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Kiss

It’s late 2011. Former Canadian Idol third-placer Carly Rae Jepsen releases a new song called “Call Me Maybe.” At this point, she’s only released one album, 2008’s Tug of War. Considering the folk-poppy sound of her earlier work, “Call Me Maybe” is a major change in style for her. Written as a folk song, it’s remodeled into a dance-pop tune with the help of producer Josh Ramsay. In November 2011, it receives mediocre reviews from writers at The Singles Jukebox. Alfred Soto writes, “The ambivalence of the title metaphor is a problem... the ‘maybe’ gets the wrong stress, as if the songwriters understood on what kind of tightrope they were walking with this performer.” (He later ranked it among his favorite singles of the decade.) It only takes a few months for the song to become a hit and, by the end of 2012, Billboard names it the second biggest song of the year. Critics also love the song; in the 2012 Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll, it’s voted the best single of the year.

Flash-forward two years. Jepsen’s Emotion is released… in Japan. After numerous bad marketing strategies, the album is finally released in the United States on August 21, 2015. It doesn’t even crack the Billboard Top 10. By the end of the year, it’s voted the third best album of the year in Pazz & Jop, cementing Jepsen as a critical darling even at her least commercial.

If it seems like the content of a few years is missing from this synopsis, then you know what it’s like to be a fan of Jepsen’s 2012 album Kiss. Without Kiss, there would be no Emotion, because the former’s atoms of excitable pop evolve in a linear way toward the latter’s conceptual integrity. Kiss showed that Jepsen could compile a collection of songs that was not only consistent but also gave her a persona, that of a young wo...