Carly Rae Jepsen Dishes out Tireless Glossy Pop on ‘Dedicated’
Carly Rae Jepsen is something of an enigma in the contemporary landscape of popular music. Her strain of effervescent, supersaturated pop is so brimming with bombast that it has managed to simultaneously satisfy those already of the prime persuasion and provide something of a guilty pleasure for the more indie-inclined, who appreciate it for its sheer unhindered excess. Her critically acclaimed last album, 2015’s “Emotion” was very much a landmark, and her latest release “Dedicated” picks up where this left off, with most of the neuroses having given way to a fresh new giddiness that finds expression in a set of songs that beam with pop perfection.
Opener “Julien” immediately rings in the verve that continues to run through the album undiminished. It’s a readymade, concentrated sugar rush, with a disco-informed backbone that obscures and erupts into full glossy dancefloor fare. “No Drug Like Me” begins with Jepsen affecting a pronunciation that seems to poke fun at herself, again playing up the larger-than-life pop persona that she’s created for herself. The track takes a cartoonish tectonic stomp, with a driving, bassy backbone and giddy, airy vocals. Jepsen cheekily warns, “You ain’t tried no drug like me,” and judging from the inexhaustible energy on display, you have to take her at her word.
The lovedrunk celebration continues steadily, with “Now That I Found You.” Atop an insistently stuttering beat, Jepsen hints, “I think I’m coming alive,” before bursting into a full euphoric, radiant flurry. “Want You In My Room” plays up the childish silliness long a fixture of Jepsen’s music, employing the lost equipment of ‘80s extended dance mixes, and evoking all the frivolity inherent in those sounds. This song stands out sharply, so incredibly camp in its designedly silly ‘80s stylings that it’s sure to soundtrack many a nostalgic party amongst close friends. “Everything He Needs” might be the punchiest song yet, with Jepsen’s vocals tightly packaged with a pitched-down conduit, and interspersed with helium-treated samples in a colorful, buoyant display. It’s a reimagination of the song “He Needs Me,” originally sung by Olive Oyl in the Popeye movie. Jepsen takes what was originally a meandering, rhythmless musing, and channels it into a banger that effectively repurposes all the latent playful energy.
“Happy Not Knowing” nods more emphatically yet to the ‘80s with its bold synth bass and ambient washes. At this point, Jepsen has been constantly bouncing about so tirelessly that one has to wonder whether they’ll be a lull at some point. Not quite yet, judging from “I’ll Be Your Girl,” which strikes with all the pomp of a double-speed cheerleading routine. A horn section near the end mines the abounding energy, and magnifies it to unprecedented heights. “Too Much” brings a welcome shift in dynamics, forgoing some of the cutter and filler for an open space in which Jepsen’s slight gestures take on greater grandeur. Out of all this strikes the startling pop perfection that is “The Sound,” a tune with every detail seemingly executed to full purpose, in a chorus so crisp and pointed that the entire rest of the album falls into the backdrop.
“Automatically In Love” brings some streamlined funk and ‘80s prom anthemics a few levels removed. Jepsen seems to just breathe in catchy choruses, and this song is a prime example. “Feels Right” begins in a sequence that recalls the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” and retains a vague ‘70s spirit, with airtight percussion and indulgent falsetto sweeps. “Right Words Wrong TIme” suddenly shoots forward to the present moment, and lands squarely in place, The skeletal framework is this time grounded in hip-hop rather than disco or any of its derivatives, and it infuses some fresh energy into the mix. “Real Love” withdraws from the beats for the album’s most subdued moment yet, a bit of a meditative aside that gradually accrues momentum and eventually bursts into a festive dancefloor riot, replete with horns and all the works. “For Sure” employs handclap-heavy stylings reminiscent of the dancehall “Diwali Riddim,” and develops into a busy burst of syncopated sensationalism.
It’s fitting that the album comes to closure with a song called “Party For One,” as the title seems to effectively sum up Jepsen’s general presence. Over the course of the record’s fifteen tracks, she delivers such an effortless, sustained celebration as to really give the sense of someone who brings the party with herself, and goads the entire town into motion at the drop of a beat. Lyrically, Jepsen resides in the space of adolescent, lovedrunk fantasy, and manages to capture the essence of that very specific feeling so successfully that she proves herself a sort of bona fide pop epitome.
“Dedicated” is available May 17 on Apple Music.