CARLY RAE JEPSEN – Emotion Side B (School Boy/Interscope): Let’s be thankful Jepsen, her producer(s), or label execs greenlighted the release of this leftover material from 2015’s Emotion as its own EP rather than as extra throwaways on a deluxe version few would have ever bothered with. Emotion was a perfectly fine, perfectly competent pop album that was more “pop” in its execution than its “pop”ular reception—its lead single “I Really Like You” peaked at 39 on the Billboard Hot 100, a long fall from 2011’s number 1 “Call Me Maybe.” Emotion Side B sounds like the hunt for a hit single without cynicism; everything here is just light and fun.
The songs exist on the periphery of relationships—the fluttering feeling of one taking hold (“Higher”), the cold feet accompanying a friendship turning into a committed romance (“The One”), and the aftermath of bonds broken gradually or suddenly (“Roses”). She’s disconcerted by her boyfriend’s emotional coldness when he can’t cry, or when she wakes in the night to see his car’s headlights dancing on the wall as he leaves unannounced for the umpteenth time. Her idea of showing the guy she’s pissed at who’s who is walking to the store. It’s not really sexy; despite Jepsen turning the big three-oh, she remains fairly conservative on that end, which really shouldn’t be surprising considering her biggest songs are both post-adolescent flirtations—“Call Me Maybe,” where it’s that operative ‘maybe’ that hints and teases at possibility without being explicit, and “I Really Like You,” where, well, she just really likes you.
On Emotion Side B, Jepsen churns out a series of choruses so irresistible, so obvious, so transcendent of the 80s synthy dance pop it nostalgically emulates that it’s a real head-scratcher why none of these were included on Emotion in the first place. But that’s fine. This is pop as confection—not nutrition as Emotion intended to be—so sugary sweet you could get a cavity just from listening, another reason why the under-30-minute runtime is a boon. Supposedly something like 200 songs were written in preparation for recording Emotion, and if this EP snack is indicative of the rest of that material, Jepsen should never run out of courses—and choruses—to serve. A MINUS