A second serving of Carly Rae Jepsen’s pure, lovesick pop is what to expect with ‘Dedicated’
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.
Now That I Found You
Want You In My Room
Featured Image: Breathe Heavy
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