Carly Rae Jepsen released her highly anticipated album “Dedicated” May 17. This album follows her critically acclaimed record “Emotion” and its B-sides, which rebranded her as more than a one-hit wonder after the viral hit “Call Me Maybe.” “Dedicated” is Jepsen’s fourth album to date.
In “Emotion,” Carly Rae Jepsen created a near-perfect pop album full of ’80s nostalgia. It was packed with clever lyrics, infectious melodies and lush story-telling. With “Dedicated” we get many of the same elements.
The record is heavily influenced by the ’80s, but it feels like the core influence was Cyndi Lauper rather than Madonna. The melodies remain infectious and the story-telling feels distinctly more personal. What’s missing are the distinctly clever lyrics. They pop up every now and then, but on “Emotion” you were able to skip ahead to almost any 10-second range and hit one.
It feels like on this record, Jepsen was focused on being more vulnerable. One of the many criticisms of “Emotion” was that while the record was full of genius songwriting, there wasn’t much of Jepsen herself in the records. The best pop records hit home with the masses while keeping some piece of the artist’s own identity. Listening to “Emotion,” you learn nothing about her individuality.
“Dedicated” feels more personal. The standout track “Too Much” feels like an introduction to how Jepsen interprets herself and why she writes these songs. The certified bop is an intimate confessional that with Jepsen’s breathy delivery feels like it’s being whispered in a suitor’s ear.
Songs like “Happy Not Knowing” and “Everything He Needs,” which feature a deep cut sample from a “Popeye” cartoon, feel distinct to Jepsen’s character. They’re coy, direct and bubbly.
The production of this album is not as cohesive as “Emotion,” but it is all excellent. Jepsen described the sound of the album as “chill disco” and said that her working title had been “Music to Clean Your House to.” In reality, disco is the bedrock of the album but it also flirts with other discarded fad genres. “Now That I Found You” is largely not chill and calls back to the dubstep era of pop, which “Party For One” hints at as well. “I’ll Be Your Girl” feels not too far from No Doubt’s reign of ska.
The varying production styles leave the project feeling like a Frankenstein’s monster, all the parts of an album are there but it doesn’t quite walk and talk like an album. The tracklist is somewhat chaotic, with clashing messages placed next to each other. It feels like a steady throughline could be identified with some adjustments, but in the current order, it doesn’t quite hit.
My biggest problem with the tracklist is the end. The ostinato drum circle invoking ending of “For Sure” is a near perfect album-closing moment, leaving you satiated and wanting a little more. Then the stuttering synth of “Party For One” jumps in and totally destroys the moment. It’s a huge missed opportunity.
“Dedicated” may not be the perfect pop record that “Emotion” was, but it is still one of the strongest of the past decade. It has a hefty amount of bops and lets you see more into Jepsen’s life. In this fractured streaming method of consumption, the cohesion of an album is not as important as the songs themselves, and there are few misses here.
Considering that this 15-track album was whittled down from a batch of over 200 demos, it is likely that we will be hearing more from Carly Rae Jepsen soon. She will perform in Philadelphia on “The Dedicated Tour” July 20 at The Fillmore.