Carly Rae Jepsen Continues Her Pop Indulgences Unabated on ‘Dedicated Side B’
Carly Rae Jepsen celebrated the anniversary of her last album, “Dedicated,” by posting an Instagram video last week that ended with a flash of the letter “B.” Fans instantly knew what to expect, as Jepsen followed up her acclaimed 2015 release “Emotion” with a companion record, “Emotion Side B.” Sure enough, she has continued the pattern, surprise releasing “Dedicated Side B,” a whole new album of her usual glossy pop excesses to hold fans over during their Covid-19 social distancing. The project is presented not as a collection of B-sides, but as the side B of a double-sided album, and the new songs live up to the standard, never feeling like outtakes, but like top quality surplus.
Opener “This Love Isn’t Crazy” starts with Jepsen singing, “hoo hoo” over flutes, and building up to the titular declaration with a passion that necessitates such clarification. She’s up to her usual shtick, defaulting to all the standard moves, like rhyming “baby” with crazy,” and filling the extra space with whatever comes on instinct. The track goes by in a flash, and ends abruptly with the same “hoo” that began it. “Window” is more minimal and spacious, with the combination of ‘80s and contemporary production that is increasingly becoming part of Jepsen’s trademark sound, along with the effervescence that is always expected. Usually, with Jepsen, the more ridiculous the whole undertaking, the more effective the overall punch, and this is the case here, with an especially catchy chorus that finds Jepsen doing what she does best.
“Felt This Way” is an easy number with Jepsen singing breathy utterances over synths and tinny drums. One key line, “Stay away, away, away, away, away,” makes its way, again, into the following song, “Stay Away,” with only one “away” dropped. If this weren’t enough emphasis to fully communicate the severity of the situation, the chorus should surely get the point across, bringing the giddiest and most infectious moment yet, channeling the subdued infatuation of the last track into a dizzying flurry. It gets more intense yet on “This Is What They Say.” The entire statement is “This is what they say / Falling in Love is supposed to feel like,” and Jepsen croons, bellows, and whispers like she means it over beaming, colorful sonics.
There’s a welcome lull on “Heartbeat,” which sounds like all the machinery has perhaps reached a system overload, calling for a break. There are backing vocals that sound like birds chirping, over synth washes and plodding bass, as Jepsen sings, “Everything about you / Is speeding up my heartbeat.” Summer Love” strikes out of the blue, picking the pace back up and placing Jepsen over a ‘70s disco beat and production that radically recontextualizes her, adding some fresh variety. “Fake Mona Lisa” brings back the wonky, goofy sounds that Jepsen has been so fond of on recent albums, and what better place for it than a song about painting over a fake Mona Lisa during a heated hookup? The sonic and lyrical silliness make for a particularly memorable track. “Let’s Sort the Whole Thing Out” is a chirpy reconciliatory number that sounds like pop punk of the most pop variety imaginable, with a buoyancy that makes more than a fair case for the song’s stated purpose.
Another more restrained synth pop number, “Comeback” enlists Bleachers, the indie pop group of producer Jack Antoff, who helmed the opening track. Some of Jepsen’s greatest successes occur when she goes full ‘80s, from her melodies and intonations to the snares and synths, and this song is a prime example. “Solo” splits the difference between retro and contemporary sounds, with spliced, pitch-altered vocal samples bubbling around another massive, sugary chorus. Finally, the album winds down with “Now I Don’t Hate California After All,” a rebuttal to “Right Words Wrong Time” from Side A of the album. While the previous song found Jepsen frustrated about never being on the same wavelength as a lover, the new track finds her so comfortable in her infatuation that she simply doesn’t mind. An instrumental that sounds like camp holiday music carries Jepsen along, as she sings sedately onward to a happy ending.
Extreme music usually brings to mind the likes of metal, forms of music that are extreme in their very nature. But of course, anything can be taken to extremes, and in her particular genre, Carly Rae Jepsen is about as extreme as it gets. If she released a few hit songs or maybe an album’s worth of her usual effervescent, frivolous fare, it would be one thing. But to release one full record after another, and double up with second installments, never seeming to waver at all from her perennial perkiness, is truly something else. Carly Ree Jepsen is very much the epitome of pop. She embraces and exaggerates all the sugary silliness at the very core of such music, and serves it up time and time again, never seeming to tire. The latest installment brings more of the same, and will surely prove plenty of fun for fans of her signature giddy, love drunk fare.
“Dedicated Side B” is available May 21 on Apple Music.