Is autumn the new summer? Starbucks would like you to think so. The Pumpkin Spice Latte (#PSL), is a seasonal icon inseparably associated with autumn. I propose that the #PSL highlights a paradigm shift in which fall is replacing summer as the new “Utopia Season”–a reaction to today’s culture of information and expression, a culture of extreme heat.
When I think of heat I think of social media. Social media exposes and influences people’s thoughts on a highly subconscious level–a phenomenon which is transforming public opinion into a new kind of beast with a sharp set of teeth. Consider the multitude of interpretations that exist for the phrase “#AllLivesMatter” today as opposed to five years ago. Consider the scrutiny a person receives when aligning himself with this phrase now. With this in mind I say that if every person is a molecule, we are currently experiencing the phenomenon of increasing pressure. Pressure causes molecules to speed up and temperature to rise (or something like that). That is why I say, “Welcome to the heat era.”
Extreme heat might be why Carly Rae Jepsen dropped her sophomore album, “EMOTION,” at the end of August instead of the beginning of June. Three years ago, when Jepsen dropped her breakout single “Call Me Maybe,” it was the quintessential summer jam. However, it’s 2015 and the dog days of summer have changed. The season which was once like a commerical for Sunkist orange soda is now like Donald-Trump’s-hair-and-other-hot-topics-on-Twitter. Since the modern summer is for noise and the modern autumn is for divine vibes, “EMOTION” is an “autumn album.” And, as an autumn album, it’s pretty damn divine.
On to a proper review: “Call Me Maybe” didn’t do much for me as a song, so I probably wouldn’t have given any attention to a second Carly Rae Jepsen release had it not been for the string of singles she released in anticipation for this album. The first of these songs to catch my ear was the ballad “All That.” I loved the way the song incorporated textures which harken back to the 1980s but did so in a way that felt fresh. The song has been out for over a month now and it sounds like nothing else on pop radio. Shortly after the release of “All That” Jepsen dropped the track “Come Away With Me.” The soaring synth lead of the intro tickled my ear immediately and I loved how bombastic and colorful the production was. It felt like I was listening to a hyper-pop song. It was thanks to these tracks that I bought “EMOTION” on CD as soon as it came out. Luckily, I can say that every track on “EMOTION” is as infectious, colorfully produced and fresh-feeling as the lead singles.
One of the things I like so much about this album is the way in which the sounds are layered. A lot of pop music today likes to sound as big as possible, so you’ll hear five vocal tracks by the final chorus and it sounds overwhelming. “EMOTION” avoids this problem by spacing out and layering its sounds in a super skilled and creative way–you can tell the producers of this album were on their game. For example, I love the interplay between the lead vocals and the bubbly synth riff on the track “Emotion.” This track also has a peppy dance groove that sounds like something from Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall.” The whole song is super textured and a ton of fun to listen to. I also loved the instrumentation on the track “Boy Problems,” my favorite track on the album. The funky bass octaves and simple guitar comping made for an instrumental that’s slick and sweet, not to mention the hook is undeniably catchy. This song reminded me of something the band Phoenix would write, but for a female pop vocalist.
The list of sonic treasures on this album goes on. Every time I listen to “EMOTION” I get a sugar rush from the amazing hooks, but I also discover new nuggets of sound which catch my ear by surprise. Many of these sounds, like the tasteful vocal-synthesizer on “Gimmie Love,” reference a nostalgia for the 1980s yet they feel contemporary. This gets at the main reason why “EMOTION” is so exciting to me: I feel it best represents what the 2010s “sound like” as an era – an era that might be scary sometimes but ultimately makes me feel proud and exhilarated to be alive.
Howard is a member of
the class of 2017.