Sunday, 17 January 2016

i break all the rules for you: carly rae jepsen's dynamic defiance

don't be fooled by carly rae jepsen's sweet-like-candy exterior, for what lies beneath is a heart clearly hardened by heartbreak, and there is no clearer demonstration of this than the lyrics on her sophomore release, E•MO•TION. this is an album that just keeps on giving, hence why this is my third post i've written about it. 

every song on this album has layers upon layers of sonic and lyrical brilliance, and every time i listen i uncover something new, like a precious jewel. but the emotional intensity jepsen puts into this album is worth more than every sparkling diamond on earth. it's real and it's raw and it breaks my heart every time. 

the brilliance of carly rae jepsen is her ability to make you feel like her best friend as she talks you through her various heartbreaks. i can see it now; me and carly rae sat at a rooftop bar somewhere, her on her third (or fourth or fifth) glass of wine, spilling her secrets to the skies and stars above. boy problems, who's got em? she sings on the track of the same name, and though i've never been to a carly rae jepsen show (will she ever come to england?) i can see all the teenage girls in the audience, wide eyed with admiration, staring up at their idol on stage as she sings this line to them, united in heartache. it reminds me of a scene in one of my favourite films, 13 going on 30, where the lead character jenna rink hosts a sleepover for one of the girls who lives in her building, and all her friends, and they share a magical moment soundtracked by pat benetar. that for me is the whole ethos behind this album, a giant sleepover for every girl in the world who's been wronged by someone they once loved.

if her debut album kiss was the honeymoon period, E•MO•TION is the messy break up that followed. underneath the sparkling synths and pounding drum beats lies a wealth of poignant, perfectly pensive lyrics. i break all the rules for you, break my heart and start again, jepsen sings on third single, your type. i'm not the type of girl for you, and i'm not going to pretend that i'm the type of girl you'd call more than a friend, goes the chorus, and from anyone else these lyrics would be depressing, but the effervescence of jepsen's voice makes it sound more like she's coming to terms with this, coming out of it stronger than ever, the sun shining down on her jet black locks. carly rae jepsen is not a cynic, she's just masquerading as one. 

when i needed you is another punch-in-the-gut, getting-the-fuck-over-you anthem. you come to me in dreams at night, she muses. but then, i wake up and i see the light. jepsen will be damned if she lets this guy walk all over her. cause where were you for me, when i needed someone? she sings on the chorus, and i can picture this guy, whoever he is, hearing these lyrics for the first time and realising what a mistake he's made. it'll be subtle though, taking him by surprise. "hey man, have you heard this?" his friend will go, one night at a party, and play the song through the shitty speakers of his iPhone and his whole world will collapse. i know, i know that i won't change for you, sings jepsen in the final chorus, and i want to stand up and applaud her so hard my hands begin to bleed, for having the courage to remain true to herself in a world that values a woman's relationship with men over anything else. 

boy problems is fabulously flippant. i think i broke up with my boyfriend today, and i don't really care, goes the chorus, and i can imagine jepsen telling her friend this over the phone, filing her nails as she spills the details, her heart beginning to heal as she puts on her dancing shoes and goes into the night seeking out a new adventure. what's worse, losing a lover or losing your best friend? she ponders in the bridge. she's been giving, you've been taking, taking, taking, she sings, and every time she sings "taking" it feels like a blow to the head. she's angry and she wants him to know it. once again, true (female) friendship prevails, and jepsen is safe, safe in the arms of her girlfriends as they sway tipsily on the dance-floor to their favourite beyoncé song, safe in the knowledge that they will be there no matter what. 

jepsen isn't totally heartless though. it's clear she still harbours some feelings for her ex-lover, and this is seen in the title track, E•MO•TION. this a song peppered with what-ifs and wishful thinking. what if i turned the lights right down? she ponders. you and me in the dark right now, i feel it. determined not to get caught up in a daydream though, she powers through, obliterating everything in her path as she does so. be tormented by me babe, wonder, wonder how i do, goes the verse, and it's clear she feels nothing. no remorse, no regret. drink tequila for me babe, let it hit you cold and hard. she wants him to hurt. all my kisses, say you miss it, and you can't forget me. it's clear she's in control, taunting him with thoughts of what could have been. this is revenge best served cold. 

one song i am devastated never made the final cut of E•MO•TION is love again, a japanese bonus track (why do they get all the good stuff?). the optimism is strongest on this one. even though my love is true, i know that we can't be together, she sings, matter-of-factly. don't you know it hurts for a reason? goes the chorus, and it's there again, that knack she has of speaking directly to the listener, to the boy who broke her heart. time will take you back to believing, you'll learn to love again, she tells him, almost sympathetic, so different from the biting fury of when i needed you. somewhere out there, someone is breathing, just for you, their heart keeps on beating, she reassures him, and the rest of us too. 

jepsen channels her aggression and intensity into the softer, more gentle sides of love too. cause i want what i want but with you it's what i need, she sings on gimme love, a sultry, mid-tempo ballad that results in a spectacular crescendo upon reaching the bridge. it's the way we are together, wanna feel like this forever, and i never thought i'd ever say forever, she sings, and the intensity goes right through me like a spark, bringing me to tears every time. forever is a scary word, but jepsen's lyrics make it feel like anything is possible. i'll share my secrets and i will not hide; i know that one could be two, she sings, almost in a whisper, confiding in him, in all of us, and i know that giddy curiosity that comes with a new crush, the possibilities stretched out before her like the ocean. 

there's more of the same on making the most of the night. this song is a sharp inhale, knocking the breath right out of me. it starts off quiet, unassuming. you and me, we've been hanging around for the longest time; i know when you're down, know what you need to get you high. then the song itself takes off, higher and higher. i'm coming to get you, to get you, to get you, goes the pre-chorus. something big is about to happen. here i come to hijack ya, hijack ya, begins the chorus. i know you've had a rough time, but here i come, imma hijack you, hijack you, it continues. here she comes, speeding through the night, busting down her lover's door, confident in her belief that she can fix whatever's broken just by being there for them, a rare glimpse of naivety in amidst the take-no-shit attitude of this album's lyrical content. 

there's a pattern that weaves its way through this album, soft then hard, and soft again. so simple yet complex, pulling you in, then pushing you away. jepsen is in control of this album, of her career, of where she wants to go, and i'm excited to follow her on this journey, wherever she ends up. 

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