Sabrina Carpenter – Emails I Can’t Send

Island Records

Release Date: July 15th 2022

Reviewed by: Joshua Andre

Sabrina Carpenter– Emails I Can’t Send (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. emails i can’t send
  2. Vicious
  3. Read your Mind
  4. Tornado Warnings
  5. because i liked a boy
  6. Already Over
  7. how many things
  8. bet u wanna
  9. Nonsense
  10. Fast Times
  11. skinny dipping
  12. Bad for Business
  13. decode

One of the rising pop stars at the moment is Sabrina Carpenter. An actress as well (Sabrina has starred in films such as Clouds, Tall Girl, Tall Girl 2, and Work It), Sabrina has inspired, comforted, encouraged, and provided us all with thought-provoking and confronting pop songs. In my own opinion, Sabrina is a different brand of pop- not the kind of superficial and party-pop that is permeated all throughout with expletives galore, but rather a deeper pop that discusses real issues, or at least a care-free pop that is just soothing and calming to listen to. I’ve known this for a while, and thus last year at the beginning of 2021, I personally blogged about Sabrina and spoken at length as to why I believe she is one of today’s most influential ‘up and coming’ artists. Therefore, with the release of Sabrina’s brand-new album emails i can’t send this past week; I thought- why not voice my thoughts on Sabrina’s latest project? Sabrina may have been underrated before, but with this album, she is sure stepping into stardom and fame and popularity very, very quickly!

I had to fight the urge to do what I normally do — cover it up with confidence — and instead just actually feel those feelings. The tolerance for bulls*** in the last two years really minimized for me. When you’re younger, it’s a lot easier to let the words and labels that people put on you affect you and become part of who you are. Once you start to rebel against that, it starts to feel a little bit scarier, but also a bit more freeing. That’s why it felt like growing pains the whole time that I was making it.

I’m fully aware that even if you try to break it down, really really break it down for people [who I am and what I’m about], they still might not understand. People can say whatever they want to say, but I was lucky to be able to verbalize an experience that some people have been through. Hopefully it has helped them get through their experience with a little bit more strength and understanding. If I can do that, then I don’t have regrets.

In the past, I’ve voiced my brief thoughts about Sabrina’s previous singles “Skin”, “Skinny Dipping” and “Fast Times”; and about how Sabrina as a singer and as an artist is evolving and pushing the boundaries on what pop music sounds like and what pop music should be about lyrically and thematically. I’ve also noticed that with Sabrina in the past, she has also sung about pertinent, relevant and relatable issues other than just ‘having a good time’- songs like “Thumbs”, “Eyes Wide Open”, “Why”, “In My Bed”, “Pushing 20”, “Exhale”, “Sue Me” and “Can’t Blame A Girl For Trying” all come to mind when thinking about songs that aren’t just superfluous and are all about gratuity and excess. I mean, sure it’s fine to have songs about partying once in a while, but songs about deeper issues and real things people are going through- that’s where the lyrical goodness is found! As for Sabrina’s latest album, it is jam packed with 13 tracks of pure pop, yet it is thought-provoking and nonetheless confronting. “Fast Times” and “Skinny Dipping” are both present in this album (“Skin” is missing!)- and so I’d say that because these tracks are familiar, then you guys can check them out first, and then backtrack through the entire album.

