Carly Rae Jepsen: “Dedicated” (Album Review)

carly rae jepsen dedicated
Carly Rae Jepsen in a promotional photo; Photo courtesy of Markus & Koala, image from Rolling Stone

On the Canadian pop diva’s fourth studio album, she confidently delivers peppy teen-pop wisdom, adding another installment of ’80s loving-pop to her discography that proudly wears its heart on its sleeve.

It has been seven years since Canada’s poppiest import dominated the airwaves with her infectious teen bubblegum pop hit “Call Me Maybe” in the summer of 2012. At the time, the song became one of the biggest cultural phenomenons to hit the airwaves and since then, Miss Jepsen has come a very far way into dominating the pop scene (the song was nominated for Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance at the 55th Grammy Awards). She released her third album, Emotion in June of 2015 and in lieu of commercial success, the album reinvigorated her career as an “indie darling” for older audiences, garnering her a cult following, particularly those of indie pop love and the LGBTQ community. Her most recent effort, Dedicated, is a return to form for the pop darling – crafting a polished pop album that leans to both a mature and younger audience.

Black-and-white photograph of Carly Rae Jepsen from behind
Dedicated Album Cover featuring CRJ herself

At first listen, the album reflects Jepsen’s maturity as a songwriter as well as a curator of pop music trends of the 2000s. The album takes a more relaxed approach to Jepsen’s well established penchant for ’80s pop (her preceding release was an ode to ’80s pop/disco era). In an early interview, Jepsen dubbed the album “Music to Clean Your House To” which became a characteristically unassuming goal for the project but some of her songs point to another guiding aesthetic that she seems to have developed: “chill disco,” a mood that sparks melodies over writing that can feel short on intrigue. The synths that open up “Julien” (a watered-down version of ABBA hit “Waterloo”) and the autopilot on “Automatically in Love” point to this latter mood. The total effect is glossy, but the individual moments shine a little less if taken on a song by song basis.

Most songs in Jepsen’s world are crafted around love; in the past, the feeling was usually unrequited. On Dedicated, the love is more assured of itself and for the first rare instance – sexy. Her singing has never sounded so breathy and astonished and sensual all within the same note. “No Drug Like Me” describes the intoxication of new love as a dry-mouthed truth serum; “The Sound” plays like a plea for commitment. “Everything He Needs” is an unlikely and lightly risque flip of “He Needs Me” from the 1980 film Popeye (another throwback to the ’80s era). Jack Antonoff lends a hand in production of “Want You in My Room” where he wields pitch-shifting hooks with a voice disguise.

Stream the Album through Spotify now!

Although disco romance is having a resurgence in popularity, especially with the continued influence and resurgence of ABBA (see Mamma Mia 2 and Cher’s tribute album), at times Dedicated seems to strain in other directions. For example, the pastel EDM-pop bounce of “Now That I Found You” comes closest to the catchy-ness and joy of Jepsen’s one-cut single “Cut to the Feeling,” a song that is both a classic and reinvention in and of itself. “Happy Not Knowing” takes a more classically Jepsen approach to romance and seems very familiar all the while. These two songs are some of the best off the record but they feel wiped clean of the messy ambiguities that fog up real emotions.

In curating and finalizing the tracklist, Jepsen wrote over 200 songs and ultimately many were cut to fit the 13 song track list. Jepsen is known to do this, as with Emotion she wrote more than 100 songs that later had to be cut to down to a minimal 12. But among the 13 song track list (15 if you include the two bonus deluxe edition tracks), Jepsen’s decisions to finally say what she wants throughout the album make her choice for the final deluxe track “Party for One,” one of the few instances where among Jepsen’s discography where she finds herself alone. She is a self-described “hopeful romantic,” and she is finding love – and a reason to sing about it – wherever she goes. Jepsen might have the soul and heart of a teen queen but she’s got the lyrical and sonic wisdom of a 33-year-old woman. What has changed over the course of her career in her ongoing quest of love is that she’s now most dedicated to what she wants… no questions asked!

JAKKAWI: A-

Essential Song(s): “Julien”, “Now That I Found You”, “Want You in My Room”, “Party for One”

Music Video for “Party For One,” lead single off Dedicated (All rights and music owned by Carly Rae Jepsen, 604 Records, UMG)
Released: May 17, 2019.
Genre(s): Pop, bubblegum pop.
Label: 604, School Boy, Interscope.
Featured Artist(s): Electric Guest.
Tour: Dedicated World Tour (as of publishing) as well as various festivals [Primavera Sound - Spain, Best Kept Secret - Netherlands]
Vinyl Edition: Yes - through various outlets (as of publishing).

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