She’s 26. She’ll be 27 in November. Keep that in perspective, OK? That’s a solid decade after most pop princesses get their start in the biz. At 16, you have to wonder if Carly Rae Jepsen knew it all would eventually happen. These days, we laugh at 22-year-old Taylor Swift for gleefully harping on “never ever EVER getting back together” and sticking with subject matter more appropriate for high schoolers than 20-somethings. With a radio audience that goes though pop singles faster than you can say “the new Britney,” who says you even have to grow up, at all?
And “the new Britney” Carly is not. There’s nothing that screams “sex” or “scandalous” about Carly Rae Jepsen’s sophomore (but really, the first one that counts) record, innocently entitled “Kiss.” There’s no orgasm-breathing, no threesome-referencing. In fact, “Kiss” is more like “Hit Me Baby One More Time” than any other Britney record — sweet, poppy, young and polished. It might be one of the best pop records of the year.
“Guys, been listening to ‘Tiny Little Bows’ nonstop, help,” reads a tweet from a male friend of mine from college, a dude who leans far more underground than Top 40. I feel for him. The opening track on “Kiss” is completely addictive, with slightly sped-up vocals, rhyming couplets and electro-pop beats that make me think CRJ tapped Passion Pit for production. The third single from the record, “This Kiss,” is a perfect follow up to “Good Time.” The ’90s vibe jives well with the rest of the album, which oozes with pop influences from better days.
I had to skip over “Call Me Maybe.” Surely you understand.
While you’re at it, gloss over “Beautiful,” too. This weird duet with Jepsen’s younger Canadian mentor, Justin Bieber, is artificially sweetened with One Direction and Corinne Bailey Rae rips. “Curiosity” is superbly radio friendly, while “Hurt So Good” sounds like the old Girl Scouts adage. Sing along with “Make new friends / But keep the old / One is silver / And the other gold” and you won’t be off key. “Guitar String/Wedding Ring” is where Carly finally reaffirms her age. No 16-year-old member of Disney Royalty is singing about marriage just yet. Bottom line: skip the ballads and turn up the Kylie Minogue-ish electro pop.
After a bit of a dryspell in the late 2000s, millennials whined that “they don’t make pop music like the used to.” You can stop it with this sentiment, friends. They’re making it again.
Allison Berger is a Philadelphia-based writer and a pop music columnist for Reverb. Check out more of her writing here.