Matt on Music: Carly Rae Jepsen's 'Kiss'

 

Carly Rae Jepsen’s new LP, “Kiss,” opens with “Tiny Little Bows.” The song begins with a disco-synth riff, followed by a voice singing, “Cupid, draw back your bow and let your arrow go.” Any ’60s soul fan can tell you, after listening to this, that it is a sample of Sam Cooke’s “Cupid,” although Cooke’s voice has been placed in a much higher register.

This sample is bizarre. It could just be coincidental that it opens the album, but no other song on “Kiss” contains a sample this obvious or interesting. In fact, the rest of the album is pretty devoid of samples. If anything, “Tiny Little Bows” opens the album to catch those expecting a boring album off guard. It might also be there to convince people that Jepsen has a wide variety of musical influences (her cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” seemed to attempt this too).

While “Tiny Little Bows” certainly catches you off guard, it will most likely not inspire detractors to change their minds about Jepsen as an artist, especially if they don’t get what’s so special about “Call Me Maybe.”

What’s so special about “Call Me Maybe” lies in the themes as much as the music. It flips teen pop on its head and reveals the absurdity behind it all. Jepsen gets flak for singing songs about teen romance at the age of 26, but it’s no worse than Justin Bieber singing “Baby” at the age of 16.

At least Jepsen had the good sense not to treat it like adult romance. “Call Me Maybe” is a fantasy; a silly crush song that encourages teenagers to enjoy their crushes before the real heartache comes. Chances are there won’t be a better song released this year.

Songs as good as “Call Me Maybe” are not common, so it would be wishful thinking to expect an album to be filled with them. But, from the album cover to the song titles, “Kiss” screams “quickly produced album meant to accommodate an unexpectedly successful single.” That’s why it’s surprising how solid the whole album is. For the first four tracks, it even seems like it could be the best radio-pop LP of this year. Then, there are problems.

One of the biggest flaws on “Kiss” comes directly after the four killer tracks that open the album. “Good Time,” the second biggest single released from the album so far, is a duet with Adam Young of Owl City.

The song is not unlike “The Terminator,” as a human woman attempts to escape from a robot who desperately wants to destroy her. “Good Time” proves that Jepsen is one of the most likable singers alive by having her sing with a man who uses auto-tune like he’s addicted to it. The parts of the song with Jepsen are enjoyable, but Young’s performance makes it something of a mixed bag.

While “Good Time” would be a much better song without Owl City, “Beautiful,” Jepsen’s duet with Justin Bieber, is not so lucky. If anything can be said about “Good Time,” it’s that it isn’t thematically unpleasant. It’s a basic fun song, and possibly the least morally-opposable pop song of the year.

But “Beautiful” has problems way beyond Bieber. The main line of the song is, “What makes you so beautiful is you don’t know how beautiful you are to me.” This same theme was covered recently in One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful,” and the idea that insecurity makes someone beautiful is very offensive. Let’s hope this doesn’t become a common theme in pop music.

“Kiss” ends with “Guitar String/Wedding Ring,” an iffy song where the catchiness is dragged down because of the poor lyrics, and “Your Heart is a Muscle,” which sounds like Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” and accomplishes the incredible task of making you wish you were listening to that song.

It does not have a very solid finish, but “Kiss” makes up for it with eight solid tracks, including “This Kiss” (a recently released single that you can expect to hear on the radio soon), the single-worthy “Turn Me Up” and the potential breakup anthem “Tonight I’m Getting Over You.”

The album has a level of consistency you don’t see in many dance-pop LPs. “Kiss” may not be the best radio-pop album of the year, or even one of the best albums released this year, but it’s better than it had to be. Jepsen went the extra mile with this record, and it’s hard not to appreciate that. When an artist’s filler is as good as “More Than a Memory,” it’s safe to say they have a good future in pop music.

Key Tracks: “Call Me Maybe,” “Turn Me Up,” “Tonight I’m Getting Over You” and “Hurt So Good.”


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