At first glance, even before listening to “Skinny Dipping”, one could feel that this release speaks about a party where you take your clothes off. But thankfully, the track is much deeper than that. With Sabrina singing about saying goodbye to the a past ex (or even saying goodbye to the old self) and saying hello instead to the new person inside who is alive without any attachment or baggage; the melody on a deeper level is about trading your old life for the new. Or at least that’s what I gleaned from the music video… anyway, what I gained from the song may be different to what you yourself have gleaned from the melody. And that’s the beauty of songs. This song in particular is vague- and maybe that’s intentional. Perhaps this song signals the beginning of the new Sabrina. Did Sabrina break up with Joshua Bassett, the subject of Sabrina’s stand-alone single “Skin” and hence she is moving on as a single person? Or as Sabrina evolved in her morals and values and is now a different person to who she was at the beginning of the year? We may never know. “Fast Times”, the dark and moody ‘slow’ pop jam speaks about how Sabrina’s heart can rule her head sometimes and that sometimes it’s better to trust your gut, take risks and live from your mistakes. A melody that is surprisingly deep when you dissect the lyrics, “Fast Times” has a very picturesque music video as well. And though this was the first track released as a single back in February, which was marked as explicit from Sabrina throughout her whole career, signifying her ‘growing up’ and transitioning into ‘darker’ and ‘edgier’ songs; the fact of the matter is that we shouldn’t let these words faze us, because the heart and message is still profound, moving, powerful and compelling. With Sabrina reminding us all, that even the quickest of decisions in life can still result in lessons learned and a growing development of your character; we are presented with the notion that though there are times when we need to be cautious, there are also times that we can be adventurous, carefree, and audacious.

I’m always told how fast life goes and to make sure I really live it to the absolute fullest and appreciate the moment I’m presently in, cause we don’t get any rewrites- so I wrote this to remind myself of that and hopefully this song makes you feel that way too. Too many people to thank that help my silly little visions come to life!! so I put them in this scroll. Go stream go watch go, go, go, fast, fast, fast

We weren’t taking ourselves too seriously making it, which really reflects the energy of the song. [It’s] really about the feeling when you’re letting life steer the wheel and you think ‘Let me enjoy this now and I’ll process the emotional repercussions of this later’. [It’s] very indicative of my 20s thus far.

We weren’t taking ourselves too seriously making it [the music video]. There’s some Charlie’s Angels vibes, Kill Bill Quentin Tarantino vibes. Turning fast times and fast nights into something more literal!

I feel like it’s something a few artists do [give Easter Eggs in songs and videos for dates and things like that], and I feel like I just really have had an amazing relationship with my fans over the years, and they love being detectives and I like playing into it. Yeah, and then you can find the name of my album and you can announce it. ‘Cause it’s out there! [The new album] reflects a side of me that is yet to be heard. It feels almost unreal to talk about at this point, because you really grow into a new version of yourself in the process of making a body of work that’s so personal and something that you’ve really taken time with. I’m just so excited.

The rest of Emails I Can’t Send follows on from the theme of the album title, as Sabrina bares her soul and sings vulnerably and authentically about the parts of her life that she has kept hidden until now- the ‘emails’ she hasn’t sent yet. The album opener (the title track) is a heartbreaking, vulnerable and honest letter of sorts, directed to Sabrina’s… father? Father figure? Regardless, the song is about someone who Sabrina looked up to, who broke her trust and betrayed her beyond comprehension. He had an affair and let Sabrina down in a way which has warped her view of relationships and love and sex. And as this melody is a reminder to this person that he has harmed her in ways he can’t even imagine; Sabrina powerfully and compellingly provides an account of this person’s actions. She also subtly encourages us to implore the people we look up to, to be accountable to us. And as Sabrina reminds us in her own words, this melody and this album means a lot to her: This song reminds me of my childhood. I think anytime you start to process why you are the way you are, maybe because of things that happened in your childhood, it’s always a sad realization to come to. It’s also sad when you grow up and the characters in the storybooks were not who you thought they were. I knew it would be called “Emails I Can’t Send” just purely from the way that I was writing it — almost as if it was a word vomit email. It honestly didn’t even take a lot of thought. It sounds like an email that I’ve written before where I’ve been like, “That’s going in the drafts.” I usually find that those thoughts are sometimes the most universal. I started to realize that some of those lines and some of those words that jumped out at me from emails that I wrote to myself were songs: verses, choruses, bridges. There were all these things that I wasn’t afraid to say when I was writing an email that I knew no one was ever going to read that I was like, “Oh these are my unfiltered thoughts,” as opposed to when you go into a studio and there’s all these expectations for what you’re supposed to leave the studio with. When I was just writing to myself alone in my room, I wasn’t thinking about anyone hearing it or judging it or liking it or disliking it. It’s always been the hardest thing to name albums for me, so the fact that this kind of came somewhat naturally said a lot to me.

