Pop Album of 2022: ‘emails i can’t send’ by Sabrina Carpenter

I mean, as they say in Chicago, he had it coming.

— Sabrina Carpenter, ‘emails i can’t send’ song outro

It’s that time of year. Musical round-up of 2022 … So, the pop album (LP) of the year — drumroll — is: emails i can’t send by Sabrina Carpenter. An astonishing record in many ways, Sabrina echoes her R&B Singular double album while also reeling from the more recent effects of the ‘love triangle’ drama involving fellow ex-Disney now-pop musicians Olivia Rodrigo and Joshua Bassett, all while concocting an elaborate if chaotic musical extravaganza of a record. Along with Kendrick Lamar’s Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers, Sabrina Carpenter’s hip hop-influenced record is also influenced by the culture of therapy pervading the western world.

emails i can’t send — the album cover

Nostalgia is part of this past-oriented outlook, albeit with a Dua Lipa-esque Future Nostalgia pop posture. Taylor Swift-influenced Olivia Rodrigo bemoans the idiocy of men romantically. Sabrina Carpenter takes the more intriguing angle of her father’s infidelity to her mother in the opening track ‘emails i can’t send’, co-written with Julia Michaels and J. P. Saxe, a track perhaps seen alongside Kendrick’s ‘Father Time’. Sabrina’s fellow Disney protegé Dove Cameron echoes Billie Eilish’s sultry vocals quite dramatically in this year’s ‘Boyfriend’ and more recently ‘Girl Like Me’. Sabrina prefers a softer synthesis of recent trends on tracks such as ‘Vicious’, full of tragic catharsis, and ‘Nonsense’, replete with comedic lyrical dancing around the making sense of the past and its impact on the present and posterity.

But the song that really makes emails i can’t send a stellar pop record which will endure for years to come, even as Sabrina works on the record to catapult her to pop superstardom in 2023 and beyond, is ‘how many things’. There is something of the more delicate tracks of Billie Eilish’s debut LP that this song echoes, delving deeper into the acoustic side of the canvass of modern music. Some of the lyrics are beyond moving:

I can’t help it / It’s a habit / Your corner in my mind is well-established […] And I feel myself falling further down your priorities / And I still make excuses for you constantly / I wonder how many things you think about before you get to me.

— Sabrina Carpenter, ‘how many things’

The damage is deliberate and decisive. The lyrics pound the heart like a sledgehammer. The production is delicate and supportive of the acoustic instrumentation with electronic-style precision, following up the electronic lead single ‘because i liked a boy’ with a devastating emotional afterthought. Need I say any more? This is the pop record of the year, in its own right. Bravo. I can’t wait to hear what’s next.

‘Bad for Business’ may be a taste: lyrical elegance and electro-instrumental excitement tied into one tapestry of understatement. (Another example would be the heart-wrenching bop of ‘Already Over’.) In an age of maximalism, Sabrina Carpenter’s 2022 is a lesson in how to do more with less. What’s more: it’s damn good fun. In Sabrina’s words:

There’s nothing left here to decode.

— Sabrina Carpenter, ‘Decode’

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