Published Sep 01, 2016Carly Rae Jepsen is the queen of beating the odds — or maybe just our doubts. She's a critically acclaimed nostalgia pop artist free of the embarrassing high school yearbook photo that is being a former Canadian Idol contestant, an escapee from her bombastic 2012 hit "Call Me Maybe" that flew too close to the sun of a one-hit wonder and a favourite collaborator of producers as innovative as Dev Hynes and PC Music's Danny L Harle.
While her 2015 album E•MO•TION was a critical breakthrough, even earning a nomination for this year's Polaris Music Prize, the barrier that prevented Jepsen from reaching massive commercial success was overthought. Although, as she told Stereogum, Jepsen knew that "Run Away With Me" was the album's rightful lead single, label pushback made her doubt it all and go with the tamer, more "Call Me Maybe"-esque first impression "I Really Like You." Altogether, it makes Jepsen putting out a collection of B-sides from E•MO•TION feel like an act of freedom, allowing us to hear her at her most carefree upon the album's one-year anniversary. It's shimmering, lush pop tailor-made for these final nights of summer.
Unlike many B-side collections, much of E•MO•TION: Side B has single potential to the point where it's crazy that high-energy synth-pop gems like "First Time," "Higher" and "Body Language" were left off of E•MO•TION for mid-tempo bonus cuts like "Black Heart." Side B is a sugar-sweet set of fun lover songs, including the dynamic "Fever," tender "Cry" and funky, throbbing "The One." Jepsen's only real misstep here is "Store," whose nursery-rhyme chorus "I'm just going to the store, to the store" launched hundreds of memes and stands as the weakest hook of her E•MO•TION era.
All of the B-sides that shoulda-coulda-woulda given E•MO•TION more sparkle raise the question of whether they were all blueprints to "Run Away With Me," first-drafts of a single meant to define the megahit of E•MO•TION. And yet, in their raw state, they show Jepsen at her most powerful and unfettered, each a Polaroid-flash impression of the light, colour and fun her music embodies.
To borrow the hook of "Body Language," if the rollout of E•MO•TION was overthinking it, Side B finds Jepsen coming to a sweet realization: Don't think it over. (Sony)