A song is a trick to let the light in. It’s a feeling pushed outside the body, emotion compelled to become sound. We listen so we can go there together, somewhere else. I play a song for you and hope it will help you know me. Did you like it? I ask, but that’s not really what I’m asking. This song is a place — this feeling is where I live. I want to know if you will go there with me. A feeling is a place we go together. A song is a shortcut back, even when you won’t come with me anymore. I tell you I like songs about pain and desire. No one talks like that, you say. But I am not talking. I think I am singing.
E•MO•TION is Carly Rae Jepsen’s third full-length album. Those syllables are important. Say it slow like the dictionary pronunciation demands. Maybe you thought it was her second album. The “Call Me Maybe” girl? Maybe you thought it was her only album. Maybe you’ve never even thought about it that much at all. You are not good with dates and facts like that. You don’t like pop music that much. You don’t like feelings that much. E•MO•TION is her third album, yes, but the first she’s released since the hyperspeed ascension of “Call Me Maybe.” It came out exactly one year ago today.
You can crawl inside a song like it’s a place, and I guess that this must be the place, and the songs stick to us like sweat, glistening close to our skin (I remember being naked). You hear the song and I watch you move instinctively, sweetly. We are moving to the feeling together; our bodies understand how to get to this place without speaking. It was never the bar, it was never the dress, it was never even the kiss. It was always the feeling. I’m even more sure of it now that it’s gone. Put me on loop. Am I stuck in your head? Maybe our bodies are just prisms for the songs to pass through like light. Or maybe my body is singing to you. It is saying: Baby, take me to the feeling.
When songs off E•MO•TION began to emerge last year I was living inside of my longest heartache, the one that bled the most. It seemed the pain was lodged in my body like a smashed bullet, a sliver of anguish that would flare up if I moved the wrong way, smearing my vision with darkness. I think grief remains the most foreign of all human emotions. It must be a blessing or evolutionary design that a thousand tragedies later we remain puzzled by loss. I find it endearing that I forget what grief feels like when I’m not in it, that I’m incredulous, still, every time something ends, every time someone leaves me. Wasn’t it supposed to be eternal? Didn’t you feel that too? Where were you for me, when I needed someone?
I would say I used to listen to E•MO•TION when I was numb, but that’s not quite right. I was trying to fall out of love and finding it incredibly difficult. It does not seem like an album full of love songs would’ve been comforting during this time. Strangely, it was, even if a year later, verses like ghosts still suck the breath out of me. I physically recoil at unexpected contact with certain choruses, like burning myself on something too hot, sucking my fingers afterward. This part is you moving in the dark. That hook is when I first understood you would leave me. Her voice — there — is when I realized I didn’t care, I would stay anyway, as long as you let me.
If my connection to this record is unlikely, it is not as unlikely as the record itself. Synopsis: A one-hit-wonder puts out an entirely perfect album of diverse, brilliant songs three years after her initial hit came out — and sells next to zero copies. Or maybe these two unlikely things are exactly the same. Maybe the meaningless clack of commercial success corresponds directly to the vacuum love leaves when it’s gone. After all, success is another kind of leaving. When you’re struggling you can’t grasp the worth of that urge — to make it, to show them, to find him — how could you know, then, that the before is worth more than the after? How could you know, then, that desire is its own reward? I think E•MO•TION wouldn’t be as meaningful if we had to share it with capitalism’s steely machinery; its commercial failure is part of what makes it continue to feel intimate, ours. I think love matters more to us once we lose it.