**1/2 (out of four)
There was something about “Call Me Maybe,” as it slowly crept its way to universally beloved hit status, that made people assume its singer Carly Rae Jepsen was destined for the dreaded ranks of one-hit wonders. Whether it was a result of the song's total cultural dominance, the fact that it seemed out of touch with other chart trends or just due to Jepsen's blank slate personality as a completely unknown artist, there was rampant doubt that the Canadian pop star could ever again replicate its success. “Kiss,” Jepsen's effective debut (a previous Canadian release was more of a singer-songwriter affair), aims to expand her catalog of hits and make her a lasting pop presence, with mixed results.
“Call Me Maybe” explores a fresh but very simple idea with casual charm – Jepsen seems like a very fun friend, an everywoman character, a thinking person's Katy Perry. “Kiss” offers nothing that adds any depth to this idea of Jepsen, mostly working a similar formula with diminishing returns. The result is an album that doesn't do much to stake out a reason why she, rather than someone else, might deserve to land another monster pop hit. Actually, that's not entirely true: the most blatant pop crossovers – the Max Martin-produced “Tonight I'm Getting Over You” and the Owl City collab “Good Time” – are the weakest tracks.
The most ”Call Me Maybe”-esque highlights are the two disco-inflected, Robyn-like openers, “Tiny Little Bows” and “This Kiss,” which offer ecstatic takes on a sound that Jepsen could carve out as her own, with the same winking depth as “Call Me Maybe” (“Tiny Little Bows” riffs on a Sam Cooke's “Cupid”). Even if neither becomes a major hit (at least one should), they at least suggest Jepsen may outlive the popular skepticism about her career.
In concert: Oct. 23-24 at Allstate Arena
Kyle Kramer is a RedEye special contributor. @redeyechimusic
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