Often times, when it comes to pop stars who failed to reach the  highest echelons of popularity after a short peak, it’s the material  that is released after their peak that can be the most interesting  displays. There are artists like Macklemore that continued to try and  capture what brought them fame in the first place, Gotye seemed to drop  off of the face of the earth with no new material ever to be released,  and artists like Kesha who found the lack of pressure from the worlds  expectation freeing and came out with their most daring, interesting  material.

For the most part, Carly Rae Jepsen fits into the the last category.  With her 2015 album ‘Emotion’, she not only collaborated with indie  darlings such as Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij and Blood Orange’s  Devonte Hynes, but came through with the best songwriting and production  on a record of hers yet. While it failed to achieve the type of success  that she did with the single “Call Me Maybe” or her record, ‘Kiss,’ she  had a cult classic praised to the heavens from pop and indie  publications on her hands.

The heart holds it together

One of the best things about Jepsen’s music is her decision to stick  to the type of pop that brought her the world’s attention in the first  place. The same sense of wide-eyed joy and wholesome lovesickness that  made “Call Me Maybe” the inescapable phenomenon it was and that held  ‘Emotion’ together now acts as the glue that holds her latest effort,  ‘Dedicated,’ together as well. However, what it’s holding together has  seen a few adjustments.

This new direction that Carly and her collaborators take on  ‘Dedicated’ can be most evidently seen in the opener: “Julien.” It’s a  stunningly smooth, dreamy piece of disco that manages to pack an intense  punch with its chorus without an over-the-top drop; rather, everything  about this song seems effortless, the real key to this songs smoothness.  It’s a dance party in the clouds that makes for an amazing opener and  album highlight.



 

The rest of the record, while not a smooth as “Julien,” does embrace  the slicker, more poppy side of disco and synth-funk. ‘Emotion’ did  touch on these sounds, but they are a part of a much more central,  cohesive picture on ‘Dedicated.’ It was a great move; the funkier,  disco-tinged cuts on ‘Emotion’ were some of the record’s finest, and the  songs on ‘Dedicated’ that embrace the sound the most are the best as  well. Singles like the aforementioned “Julien” and “Now That I Found  You,” and deep cuts such as “Happy Not Knowing” come from the same  source of inspiration in vastly different ways, and are each as  enjoyable as the last. All of these tracks make up a lot a stellar first  half of the record that stands as one of the best song streaks on a  record all year.

What goes up, must come down

The pure genius of the first leg of ‘Dedicated’ sadly just emphasizes  the largest issue with the record. As ‘Dedicated’ moves along, it loses  steam in its final leg. “Automatically In Love” and “Right Words Wrong  Time” are passable mid-tempo songs that lack any interesting bits in the  verses and bring average hooks by Carly Rae Jepsen standards. While  Jepsen has never been revered for her edgy songwriting and persona,  “Feels Right” is a gutless tune that lacks any interesting tidbits. If  it weren’t for “The Sound” and “Real Love,” a wonderful choice of closer  and a solid addition to the Jepsen discography, ‘Dedicated’ could stand  as one of the more front-loaded records to come out this year.



When balancing the two halves of ‘Dedicated’ based on track-by-track  judgement, the highlights do make the lowlights worth it. The best  tracks on the record rival some of the best songs on ‘Emotion’ while  also having their own style to them that differentiate the two eras of  Jepsen’s career. But as a whole listening experience, having the worst  three songs play back-to-back-to-back is too much of a screeching halt  for the record for it to rival its predecessor. ‘Emotion’, from  front-to-back, comes across as a larger-than-life celebration of  everything amazing about pop music. With ‘Dedicated,’ the pop party is  crashed a bit too soon for it to capture that same magic.

Top Tracks

Julien

Now That I Found You

Want You In My Room





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