In Albums Of The Year, A.V. Club staffers write about a record that defined 2016 for us. Maybe it isn’t the year’s absolute best record—or even our No. 1 favorite—but it’s one that, without it, music would have been a whole lot less interesting.
Carly Rae Jepsen, Emotion: Side B
The best lyric in Carly Rae Jepsen’s best song on her top-notch Emotion: Side B goes, “You pulled a gem out of a mess / I’m blessed / So cynical before, I must confess.” It’s hard to imagine Jepsen ever being cynical; she entered our lives crooning “Call Me Maybe,” a song so upbeat it could have been written by a smiley face emoji. This year’s addendum to Emotion is still comfort food, but Jepsen’s also very clearly an adult in these albums, one who has landed on optimism rather than falling prey to it thanks to naïveté. It’s a nice perspective to adopt in these times.
Side B was one of the only good surprises that happened in 2016. Jepsen released it at the end of August, injecting a little bit of life into a fairly dreary summer for music—and, you know, life. Like its predecessor, Side B is another collection of energizing, ’80s-inflected tunes. Among them, the stand out is the previously mentioned “Higher,” written by Claude Kelly and Greg Kurstin. It goes without saying that the song is derivative. There’s a throbbing beat that feels cribbed from a Robyn outtake and a Whitney Houston-style yelp of an opening line with shades of “How Will I Know.” But all the allusions aren’t a fault. It’s deliciously nostalgia-triggering, while also being deceptively complex. In the compellingly phrased chorus, Jepsen’s processing her new relationship in the context of her past. It’s similar to her repetition on “Body Language” of the line, “I think we’re overthinking it.” If you have to say it twice, you’re definitely overthinking it. As the EP winds down there’s the delightfully bizarre “Store,” a school-yard taunt of a break-up song in which Jepsen walks out on her lover by going shopping. Each track contains amusing idiosyncrasies like these.
While Jepsen’s songs are surprisingly deep, at their core they are pure fun. She’s here to entertain us, and that she does.