Music Review: Carly Rae Jepsen, "Curiosity" EP
Release Date: February 14, 2012
Label: 604 Records
· Official Site
by Paul Schultz
Published: December 31, 2012
Before "Call Me Maybe" was covered by Olympics-bound girls and the Harvard baseball team, before it was given the full choral/orchestral treatment, Carly Rae Jepsen had arisen from Mission, British Columbia to achieve moderate success in Canada, mostly for coming in third on Canadian Idol in 2007. Then some fellow Canuck musician named Justin Bieber tweeted about the song and suddenly it's this worldwide thing.
That summer hit was released as a single in the United States, but appears on the six-song EP, Curiosity, on Vancouver's 604 Records. "Call Me Maybe" began life innocently enough as an on-the-road collaboration with her guitarist Tavish Crowe and final polishing by Josh Ramsay of Marianas Trench. It wasn't even the distributor's choice for lead single, which probably tells you all you need to know about the established record industry's demise. A gay-themed music video considerably lessens its charm, but it still went #1 in many countries including the U.S. and Canada.
"I was and still am very much inspired by the
James Taylors and the Van Morrisons of the
world. Those are the types of music I will
love until the day that I die," explains Carly
Rae Jepsen of her switch from coffeehouse
singer-songwriter material to glossy pop.
"But I also feel life is about exploration and
for whatever reason I kept coming back to
La Roux and Dragonette and these sounds I
wanted to try myself."
For the bulk of this disc, if you are a naive schoolgirl prone to infatuation this stuff will be right up your alley. Flirtation with the neighbor ("Talk to Me") or long-distance ("Picture"), or downright stalking ("Curiosity"), the condition is summed up in the title track ("I'm sick with love, sick like a disease"). The maturity level rises dramatically toward the end of the set, from true romance ("Just a Step Away") to blunt worldliness ("Both Sides Now").
Producer Ryan Stewart co-wrote three of the tunes and apparently likes getting right into the lyrics since almost all the songs start with virtually no musical intro. He does have a knack for setting a beat, and that's the overall impression you'll be left with when taken as a whole. Jepsen's lone solo writing credit goes to "Picture" which is kind of like "An Affair to Remember" for the junior set ("You name the day and I will pick the city/We'll fly away/Till then, call me when you miss me"). If it was a Friends episode it would be titled "The One About the Misnamed Song That Should Be Called 'Just Say When'."
Jepsen's vocals have a certain charisma, with a little breathy huskiness there, and a little will-she-actually-hit-that-note? there. No more is the latter evidence then on "Just a Step Away," a reworking of her father's wedding song he wrote for her step-mother. She does some octave harmony with herself that diverges from the vocal delivery on the rest of the material.
|Carly Rae Jepsen, "Curiosity" EP
|1. Call Me Maybe
4. Talk to Me
5. Just a Step Away
6. Both Sides Now
The disc concludes with a nod to the style she showcased on 2008's independently released debut album Tug of War. Joni Mitchell first recorded "Both Sides Now" for her Clouds LP in 1969. She re-recorded the song in a jazz style for the album of the same name, released in 2000. But even Mitchell couldn't imagine adapting the song for the dance floor, as Jepsen does here, and while she may be horrified at the prospect, the sheer catchiness of the track gives it life for the modern listener.
The monster success of "Call Me Maybe" may have sealed her stylistic choice for the foreseeable future. Curiosity convincingly shows that she can pull off this bubblegum pop. What may save her career from the mindless dance filler where Britney Spears now dwells is that acoustic singer-songwriter foundation from whence she came.