PART 2 - EPILOGUE
So there it was.
Every single song on the album seemed connected, blatantly. Often the same words were used to describe the same emotions of regret, escape, secrets, longing and sadness.
The need for instant gratification, the idea of forbidden love, escapism that might potentially lead to disappointment, again and again. The pattern of infatuation and rejection becomes undeniable, thematically.
The album has very few metaphors and very little symbolism; the lyrics speak frankly, and when you read them, even quickly, their meaning is obvious.
Under a cursory level of analysis, EMOTION goes from sparkly, fun pop album about the thrill of a crush, to a frantic, desperate search for fleeting emotional validation from a man who wants you enough to hook up, but doesn’t want you enough to stick around.
Its pop synths shift from dance-y to ethereal, and suddenly the strange, ghostly opening sounds of I Really Like You and Making The Most Of The Night take a somewhat sinister tone. The wolf's howl at the end of Let's Get Lost stands out as a particularly bizarre and haunting moment viewed from this new vantage point.
Despite the bright and shiny music, EMOTION is not what it seems.
Manic up and downs. Things repeatedly being stated as out of control or openly dark or bad decisions. Romantic obsession that acknowledges and disregards the disdain of its focus. Begging for affection and love. Vindictive anger at rejection coupled with pleas for reconciliation and anxiety at being forgotten.
All of the songs were PROVABLY, inarguably connected by themes, both macro and micro. Even the superficially goofy LA Hallucinations and Boy Problems still centered around romantic loss and rejection in one way or another.
But wasn’t there something else there?
Alongside the major themes, all those little micro themes do seem to form a narrative.
Lyrically, it seems to tell the story of a young hesitant, shy girl who was going through a rough emotional situation, until she fell in love with an overworked/unhappy/emotionally unavailable platonic male friend, possibly a professional peer.
He flirted with her first, and she hesitated, but finally gave in and things got out of control, becoming sexual. This is characterized as “wrong” or a morally “dark” choice, needing to be kept a secret. They have a brief romantic, or at least sexual relationship; it’s escapist fun, but she becomes obsessed, says things she regrets.
He ultimately rejects her, trying to step back the relationship to “just friends,” she is devastated and endlessly pleads for him to give her a second chance, frantically switching between open begging and attempts at manipulation, appealing to his black heart or worst nature.
There’s some manifestation of this in every song on the album; hesitation, pleas for escapist exclusivity, followed by regret and sadness. These are not “common pop themes.”
We aren't watching the bloom of a love affair. We're witnessing a very catchy car wreck.
I rationalized with myself, and googled “Carly Rae Jepsen Friend Zone,” and found only one result: Jepsen has, in interviews, confessed that “Your Type” was written about a man she wanted that didn’t want her back.
Maybe this album could simply, subconsciously be processing a phenomenon that happened to her often, just a bad dating habit. Maybe it was just her co-writers. Or maybe it was processing a single incident? Or forming many different incidents into one thing. I wasn’t sure, and I didn’t care.
What I knew was: EMOTION was apparently a concept album. That would be a funny think-piece for Medium or something. And, hey, crazy, I was the first person to notice it, or at least the first person to write it down.
“Why does Carly Rae keep getting friend-zoned?” Haha, that’s a click.
That’s a click. I could write a thing that could maybe get some clicks.
So why did I feel like I was missing something?
Why did it feel so much like they were all about ONE guy, ONE regret, ONE incident. Why did the rubric of themes dominate every song, so reliably? Was this normal? Were all pop albums like this? It felt so razor sharp; I was so attracted to you but I knew it was a bad idea, please escape with me, oh no you told me we’re just friends and now I’m alone.
All of the songs on the album were one of those three stories, which of course could be combined to form one story, if you felt imaginative. But shit, my spider-sense was going crazy…There was something. There was still something there I was missing.
I looked back at my list.
• TEMPTATION (SEXUAL)
I sat in my office. It had gotten dark outside. Rain spattered against the window.
I looked at the subtheme list:
Stuck In My Head/Trapped By Emotions
Saying Something You Regret
Friends Upgrading To Lovers
Lovers Downgrading To Friends
Alone With Someone
Didn’t Come Here To Dance
In Your Arms
Spending The Night Together
Staying Up All Night
Not Saying Something
Saying Something Without Actually Speaking
Separation by Physical Distance/Geography
All The Other Boys
Lover In A Bad Or Dark/Place She Could Save Him From
Cars and Driving
In A Bad Or Dark Place Before She Met Her Lover
My mind wandered back to “Call Me Maybe.” The lyric “I wasn’t looking for this, but now you’re in my way” slithered into my head. The idea of the man she wants to call her as an unintended romance. “You’re in my way.”
“In my way.” That isn’t romantic. It is, when you think about it, kind of a weird thing to say. Especially paired with the later “I took my time with the fall, you gave me nothing at all, but still you’re in my way.”
That actually kind of fit neatly with subtheme I’d discovered of being “stuck” in someone’s head. Or, hm, maybe I was reaching.
“You took your time with the call.” “You gave me nothing at all.” Wait, was I reaching? Or…Why the fuck was there a “this dude didn’t end up wanting me” section on a song about flirtatiously giving a guy your number? Wasn’t this ultimately a LIMERENCE/REJECTION song?
No that was stupid. Or was it?
I opened Spotify again on a whim, and summoned up Jepsen’s sophomore album, KISS, from 2012, home to “Call Me Maybe” and exactly zero other songs I’d heard, other than the utterly weightless “Good Time” collaboration with Owl City, on which Carly only had one verse.
As I understood it, KISS was, like EMOTION, a heavily produced pop album. I reckoned it probably contained a bunch of overproduced songs about fun in the summer, dancing, best friends, maybe one about candy or fireworks or being a cool girl, stuff like that.
I clicked play on the first song, “Tiny Little Bows.”
My eyes widened.
I sat quietly listening until the song finished, leaving only the sound of the rain. I was slouched in my seat, staring at my laptop’s black screen, having gone into sleep mode during the song.
My mind was racing.
I clicked play on the second song, “This Kiss.” After the first five lyrics, I fumblingly clicked pause, sitting straight up in my seat.
“Holy fucking shit.” I muttered. “Wait. No way.”
I was alone in the office, but I said it again, just to hear the words.
“Holy. Fucking. Shit.”