Carly Rae Jepsen's Kiss is sticky-sweet dance pop
In spite of how it might appear, Carly Rae Jepsen did not come out of nowhere, nor did she arrive fully formed with her viral hit “Call Me Maybe”. The 26-year-old singer from Mission, B.C. (which, come to think of it, is as close to nowhere as you’re likely to get), got her first taste of fame in 2007 when she appeared as a contestant on Canadian Idol. The ever-smiling ingénue sang numbers by Janis Ian and Rickie Lee Jones, charming her way into a third-place finish. (Meanwhile, that season’s victor, Brian Melo, joins fellow Canadian Idol winners like Ryan Malcolm and Melissa O’Neil in the Whatever Happened To? file.)
Kiss is actually Jepsen’s second album; the first, Tug of War, came out in 2008, which in today’s hyper-accelerated pop culture is practically the Stone Age. Tug of War’s first single was a cover of John Denver’s “Sunshine on My Shoulders”, delivered over a folk-pop arrangement that was probably not coincidentally reminiscent of Chantal Kreviazuk’s take on “Leaving on a Jet Plane”.
With the exception of the low-key Justin Bieber duet “Beautiful”, Jepsen and her gang of cowriters and producers (I started to count how many there were but lost track) have largely dispensed with the acoustic guitars for Kiss. What remains is Jepsen’s squeaky-clean girl-next-door image, which is pretty effective in setting her apart from the legion of pop tarts who are her competition.
This is strictly Radio Disney dance pop, all glossy and sticky-sweet, and aimed at an audience of girls at least 10 years Jepsen’s junior. It’s no surprise that the inescapable “Call Me Maybe” is the catchiest of them all, but if you love that song, you’ll no doubt like the rest of them, at least until you’ve played them all to death or there’s a new Katy Perry album out, whichever comes first.
Note to parents who care about this sort of thing: when Jepsen sings “Turn me up/And turn me on” (on “Turn Me Up”, naturally), that’s as risqué as this album gets. Despite its title, “Hurt So Good” is not a lyrical ode to Fifty Shades of Grey.