Carly Rae Jepsen’s 2015 album Emotion wasn’t a big seller, but it was critically adored and became a cult favourite, making it a tough act to follow. Alongside Jepsen’s impeccable pop sense, the record featured indie rock textures. Organic instrumentation like the amazing bass lines on songs like ‘Boy Problems’ and ‘When I Needed You’ and the saxophone on the sweeping, romantic ‘Run Away With Me’ provided an entry point to rock fans unaccustomed to modern pop.
The Canadian pop singer and songwriter took her time with a followup, Dedicated. It was conceived as a chill disco record, and it’s more synthetic than Emotion. Jepsen seems intent on shaking off the girl next door persona she cultivated with her huge 2012 hit ‘Call Me Maybe’. Her image change to blonde hair, and the advance single and video for ‘Party For One’, seemed intent on remodelling her image for a grown-up audience.
The advance singles indicated a well-written album that lacked the joyful punch of Jepsen’s best material. Of the five tracks released before Dedicated, only ‘Now That I Found You’ featured the soaring adrenaline rush that Jepsen does so well. But Dedicated is more balanced than the singles indicated, although the more subdued second drags, and cutting a track would have helped the album’s balance. Jepsen’s vocals are more confident than ever before, and although she sees herself primarily as a song-writer, she’s developed into an excellent vocalist.
Jepsen’s previous work often skirted around the fringes of relationships – anticipating infatuation or dissecting regret. But Dedicated is focused on the now – songs like ‘Want You In My Room’ and ‘I’ll Be Your Girl’ are lusty and unabashedly enthusiastic, and sound like they’re written about an actual relationship.
The best songs on Dedicated are energetic. Along with the soaring ‘Now That I Found You’, ‘I Want You In My Room’, a collaboration with Jack Antonoff, rides a slinky groove, with Jepsen shouting commands like “I got you covered, under covers.” ‘Feels Right’ features the electro-funk of Electric Guest, while ‘Everything He Needs’ features a writing credit for Harry Nilsson, and a breezy ska feel.
Among the moodier tracks on Dedicated, ‘No Drug Like Me’ is especially gorgeous with its refrain of “starry eyes, blurry eyes/feeling so intoxicated”. ‘Too Much’ is a mission statement for Jepsen, explaining the emotional cleft on her songs; “when I feel it, then I feel it too much.” There’s some excellent contemplative material tucked away at the end – closer ‘Real Love’ and bonus track ‘For Sure’ are both excellent, although dropping the pretty but uneventful ‘Right Words Wrong Time’ would have helped the album’s flow.
Dedicated has is already the #5 acclaimed record on the 2019 chart on RateYourMusic, rarefied air for such a pure and joyous pop album. It’s deserved – it’s a high quality record from a talented operator. Just as for Emotion, Jepsen reportedly wrote about 200 songs for Dedicated – so hopefully there’s a Dedicated: Side B in the works.