Carly Rae Jepsen, ‘Kiss’ – Album Review
Carly Rae Jepsen isn’t a one tricky pony. She’s a two-to-three trick pony, if her debut U.S. album, ‘Kiss,’ is indication, and if she strays too far from what she knows, it doesn’t end that well. But when her regular two or three tricks are so good, you don’t mind hearing them over and over again… at least not at first.
The album’s opener, ‘Tiny Little Bows’ isn’t about wrapping paper or hair ribbons, but rather about the bows of the archery sort — specifically, Cupid’s. Though you’ll be singing along against your will after hearing it, the song has a somewhat irritating, repetitive verse, but the hook is, as Jepsen will prove typical of her tracks, insanely catchy. The melody is pretty similar to ‘Call Me Maybe,’ but with more electronic touches than her breakout pop ditty.
‘Bows’ is followed by Jepsen’s second single, ‘This Kiss,’ which she’s described as her favorite track from the record — and we can see why. The synth-heavy track is a great complement to Jepsen’s slight rasp.
‘Curiosity’ is instrumentally similar to ‘Call Me Maybe’ in terms of string arrangements, though the hook isn’t as immediately infectious as its predecessor. ‘More Than a Memory’ is a wistful, danceable midtempo tune about missing a former flame, similar to Katy Perry‘s ‘The One That Got Away.’
On ‘Turn Me Up,’ CRJ kisses off an ex (maybe she stopped missing that jerk) and makes us dance at the same time. ‘Hurt So Good’ isn’t a John Cougar Mellencamp cover, but rather more bubblegum perfection about having a crush on a platonic pal. This is a surefire hit among the tween and teen set that she’s targeting.
On her highly anticipated duet with Justin Bieber, ‘Beautiful,’ Jepsen’s vocals take center stage alongside a simple arrangement and Bieber’s harmonies. It’s another ode to a friend that you want that little extra set of benefits from. And no, Directioners — it doesn’t sound a thing like One Direction‘s ‘What Makes You Beautiful,’ despite comparisons over lyrical content.
Jepsen’s pulling no punches on ‘Tonight I’m Getting Over You,’ in which she lets a jerk know that she’s had enough — and she’s willing to go “dancing til the morning with somebody new” to prove it. It’s the most uptempo song on the record and if it’s released as a single, will likely become a club staple. ‘Guitar String / Wedding Ring’ is grating, in part because certain parts of the song put Jepsen’s breathy voice at the forefront — which would work better if the chorus wasn’t just her yelling.
She finally slows it down on ‘Your Heart is a Muscle,’ which isn’t an anatomy lesson but actually a lament on the difficulties of maintaining a long distance relationship, and she shows she needs to do some working out of her own when her voice struggles to reach lower registers.
‘Drive’ is essentially ‘Good Time Part II’ minus the monotone of Owl City‘s Adam Young. ‘Wrong Feels So Right’ employs sing-rapping in its verses that Kesha (and, occasionally, Lady Gaga) may be the only artist to make sound legitimate, especially since Jepsen speeds it up similarly to Amy Heidemann of Karmin, but somehow makes it slightly less intelligible. She gets back to her essence on ‘Sweetie,’ which is a ‘Call Me Maybe’ redux but with a more inspiring hook: “You’re not as lonely as you think you are.”
The lesson here? Jepsen is more than capable of writing and performing perfect pop confections, but don’t try to make her a dancing queen. It sounds disingenuous and doesn’t let the girl shine. However, Jepsen’s talents, while notable, will, like too much candy, feel good in the moment, but ultimately leave you wanting something a little more substantial later on to really satisfy you.
Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’re pretty sure we got a few cavities listening to all of this sugary pop perfection.
Watch the Carly Rae Jepsen ‘Call Me Maybe’ Video