Album Review — Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Dedicated Side B’

She’s really going to do it again, eh? She followed up EMOTION with EMOTION Side B, which many argued the latter was better than the former. And now Carly Rae Jepsen is trying to do it again with the surprise release of Dedicated Side B. For those unaware, Carly Rae Jepsen has quite the prolific output of songs per album cycle (she writes hundreds of songs per album and she also has a “quarantine album” in the works). So with EMOTION she decided to release a Side B for it instead of just shelving the songs in a vault. Except that was an EP. This Side B is a whole new album! And once again she’s showing her “B material” is better than many artists’ A material.

One thing to say about this album upfront is it doesn’t quite have the thematic thread of Dedicated, which explored an emotionally complicated, roller coaster relationship. If I had to pick a theme for this album, it would be summer love songs, as it doesn’t have the tinges of heartbreak and doubt that were peppered throughout Dedicated. This is clear from opening song “This Love Isn’t Crazy,” a song about being self-assured of the love you share in a relationship. It’s bouncy, frenetic, soaring; the same fantastic pop production you can always expect from Jack Antonoff and Jepsen. It’s a fist-pumping anthem that perfectly sets the tone for the album.

“Window” does a great job of utilizing alternating hand claps and drum machines to create an infectious and driving beat. Jepsen’s deliberately staccato-like delivery gives impact to lyrics, making them feel instantly catchy and memorable. “Felt This Way” and “Stay Away” are really fun songs about the insatiable lust one can feel towards someone they love. But what the music nerd in me appreciates is how it gives a glimpse into the songwriting of Jepsen (it was a pretty conscious choice to put both of these songs next to each other). If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice each song song is rooted in the exact same line: “I can’t stay away.” It appears both songs started with this line (or variation) and each evolved into two completely different songs. Yes, thematically they’re the same. But I’m impressed by how Jepsen was able to take one simple line/idea and create two great songs from it. Each have their own feel too, as the first is slow and simmering while the second is upbeat and in your face.

Jepsen shows off her dynamic vocal range on “This Is What They Say.” She stretches her vocals into her uppermost range, specifically on the chorus, and it works to great effect. It puts a renowned emphasis on the hook, which in pop music is critical. Without a catchy hook, your music never sticks. But with Jepsen this is never an issue, as she’s clearly as I’ve said before a student of pop music. She just gets what makes a pop song great. “Heartbeat” is the softest and quietest moment on the album and again Jepsen utilizes her vocal inflections to great effect. Accented with spacey production, Jepsen’s vulnerable vocal delivery gives the song an appropriately delicate and smooth feel as she pours her heart out to the man she loves.

“Summer Love” could have easily been the album title track because as I said I feel this album embodies the idea of summer love: bright, cheery and full of hopeful optimism. This song in particular has an irresistible disco sound that makes you want to burn up the dance floor (or in a better music world, it would be a smash summer hit). “Fake Mona Lisa” seems to be an unfinished song, only clocking in just over two minutes. But I still love it and it only makes me wonder more how it would sound “complete.” Because even in this incomplete form it’s an addictive ear worm, utilizing sci-fi-like synths and drum machines to create a heart-pounding, steamy sex song.

The production on this whole album is amazing, but the production on “Let’s Sort The Whole Thing Out” in particular really stands out for me. The drumming is so damn tight and the instrumentation on this song reminded me instantly of The Go-Gos’ “Vacation.” And I wouldn’t be surprised if The Go-Gos had an influence in some way on Jepsen’s music, as her music unashamedly is inspired by 80s pop. But this instrumentation also perfectly complements the lyrics, as they tell the story of what it feels like to realize you’re in love with someone: the sudden burst of butterflies and feeling like you’re soaring above the clouds as you awaken to what’s in front of you.

The heavily synth-layered “Comeback” sees Antonoff officially accredited as a feature under his indie band name Bleachers. It’s a great choice to include his background vocals, as him and Jepsen harmonize well together in this song about rediscovering ones self in hopes they can win back lost love. “Solo” embraces the 80s pop mentality of go big or go home, as everything about this song is big and loud. This fits perfectly with a song about finding happiness in being single and not letting yourself get caught up comparing yourself to couples. Dance solo, don’t get so low as the song says.

