It’s been four years since Carly Rae Jepsen released Emotion, an album that at last cemented her position in the premier league of pop stars. It may not have been a commercial success that the likes of Taylor Swift can knock off in her sleep, but songs like Cut To The Feeling and Run Away With Me sounded like instant classics. In fact, it was so good, it spawned two spin-offs: a remix album, and a collection of ‘B-sides’.
For the follow up, Jepsen has followed a similar creative process that produced Emotion. She ended up writing almost 200 songs, which were then whittled down in a series of listening sessions at her home, where her friends voted for which tracks should be included on the final record. The chances of a Dedicated B-Sides are strong, it should be said.
So, Dedicated is very much a continuation of what made Emotion so impressive – 15 songs filled with addictive hooks, infectious choruses and an exhilarating energy that keeps you coming back for repeat plays. Julien is the opening track, and gives a pretty good idea of what to expect: a classic disco banger, which has an air of sadness permeating it. The Julien of the title is a lover that Jepsen can’t get over (“I tried another to keep me satisfied”), and that sense of yearning is one that gives the record its edge.
Want You In My Room is one of Dedicated’s many highlights, co-written with Lorde collaborator Jack Antonoff, a great big pop song bursting with colour and filled with somewhat saucy lyrics – “I want to do bad things to you, slide on through my window”. It’s one of those songs that instantly cheers you up, no matter what mood you’re in.
Dedicated is the type of album that you may have a different favourite song every time you listen to it. One day it may be the slinky, shimmering No Drug Like Me, the next day it could be Real Love, which sounds full of the exhilaration of new love – “all I want is real, real love”, before revealing the kicker: “but I don’t know a thing about it”. Like her Scandinavian counterpart Robyn, it’s the contrast between bright light and heart-rendering shade that gives Dedicated its edge.
There’s also an awful lot of clever references buried beneath the big, bright pop music – Everything He Needs has a clear nod to Harry Nilsson‘s He Needs Me (as heard in films such as Popeye and Punch Drunk Love), while one of the album’s best tracks, I’ll Be Your Girl is startling in it’s depiction of jealousy with lines like “I go crazy, see red when she’s touching you now” and talk of about cutting eyes out of photographs.
It seems a peculiar choice to put Party For One – an I Will Survive for a new generation – right at the end of the record, when it seems a perfect album opener, and there could be an argument that a couple of edits to make the track listing shorter would have resulted in an even more effective album. However, this is easily one of the best pop albums of the year as it is: one that’s unlikely to be bettered unless a certain Ms Swift really pulls it out of the bag.