“I hope they like it or they’re in trouble because that’s what I’m singing. They’re gonna be pissed,” jokes Sabrina Carpenter about her impending performance of her fifth studio album, emails i can’t send.
About a month after it’s release, Carpenter is in New York City to debut her second-ever live show of her latest album at Samsung’s Galaxy Unpacked After Party in the city’s Meatpacking District. As an ambassador of the brand for nearly a year now, Carpenter is helping to mark the release of Samsung’s newest wonder, the Galaxy Z Flip4 — that’s now also become her latest phone. “It’s been a little bit of a new change but the camera is even better and that’s the only thing I’ve gotten to play with so far because I got it today,” she says.
The shiny product, however, is arguably the second star of the event. The first is, obviously, Carpenter, who tonight is dressed in a rippling navy two-piece and sky-high platforms, and is excited to share her intimate album with more of her fans. “I just feel like a big release, a big weight off my shoulders and there’s some of a bittersweet feeling for sure,” she says of the release of emails i can’t send. “I write the songs from such a specific point of view like, bummer I don’t know if people are going to relate to this because it’s so niche, and to my surprise, so many people have so many stories.”
Since its July 15 release, email i can’t send — arguably Carpenter’s most personal album yet, with her, JP Saxe, and Julia Michaels among those credited as its songwriters — has become a viral sensation recognized by critics and pop fans alike for its wide-ranging sound, emotional storytelling, and primarily, her candid songwriting. Carpenter’s lyrical voice, like that of one of her idols, Taylor Swift, is rife with specificity and references, bringing up everything from Thin Mints, Black Eyed Peas, and — in one instance which the internet has latched on to — forks.
“You used a fork once, it turns out forks are fucking every where,” goes the opening line of the ballad “how many things” and what’s now turned into meme among her fans online. As randomly hilarious as the observation comes off, Carpenter says that the origins of the lyric were very real, stemming from an actual instance when she “was getting worked up over a fork.”
“I was like, this is dumb. But it’s the simple things that can have so much meaning,” she says. “I said it as a joke to my friend and we were like, ‘Mm, maybe that’s the beginning to the song.’ A funny beginning to like, a very depressing song.”
All of the songs on emails i can’t send stem from and reference personal incidents just as real as the one above (as those who’ve heard the single “because i liked a boy” have already guessed) but Carpenter says that she’s been able to distance herself and move on from the past events — a side effect of her songwriting also being a mode of moving past things for her. Watching her fans latch on to certain tracks, she’s says, has been rewarding as she hopes to bring an opportunity of healing for them, too.
“Not everybody gets to write songs so not everybody gets to have that outlet to kind of heal through,” she says. “People who don’t have that outlet are able to hear these songs and maybe move through it because they’re listening. This album definitely did that for me.”
Later that evening, Carpenter goes stage to perform three songs from the album, “vicious,” “sue me” — which she prefaces as “based off real events” — and “because i liked a boy,” a song “about my life,” she announces coyly. As she sings, the audience crowds to the front to hear the email dispatches that have now become a shared language between artist and fan.
“I still write emails and long notes to myself whenever I feel inspired,” Carpenter says. “I like that it is purely just a way for me to have an outlet of release without worrying about any perceptions. I will do it as long as I have feelings, which will be probably forever.”