“Now I Don’t Hate California After All” is a fascinating exclamation point to the album. I say fascinating because the production on this is immaculate: a balmy, tropical and soft melody that really reminds me of something Kevin Parker would craft on one of his album. It’s so different from the rest of the album and yet it feels like it still fits. It also makes me want to hear an entire beach-themed album from Jepsen. This song is so chill and relaxing that I can’t help but smile when I hear it and that’s the kind of impression you want to leave with a listener as they finish an album.

Dedicated Side B is yet another pop masterpiece from Carly Rae Jepsen. I can’t believe how she just continues to blow me away with fantastic project after fantastic project. Jepsen won Country Perspective’s 2019 Album of the Year with Dedicated and she’s putting herself in the unprecedented position to win it again in 2020 to make it back-to-back. It’s simply incredible. And oh yeah she still has another album on the way.

Grade: 10/10

Album Review — Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Dedicated’

I never thought Carly Rae Jepsen could top the brilliance of Emotion, but somehow she does with Dedicated. She kicks it off right with “Julien,” a lustful and fun track about pining for someone you love. Oh and it’s quite catchy, but you can say that about pretty much every track on this album. I also enjoy the buildup of the synth in the bridge into the final part of the song, as it gives it that swelling effect that really punches the song home.

“No Drug Like Me” elevates itself above other songs about comparing love to drugs with its electronic influenced production and the emotion which Jepsen delivers it in. “Now That I Found You” is one of my favorite songs ever from Jepsen. The chorus is instantly catchy and maybe one of the most lip syncable songs I’ve heard in recent memory. And it’s just flat out a blast, as it’s impossible to not want to move to it as you’re listening. And then Jepsen follows this with an even better song in “Want You in My Room.” It’s the most overtly sexual song Jepsen has done, where she describes all the places she wants to have sex in her house. The Daft Punk-esque vocoders in the chorus are the perfect finishing touch along with the intertwining horns to cap it off. You cannot craft a better pop song than this, as it can hold its weight against any of the best pop songs.

“Everything He Needs” is a plea of assurance that the person you love needs you as much as you need them. It almost borderlines on obsessive, as Jepsen exudes all the ways he satisfies her in the bridge, with her voice getting creepier with each detail. But it fits perfectly with the theme of the album and the bouncy sound makes this song blow by (in a good way, of course).

“Happy Not Knowing” perfectly describes that feeling we’ve all felt when we pine for someone and imagine being with them, but you haven’t had the guts to tell them yet and you’re fine with it because you’re enjoying the excitement of the anticipation. It’s a testament to Jepsen’s songwriting ability to be able to capture such a complicated feeling so well. “I’ll Be Your Girl” makes you want to tear up the dance floor and bust out your best moves. The frenetic urgency of the song is so infectious and wraps itself right around you. And of course it wouldn’t be a Jepsen album without some timely saxophones that leave you wanting more.

Once again Jepsen does a great job of capturing a feeling on “Too Much.” This time she accurately describes the feeling of rushing thoughts and being overwhelmed with overthinking. In an album full of bangers this song is a nice cool down that allows for some introspection and builds on the overarching theme of the album. “The Sound” is my least favorite on the album, as it feels like it never reaches a crescendo moment. But it’s still a really enjoyable song, which speaks to the incredible strength of this album.

Just like “Want You in My Room”, “Automatically in Love” utilizes it’s electronic driven sound perfectly and gives a punch to every syllable uttered. The chorus especially pops over this sound and the smooth vocal delivery from Jepsen. “Feels Right” is a great blend of drums, piano, horns and claps and is perhaps the most underrated production moment on the album.

“Right Words Wrong Time” is another all-time best song from Carly Rae Jepsen. The mid-tempo sound that slowly builds, along with the exasperated delivery from Jepsen combine to make one of the most satisfying peaks you’ll ever hear in a song. Maybe it’s just me, but I just love how the song closes with a greater intensity. The final track “Real Love” sees Jepsen putting aside all of the sides of love explored on the album and comes to the sobering conclusion that she just wants real love after chasing it for so long. It’s a moment of honesty and clarity, with the album ending in Jepsen appropriately quietly crying out for love.

Carly Rae Jepsen further proves with Dedicated that she just gets pop music: the over-the-top production, the overwhelming emotions, the catchy hooks, exciting themes and everything in-between. While hyperbole is rampant throughout this review, I can seriously tell you that Dedicated may just be one of the albums of this past decade for me.

Grade: 10/10