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Sabrina Carpenter's 'emails i can't send': An Almost-Sell-Out Salvaged By Its Authentic Album Tracks

Photo by Steven Miller on Flickr (licensed under CC BY 2.0)

Sabrina Carpenter received large amounts of attention last year due to her involvement with Joshua Bassett, the ex-boyfriend of Olivia Rodrigo. Olivia's breakout single, 'Driver’s License', mentioned a “blonde girl” many claimed to be Sabrina. Sabrina responded with the song “Skin” at the start of 2021, where she suggested that “maybe blonde was the only rhyme”. This “beef” resulted in a brutal war... Well, a war over social media and YouTube comments, at least. It also (eventually) culminated in Sabrina Carpenter’s fifth studio album, emails i can’t send.

The album, released in July this year, is very much a break-up album. It is an unapologetic collection of her inner thoughts, with a sense of heartache over unrequited love present throughout. It clearly came from a personal place for Sabrina, and that’s what makes it an album worth listening to.

There is an authenticity present in the album’s lyrics about her heartbreak, while songs like ‘already over’ bring some folk-inspired guitar into the mix and allow Sabrina’s voice to really shine. Her earlier songs, which very much fell into the contemporary R&B genre, felt like an attempt to gain fame by doing what was popular - a feeling reflected in the lead singles of the album, which ironically feel like the project’s weakest points. “Vicious”, for instance, has a faux-rock element to it that makes it feel not entirely genuine. Carpenter is a talented singer-songwriter; her Instagram reels show her brilliant vocals with just piano, and it seems that her sound benefits from less instrumentation: “decode", relegated to the status of an album track, is an emotional piano ballad which showcases some of Carpenter’s best lyrics to date, far better than the title tracks do. In a similar vein, ‘Fast Times’ sees Carpenter struggling to keep to the fast pace of the song, which is clear in her lack of enunciation⁠—the track just doesn’t seem to click with her vocal style. Music should allow you to tell your story; it shouldn’t be a struggle to get your words across.

However, in a turn of events and direction, this album finds Carpenter entering another competitive genre: polished folk-pop, which is a line of popular music in which Olivia Rodrigo found considerable success in the last year. With Carpenter touching upon similar themes to those present in Rodrigo’s album SOUR, it’s easy for these songs to sound similar. In branching out, Carpenter may well find herself struggling to stand out. The songs on these albums are not completely unique, and some of the lyrics do make your eyes roll—however, look to Twitter and you’ll find there is still a big market for songs about teen heartbreak with the teenage girl crowd. You can only wonder if that’s the crowd Carpenter is really trying to appeal to—but the commercial elements of some of the songs suggest that any crowd, to her, is a welcome one.

In conclusion, if you're feeling heartbroken or sad, emails i can’t send may provide you with some comfort. If you’re a hip-hop head, then you probably won’t be a fan. If you were me, a hardcore hip-hop head myself, you’d probably be wondering why I am listening to music for teenage girls. Maybe, despite all its shortfalls, I've just found it easy to listen to. Or maybe, once you look beyond the shiny artificial parts of the album, you find the authentic Sabrina Carpenter—which is far more appealing than whatever the lead singles hope to achieve, and which is what ultimately keeps you listening.

To keep up with Sabrina Carpenter, you can find her on Instagram, Twitter, and her website.


Edited by Talia Andrea, Music Editor


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