Carly Rae Jepsen: Albums Ranked from Worst to Best

Carly Rae Jepsen is pigeonholed as a one-hit-wonder. Her 2012 song ‘Call Me Maybe’ is one of the most ubiquitous hits of its era. If you haven’t been paying attention since, you may be surprised to learn that Jepsen’s become a beloved and critically acclaimed pop artist.

Jepsen was born in Mission, British Columbia, the daughter of two schoolteachers. She first gained recognition with a third placing on Canadian Idol. Since 2012’s Kiss she’s built up a lovable catalogue of disarmingly sugary pop songs. Her best work is euphoric, providing pop gratification while remaining too well-crafted to dismiss as a guilty pleasure.

This album ranking includes her “Side B” projects – with nine and twelve tracks respectively, Emotion: Side B and Dedicated: Side B qualify as albums.

Carly Rae Jepsen Albums Ranked

#7 Tug of War

CRJ’s debut is markedly different from the rest of her discography – it’s difficult to imagine any of her other albums including a John Denver cover. On Tug of War she’s peddling coffee-house folk-pop. It’s pleasant, with hints of her potential as a songwriter and her vocals providing personality. It’s a worrying sign, however, when the best track is derived from the children’s’ song ‘There’s A Hole in my Bucket’. Tug of War sold 10,000 copies, a mere fraction of the sales her next record would enjoy…..

#6 Kiss

The release of ‘Call Me Maybe’ transformed Jepsen from a struggling folk-pop artist to a household name. Following the viral hit, the biggest-selling single of 2012, Jepsen released Kiss. Despite the success of ‘Call Me Maybe’, Jepsen was still finding her identity as a recording artist. The production of Kiss is bland and her songwriting is less interesting compared to her later work. She also burdens herself, working with lesser talents on her duets with Owl City and Justin Bieber. Starting a tradition of featuring great material on the bonus tracks, the outtake ‘Drive’ is one of the most impressive songs here.

#5 Dedicated: Side B

Jepsen’s tradition of releasing her outtakes on a separate record is appreciated. Dedicated: Side B isn’t as consistent as her Emotion outtakes, but it features some stunning tracks. The gorgeously sparse ‘Heartbeat’, the Bleachers collaboration on ‘Comeback’, and the explosive ‘Solo’ are far too good to sit in the vault. ‘Now I Don’t Hate California After All’ is one of the weirder songs on a Jepsen album.

#4 Dedicated

Emotion became one of the most critically acclaimed dance-pop albums of all time; on RateYourMusic it only rates behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It was a tough act for Jepsen to follow – Dedicated is a classy pop album that doesn’t consistently reach the heights of its predecessor. The first half is strong – the smooth disco of ‘Julien’. the explosive ‘Now That I Found You’, and the sexy ‘Want You In My Room’ are all highlights. The back half drags in places, with languid tracks like ‘Right Words Wrong Time’ and ‘The Sound’.

#3 The Loneliest Time

Dedicated was a worthy follow-up to Emotion, but Jepsen sounds even better on the relaxed The Loneliest Time. Jepsen describes her 2022 album as a “playground of all the eras” – not focusing on any particular period for inspiration. Accordingly, The Loneliest Time is a playful and diverse record. The first two singles are a case in point – lead single ‘Western Wind’ is classy adult pop, while ‘Beach House’ is cheeky disco about a bad experience on a dating app. The slow-burning buildup of ‘Surrender My Heart’ makes for a terrific opener, while ‘Anxious’ is another great Jepsen song relegated to bonus track status.

#2 Emotion: Side B

Including its bonus tracks, the expanded edition of Emotion already included 17 songs. Yet Jepsen was able to compile another nine songs from the same sessions to create an impressive outtakes album. The upbeat opener ‘First Time’ was the song that hooked me on Jepsen’s music, while ‘Fever’ is an emotive ballad. Only the entertaining ‘Store’, seemingly made from stitching fragments of leftover songs together, betrays the fact that Emotion: Side B is a record of leftovers. Make sure you pick up the Side B + edition, which includes the joyous ‘Cut to the Feeling’.

#1 Emotion

Kiss was a commercial success but Jepsen wished to redefine herself with her third album. Taking creative control of the project, she discovered her sound by blending 1980s pop with alternative production. In the process, she transformed from a hitmaker to a critical darling. Emotion was commercially disappointing, only just scraping into the Billboard Top 20, but the sweeping grandeur of ‘Run Away With Me’ should have been a huge hit. The slinky ‘Boy Problems’ and the cathartic closer ‘When I Needed You’ are both powered by amazing basslines. On Emotion, Jepsen redefined herself as a critically acclaimed pop star, no mean feat.

What’s your favourite Carly Rae Jepsen album?

What Is Your Favourite Album by Carly Rae Jepsen?

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  1. I don’t really know how to answer this question. My three kids are aged 28,27,4. I try to steer them to quality Indy rock – and that effort has been mostly a success.

    But kids will be kids – and in Canada you can never get away from CRJ, Beiber, Drake, Nelly Furtado, Shania Twain, The Weekend and so on. They all have legitimate music talents of different sorts.

    But as long as they also listen to The Band, New Pornographers, The Tragically Hip, Metric, Arcade Fire – then I’m ok with it. (and that’s only the Canadian bands)

    • Does CRJ get any songs on the radio except Call Me Maybe and the Owl City one?

      My 8 year old despises any music that doesn’t have a blatant hook within 10 seconds or isn’t fast enough to dance to.

      • My suggestion for your 8 year old is to make a playlist of actual rock that kids tend to like – a bridge across so to speak. The 1975, AJR, twenty one pilots, Alt J, Bastille and such (even select songs by Coldplay, walk the moon, Head and the Heart, Weezer,etc). Then try to broaden out time and style if that works afterward.

        There’s also songs by bands like Wolf Alice, pale Waves, Cannons, middle Kids that you can sneak in there.

        • I don’t mind too much what they listen to – although I draw the line at their current interest in farting Christmas elves.

    • I think we’re living in an age where mainstream rock isn’t that good but mainstream pop has some talented people.

  2. Though I haven’t explored her music catalog as deeply as I should have, and also generally prefer female vocalists who sing in the lower octaves, I do like most of the Carly Rae Jepson songs that I’ve heard.

    As an aside, I’m able to comment on your posts only from the Reader, but not directly.

  3. I have to bow out of this one…I’m lost. I do like her voice…I looked up some of her stuff by the ones you have mentioned.

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