(Photo Credit: B51 Photography
When the R train began crossing a bridge -- I have no idea which bridge; what bridge does the B train usually go over? That's the track the R was running on -- I realized I was hopelessly lost. I've lived in NYC for eight months now, and I can find my way around to my regular haunts, but sometimes this city blesses you with a commute clusterf***, and my journey to Irving Plaza was one of those ordeals. The R/D/N/A/Q lines were all doing major construction which are the key ways I knew how to get to Union Square from Park Slope -- once again, not a native New Yorker -- and had I not had Emotion
blasting in my ears the whole ride, I don't think I would have made it to Carly Rae Jepsen's concert in one piece.
If you put a gun to my head and asked me to name my favorite record of 2015 -- not the one that I think is the best but the one that I would pick as my "bringing with me to a desert island" record -- it's without question Emotion
. I haven't played anything else from this year half as much. Not Tame Impala, not Kendrick Lamar, not Courtney Barnett. Not anything. If I'm feeling happy and I want a record to enhance those good vibes, I throw on Emotion
. If I'm feeling sad (and I was feeling sad on that train ride not because I was worried I was hopelessly lost but also because I'd just been through a break-up), I put on Emotion
, and I'm reminded that there's still warmth and happiness beneath all that sorrow. If I want to have melodies and hooks and choruses and clever verses stuck in my head all day, I throw on Emotion
. If that's not a qualification for a great record, and I don't know what is. And live, Carly Rae Jepsen lived up to those colossal expectations her record laid out.
In her fashionable black leather pants and black shirt and with her cropped black hair, Carly Rae looked more like Joan Jett than what you would immediately think of with the person who turned "Call Me Maybe" into the highest selling digital single of all time. And it's not difficult to explain why that makes sense. Carly Rae is a pop songwriter and performer in the classic sense of that word. She has more in common with Madonna and Michael Jackson and Prince than she does with Katy Perry or Ke$ha or Taylor Swift. The music comes first, not theatrics and personality. Which isn't to say Carly Rae doesn't have personality to spare. She may be on the dimunitive scale of people -- I'm relatively short for a guy but when we were photographer together once, I towered over Miss Jepsen -- but she projects a confidence and intelligence that is sorely lacking in the contemporary pop scene.
And during her packed house, showstopping set at Irving Plaza, Carly Rae Jepsen made me Emotion
. As a musicc critic/journalist, there's this expectation that you're supposed to be distant from the topics you cover. You can't be a fan; you can't lose yourself in the moment. You have to be distant and aloof and overtly intellectual. But when I saw Carly Rae at Irving Plaza, I didn't want to be those things, and I wasn't. I felt her music at the most primal levels. I felt the romantic yearning of "Run Away With Me." I wanted to love and be loved and let folks know the intensity of my emotions with "I Really Like You." Admitting that Carly and her melodies and lyrics moved me like I was a teenager all over again doesn't make me a bad critic. It makes me an honest one. And no other album and performer this year deserved the moniker of sheer Emotion
more than Carly Rae Jepsen.