Carly Rae Jepsen rediscovered the middle ground of pop music with her 2019 album Dedicated. While this album presents radio-friendly pop music from the beginning until the end, it does not sound dumb or generic like a lot of these pop records tend to sound. In fact, the mixture of the influences of music from the 1970s and the 1980s with modern production make it sound unique and unforgettable.
Call Me Maybe Girl. One of the nicknames Carly Rae Jepsen gained. At the beginning of the 2010s, she became one of the most significant rising stars in pop music, after "Call Me Maybe" became one of the biggest hits of the decade. The downfall of her popularity could be caused by numerous influences, such as the lukewarm response to her second album Kiss (2012). After a 3-year break, however, Carly released her third album Emotion (2015). And although the success of her previous album and her signature song was not outsold by far by this album, she was able to establish herself as one of gay icons, gained her cult following. It is no surprise, as Emotion's sound was revolutionary for its incorporation of retrospective synthpop and disco elements, and became one of the most acclaimed pop albums of that year. And as the time flew by, the acclaim towards the album kept growing and growing.
Dedicated is a follow-up to Emotion. And while a lot of commentators were conflicted over its direction, I think it simply expands the sound she got established with and the sound she is good in during the era of Emotion. And no, it is not derivative, it actually expands the sound. The album inflects the radio-friendly easy-listening pop formulas with retro influences from genres such as disco, post-disco, funk, and new wave. The result is a pop record which has a number of songs which can satisfy both radio audiences and audiophiles. The songs are not complicated so you can play them just as a background music, but on the other hand, the production is elaborate enough so you can focus on the way the music is layered.
"Julien" has an interesting 1970s-like vibe due to its specific synth, and as an album opener, it is a solid competitor to her preceding opening track "Run Away with Me". It generally sums up the album's retro vibe.
Although it seems like "No Drug Like Me" would be more minimalistic, it has Carly's signature: it sounds sweet, stripped-down and chilled-out in its beginning, but it explodes during its chorus. We can hear some post-disco influences in this song, although its funk guitar seemed to push it even back to the disco era, it reflects how we see 1980s represented by Madonna, Michael Jackson etc. right now, in the 21st century.
What a beautiful song "Now That I Found You" is. I also admire its ability to connect the 2010s pop with the retro sound typical for Carly. The track's synth sounds modern, even a little bit futuristic, but it works with the maximalist 1980s authentic synthpop chorus. She proved she is here for choruses again.
What I find interesting about "Want You In My Room" is the amount of elements the production of this track has. Instruments, various synths, and so on. And while these kind of tracks often tend to be overproduced, it is not a case of this one.
The vibe of "Everything He Needs" is completely different to the previous tracks, although its 1980s synthpop and pop-funk vibe is still present. It sounds much more experimental, and its uniqueness is probably the reason why it became one of my favourites on the album.
"Happy Not Knowing" is another solid, cute disco-infused song on the album. Besides the awesome chorus (yeah, Carly simply has talent for them since the beginning), I love the track's outro. Its verses are also fun, unlike some other songs on the album which often tend to have generic verses and then they explode in the chorus.
"I'll Be Your Girl" sounds like a sister track to "Want You in My Room". Thick production with various synths and instruments ... it also kind of reminds me of "Aphrodite" by Kylie Minogue. It is naughty, and the sound is fun, but it definitely does not sound dumb. It is just another song perfect to jump and dance to.
"Too Much" is like a contrast compared to previous songs on the album, especially "I'll Be Your Girl". The production is much more simple so you can hear Carly's vocals like she's whispering the song right into your ear. But unlike previous songs, this song is not as impressive and as memorable.
Those calm moments of the album continue at "The Sound". The disco-infused minimalist production has the same issue like the previous track: it is not super impressive, although it is a solid song and it is definitely elaborate.
The peak of the chorus in "Automatically in Love" stands out, it got stuck inside my head after the first time I've heard it. The track is memorable, cute while also danceable.
"Feels Right" is one of those tracks which contain useless guest appearance. The vocals by Electric Guest are solid, the song itself is solid, but Carly could definitely handle the track on her own. An elaborate song, with no doubts, however, it is also memorable but in a way which becomes annoying in a few moments.
One of my favourites, "Right Words Wrong Time", is also a love song. The moment when the vocals start layering following the bridge is probably the best moment of the album. I absolutely love it.
"Real Love" is a rollercoaster song. It has energy, the production is layered. Also, not the most impressive song of the century, but it is fun and fits the album's nature, just another elaborate track to dance to or just sit, groove and listen to the production.
At "For Sure", I have issues with certain moments of its production. The melody and Carly's vocals could possibly make it one of the best moments of the album, however, its rhythmic production kind of ruins the vibe the song could gain, if it took more of the disco-infused production typical for the album.
One of the album's singles, "Party for One", serves as the album's closing track. It is not the most original and unique songs of the album – it could technically be included in nearly every generic pop albums. But it is definitely a nice dance-pop song.
Dedicated and Emotion are definitely two albums which could inspire other artists, including Dua Lipa with her Future Nostalgia (2020), to start incorporating disco and 80s synthpop into their music. The similarity between Dedicated and Lipa's sophomore album is something I find interesting. Although Carly did not create the album of the decade, this album is definitely one of the most solid pop releases of the year, and something that was ahead of time by going back in time.
- Julien (8/10)
- No Drug Like Me (8/10)
- Now That I Found You (9/10)
- Want You in My Room (8/10)
- Everything He Needs (8/10)
- Happy Not Knowing (8/10)
- I'll Be Your Girl (8/10)
- Too Much (7/10)
- The Sound (7/10)
- Automatically in Love (8/10)
- Feels Right (7/10)
- Right Words Wrong Time (9/10)
- Real Love (8/10)
- For Sure (7/10)
- Party for One (8/10)
TOTAL SCORE: 79 / 100 (decent)