A lot of recent pop doesn’t feel like it was made for people who care about music. The songs are just tools to enhance the artist’s multimedia brand, which is about gifs, videos, thinkpieces, awards show moments, etc. Emotion is a pop album for people who actually like music, who appreciate the craft of a catchy chorus and the feelings that a well-made pop song can create. At its center is Carly Rae Jepsen, who delivers a performance that can win over even the crankiest pop music cynic.
Jepsen reinvents herself on this album by consciously zigging when everyone else is zagging. With the focus of everyone on branding and trying to be current, Jepsen embraces the music of the past and puts the focus on the songs rather than herself. This could make Emotion feel like a cheap 80s nostalgia exercise, but it never does, because Jepsen’s warmth and enthusiasm are so endearing — this is an artist making the music she has always wanted to make, the type of timeless pop she grew up listening to.
Despite its nostalgic sound and the large number of personnel she worked with on the album, Emotion always feels like a distinct Carly Rae Jepsen vision. It dodges the focus-grouped feeling of other pop albums, which have the obvious singles and then a bunch of filler, and instead feels like a complete album. Jepsen reportedly wrote 250 songs for Emotion before narrowing them down, which might be why it often sounds like a cohesive greatest hits compilation.
That element of craft is what I keep coming back to with Emotion — it’s the result of an artist given the chance to make the album she always wanted by putting in the proper amount of work, time, and care. And Jepsen’s enthusiasm for performing this music is infectious, which gives the album its humble, sincere quality that stands out so much compared to other pop.