“Vicious”, an emphatic, vivid and no-holds barred pop/rock anthem, is directed to a person who wronged her (her ex-boyfriend?); and as Sabrina viciously (no pun intended!) berates him and asks him why he was mean to her and why he stomped on her heart, we are gifted with probably the most emotional song on the album- in the league of Olivia Rodrigo-level pettiness… which is something we haven’t heard from Sabrina before. We’re used to the sunny and cheerful Sabrina- and now a moody and melancholy Sabrina is something we need to get used to… but boy has she definitely upped her game song-writing-wise. Similarly, the poppy and seemingly ‘happy-go-lucky’ “Read Your Mind” speaks about Sabrina’s ex (the same one as in “Vicious”?), with her pondering his indecisiveness with their relationship and wondering why they seem to be on different pages in their lives; while “Tornado Warnings” has Sabrina hauntingly relaying to us a dysfunctional and toxic relationship, where the girl still wants to be in a relationship with the guy- even when she knows it is unhealthy for her. The song speaks about Sabrina lying to her therapist all for the sake of keeping a relationship that will go sour quickly; and as we are presented with a melody about someone who can’t see the bad aspects of a person, we are subtly encouraged to actively watch out for all of the red flags about a person. Because if someone seems to be too good to be true, then they probably are.

The piano prominent mid-tempo pop/rock melody “Because I Liked A Boy”, one of the most revealing, open and harrowing melodies on the album, speaks about Sabrina’s highly publicised failed relationship with Joshua Bassett, and the ramifications of dating someone with an ex already (who was Olivia Rodrigo). Sabrina dives deep into the fact that the media scrutinise and hound people who are already in the spotlight… and she concludes that some of the negative images and connotations that have been placed upon her are unfair, and it was all because she liked a boy: The most difficult part about this album was that it started from a place where it was reflecting my life at the time. Now, looking back on it, the last two or three years of my life, that song came from a really real place in my life, so it didn’t feel right to not kind of write that song. But at the same time, I’ve had so many people that have heard it tell me how much they relate to it in their own way. Like, “I went through years where people were believing all these things that people were saying about me that weren’t true.” People have experienced that similar situation in a completely different way than I’ve experienced it. It was very therapeutic to write that song from hindsight and being like, “Wow, one thing leads to another and things can really get out of hand.” Just being able to own it at the end of the day, and not let it determine who you are. My favorite lyric in the song is “Tell me who I am, because I don’t have a choice.” It’s obviously sarcastic, but in the way that people can’t tell you who you are. Only if you allow them to, like really get under your skin. But truthfully, you know who you are. So many people probably have dealt with the situation of being labeled something that they’re not. And it’s frustrating because you want to do something about it. But then if you do something, people are mad; if you don’t do something, people are mad; and you’re like, “What’s the way I’m going to feel happy and at peace with myself?” For me, it was just important to tell the story from my perception. One of my favorite movies is Easy A, and I was sort of picturing Emma Stone’s character because she was labeled to be something. It’s a weirdly empowering film in a sense. She uses humor to deflect her pain and what she’s going through, and I do that too. I think this song has elements of that too. It’s also about the Black-Eyed Peas!

