The big money wasn’t on Canadian Idol runner-up Carly Rae Jepsen to rule the pop in 2012, yet with the simple teenage crush cultural zeitgeist ‘Call Me Maybe’, Jepsen was suddenly everywhere.
Parodied, covered and tributed from Antarctica to Sesame Street (Cookie Monster’s ode of baked goods ‘Share It Maybe’), nothing on Jepsen’s sophomore release, ‘Kiss’ (her first internationally), comes close to the ubiquity of the pop behemoth of the year. Yet its pop pedigree will quickly dismiss those who are quick to brand ‘one hit wonder’ to Jepsen’s perky behind.
Second single, ‘Good Time’, a collaboration with Owl City, is all Katy Perry sparkle and synth, with a saccharine chorus that is equal parts hands in the air raver and twee Disney-lite. A calculated follow up that stretches both singers into new territories.
Thematically ‘Kiss’ sticks to the mantra of teenage love and angst and in parts simply shines. ‘This Kiss’ (her third single) is the album’s strongest cut. Co-produced by LMFAO’s RedFoo, who leaves the party rock at the door, ‘This Kiss’ evokes ‘8os keys and California guitars and is wrapped up in a cutesy, but assured vocal.
‘Turn Me Up’ delivers in spades, with a warm, breezy feel that never overstays its welcome, whilst ‘Curiosity’ and ‘Tonight I’m Getting Over You’ are the kind of assured electro-pop numbers Kylie should have her management trying to wrangle for her next release.
Jepsen delivers her material from the perspective of typical 16 year old pop pixie, yet at 27 years old her voice belies her age and it’s here that some movements feel calculated or simply fail to get out of second gear. ‘Guitar String / Wedding Ring’ is simply undercooked and grates with its cheesy metaphors, Justin Bieber duet ‘Beautiful’ exists simply to draw the Bieber Believers in with its folk-lite approach. Many tracks simply try to mould themselves to the first/new/lost love mantra and at 13 tracks, simply feel exhausting and repetitive (the drab, plodding ‘More Than A Memory’, the naff ‘Your Heart Is A Muscle’).
‘Kiss’ carries a carefree innocence that in the days of pop-shock (Ke$ha’s drunken glitter warrior, Gaga’s heavy handed arthouse, Rihanna’s sexual theatrics) is actually refreshing to climb aboard. Romance, not lust is driving force behind Carly Rae and Jepsen has created a bubbly pop funhouse that is fun to visit, yet also is bogged down in its mission operando of hooray for everything.
Carly Rae Jepsen certainly has the sheen and vocal chops to make it in the pop sphere and with the right momentum big things may await. A surprising pop treat, just make sure to brush quickly after.