Before I wrote this entry I thought I would do a little research. Research these days (for stuff that remains unpaid) entails clicking on the most obvious link Google throws up. And so it is, I find myself reading an article in Cosmopolitan about why Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion is the best pop album of 2015. In this, Cosmo mirrors much of the current poptimism that still infuses music writing in the more cultured mainstream.
I need to be a little careful here. A few years ago – round the time of ‘Call Me Maybe’ and the slew of overtly patronising articles it engendered from early thirtysomething writers gushing about the last rose of spring – I found myself on the wrong side of an argument with a London hivemind, accusing those involved in being deliberately disingenuous when it came to professing their love for Ms Jepsen, purposefully dumb. About five months ago I finally got ‘Call Me Maybe’ (it followed Taylor Swift and Beyoncé, in that order), and felt like a right fool. Carping when I should have been surrendering. I still do not get Duran Duran but have always loved Pet Shop Boys and Erasure.
This has little to do with my perspective as a parent, or how my perspective has been confounded by my lack of choices. I have not played Emotion in the household yet, and knew from the descriptors I read before I heard it that I would like it (one bonus of being a timeworn critic is that it is transparently easy to read between the lines of other criticisms). It provides an easy resource, a frothy get-out the way Kylie so rarely does. Pop music like Beiber and ‘Baby’ but without the creepy sex (I still dislike his current album). The Cosmo article is odd, though. It refers to Jepsen utilising that first resort of the scoundrel, alliteration: “She’s forward, flirty, and fun”. Is she? Well, duh. Is that not the whole of pop music we are describing here, not just one artist? “There are no […] outsider anthems to be found here, no Adele power ballads you’ll cry to in your car”. Well, duh. Adele is not pop*. She only has one trick up her sleeve.
Cosmo is correct in a couple of important respects, though. “It’s not about somebody else’s narrative,” they write, pointing out the anonymity of the pop star herself, how her personality does not intrude upon your enjoyment. (Should not all singers be this way, be interpreters of songs instead of letting the songs interpret them? No, do not answer that. I enjoy both visual images.) “She leaves room for the most important person in a pop song: you.” What me? The most important person in a pop song is the parent? I do not think so.
She is not better than Taylor Swift because Taylor Swift is that fucking good because she a) has the songs and b) is Taylor Swift (the same way David Bowie can occasionally be that good). But the songs on Emotion are as good as the songs on 1989, divorced of the annoying ephemera and personality deals (which some might argue is what pop is all about). What I mean is, if these songs were sung by Swift they would be sensational, but as they are sung by Jepsen they are… wait, what? Sensational.
Yes they are.
I have become attracted to pop music as a parent because I no longer have any use for tribes (and tribes of parents just look ridiculous). And just sometimes it is nice to hear pop music that is Erasure good.
*unless you choose to define her that way