“Already Over”, an acoustic guitar led poppy track, delves deep into the concept of two people being stuck in a holding pattern of a ‘relationship’ in which they know that they should be better off as friends, but they can’t stop the cycle of being together. It’s a song where the two protagonists realise that they’re addicted to each other even when they know they’re bad for each other; and it’s a melody where we’re subtly encouraged to end destructive and toxic romantic relationships- before they take a piece of our soul. Sabrina also displays more of her honesty and vulnerability with the acoustic guitar led ballad “How Many Things”, as she eloquently and vibrantly relays to us all that she feels neglected by her ex, outlining that she wonders how many things he thinks about in a day before he thinks about her. Sabrina feels like he’s not even giving her a second thought- and she reminds us all that we all need to be respected and treated with dignity and love, especially by our partners; while “Bet U Wanna” is a sarcastic and facetious track to Sabrina’s ex, as she admonishes him for wanting her back and claiming to ‘love her’- she reiterates that he’s too late and that she believes that it’s too convenient that he claims to love her. Rather, it’s more likely that the ex is wanting some attention and craves the lavish lifestyle that he left when he left Sabrina.

“Nonsense”, a happy-go-lucky pop track, is possibly the happiest we’ve seen Sabrina in this track list, as she fawns over a new love, and outlines how she feels giddy and happy, so much so that she keeps spouting nonsense in a good way, while “Bad For Business” expounds upon Sabrina’s new relationship with this new person, claiming that he is a good guy for her, but ultimately ‘bad for business’- because songs about happiness and cheerful relationships don’t really chart and don’t really become loved and popular. Emails I Can’t Send then ends with the powerful and exemplary piano ballad “Decode”, where Sabrina relays that her relationship with her ex is finished and that there’s nothing left for her to decode: This one took the longest to get right. At this age, it’s really, really hard to accept anything that’s out of your control. At least for me. To be like, “Why can’t it just be the way that I want it to be in my head?” Being hard on myself and blaming myself for the entirety of the situation that I was going through. It’s so funny listening to this song now. I’m literally gonna cry. [She starts tearing up.] I hope for the rest of my life, I can use this song as a compass to guide me: “You are past the point of asking questions and asking Whys and asking Hows. It just is what it is.” Sometimes you need to just accept that statement. There’s a lot of power in being like, “I’m not going to look back anymore. I’m not going to question and I’m not going to wonder why. I’m just gonna allow it to be what it was and know that it was meant to happen.” I think this song will be important for anyone who has been in relationships or friendships in their lives that have caused them a lot of tumultuous stress and caused them to question themselves. My favorite line in it is “Learning from you that I can walk away too,” because that was just a very interesting moment in my life where I was like, “This is an option.” I had never looked at it as an option because I don’t consider myself someone that would easily give up on a situation. I consider myself someone that would stay past the point that I should for love. That was a big moment for me, when I was like, “OK, this is also an option for me as well. And that might even be better for me.” It’s sometimes easier to stay in a situation that might not be good for you than it is to gather the courage to leave.

With Sabrina Carpenter’s new album soaring on the iTunes charts over the past few days, as well as impressing the critics; I’m sure many of you may see this project as Sabrina’s inner most thoughts and nothing more. Yet for me, these melodies, which are indeed Sabrina’s most vulnerable and authentic moments of her relationship and ultimate breakdown of said relationship with Joshua Bassett, pack a great punch lyrically and thematically. Or at least that’s what I gleaned from listening to the album myself. You all may gain something different from Sabrina’s new album. Or you may not like it at all. You may not relate to relationship songs, or you may be like me and like them despite you personally not being in a relationship. And that’s ok. With standout tracks like “Skinny Dipping”, “Fast Times”, “Decode” and “Because I Liked A Boy”; can I add that I am super excited and stoked for anything else that Sabrina records! One listen to this underrated album… and I’m sure you’ll all agree with me too! Well done Sabrina Carpenter, for emails i can’t send… which has lots and lots of lyrical treasures to unpack!

4 songs to listen to: Because I Liked A Boy, Skinny Dipping, Fast Times, Decode

Score: 5/5

RIYL: Olivia Rodrigo, Sofia Carson, Selena Gomez, Halsey, Tori Kelly, JoJo, Julia Michaels, Delta Goodrem, Echosmith

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