Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic
Jessica Goodman
August 26, 2016 AT 05:50 PM EDT

We gave it an A-

When Carly Rae Jepsen released E·MO·TION in 2015, it was a commercial flop. The album sold just over 16,000 units in its first week, and peaked at No. 16 on the charts. But it was by no means an artistic disaster—in fact, it was the best pop album of the year, and while it never matched the viral success of her 2012 breakout single “Call Me Maybe,” it cemented Jepsen as a beloved cult artist on par with dance-floor divas like Roisin Murphy, Robyn, and Peaches—they’ll never be Katys or Taylors, sure, but they’re easily the coolest girls in the room.

One year since that release, Jepsen is embracing her newfound cult status, not hiding from it. And she’s celebrating with an album of B-sides from the E·MO·TION sessions. It’s a succinct package, brimming with more infectious tales about broken hearts, getting friend zoned, and male crushes who are always out of reach, especially on songs like “Cry,” where Jepsen pines for a guy who “never wants to kiss and close his eyes.” Much like on E·MO·TION, 30-year-old Jepsen perfectly plays the part of a love-lorn high-schooler—as if she’s reprising the role of Molly Ringwald’s Sam Baker in Sixteen Candles.

Jepsen’s music on Side B could similarly soundtrack that John Hughes movie. Working with Greg Kurstin, Dev Hynes, and “Call Me Maybe” scribe Tavish Crowe, Jepsen crafts tunes full of warm synths, 808 grooves, and chintzy MIDI brass hooks. On “Fever,” her voice crackles when she whispers confessions of stealing an unrequited lover’s bike, and then on “Higher,” it swells into a stomping chorus, highlighted by backup singers’ hearty “woah-woah-woahs” and the most risqué line on the record: “Your love turns me on.”

When Jepsen released E·MO·TION, it was the tail end of Summer 2015, and that record was full of contenders for Song of Summer (“Run Away With Me,” “I Really Like You”). She’s debuting Side B at the same time this season—and given the massive pop hooks, it’s clear she’s also passing on the opportunity for that coveted title. But her timing shows she’s couldn’t care less about becoming pop’s queen bee again—she’d rather throw the coolest party in town. Side B is that bash: intimate yet inclusive, with an invitation personally delivered by hand.

KEY TRACKS

“Fever”

A devastating karaoke sing-along for anyone who can relate to the line, “My breath was lost when you said ‘friends’/ Well, that could work but I’m still hot for you”

“Body Language”

Jepsen’s urgent pleas — “If you love me, don’t hang up this time” — are best served with a side of 808s and handclaps

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