on her sleeve. That sort of aching for possibility animates “E•MO•TION,” making it an album that’s incredibly enjoyable even as Jepsen stands on the precipice of heartache.
ESSENTIAL “Making the Most of the Night”
Watch the video for “Making the Most of the Night” here: