#14. Carly Rae Jepsen: Emotion

Who would’ve thought that Carly Rae Jepsen would release the most cohesive pop album of the year? The cute and catchy lead single “I Really* Like You” seemed to foreshadow an album full of playful, eyelash-batting pop in the same vein as her smash hit “Call Me Maybe.” Instead, Emotion turned out to be her most mature work yet.

Her third album features carefully manicured production that elevates her swooning to new levels of gloss and polish. This is in part thanks to a crack team of songwriting collaborators, but it also feels like her sound—while remaining youthful—is shedding some of its juvenility. The songs about crushes are still omnipresent, but the boys she sings about no longer rule her world. On “Boy Problems,” she sings, “I think I broke up with my boyfriend today and I don’t really care / I’ve got worse problems.” She’s not letting her emotions lead her anymore, and by acknowledging that they’re not the end-all be-all she actually seems to have grown more in touch with them.

If her previous albums felt like pop music choreographed for a high school prom, then Emotion feels like a dance party in the rain. But even at her most playful, Jepsen takes her exuberance seriously. A perfect example is the echoing sax riff that plays a core role on album opener “Run Away With Me.” It possesses none of the irony that the saxophone has become associated with in recent pop music—and thank god for that, because Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night” had enough Kenny G for a lifetime.

Jepsen is still a bit overshadowed by her contemporaries. It’s hard to make an album with this much 1980s luster and not live in the shadow of Taylor Swift’s 1989. But she seems to be okay with that. She’s not going to change the world with her music, and she’s not trying to. But by looking inward and writing an album about something as universal as “emotion,” she’s created her most accessible and tightly edited album to date.

*Really Really Really Really Really