Review: Dedicated

24 July 2019

For a singer who is largely known by her one-off viral hits and saxophone-riffs-made-into-memes, Carly Rae Jepsen is remarkably serious about her craft. 

If nothing else, 2015’s Emotion was a resounding demonstration of this. Buried behind the infamous first few seconds of the opening track ‘Run Away With Me’ is a swathe of 80s-inspired grooves and disco-y, dance-y anthems. Her voice sings with the innocent longing and youthful joy it has always carried, from the lost days of 2008’s Tug Of War, to the global sensation of 2012’s ‘Call Me Maybe.’

And yet Emotion’s commercial performance underwhelmed. Perhaps she knew it would. Perhaps that’s the price of authenticity. Few are actually aware of Jepsen’s prolific songwriting—Emotion was preceded by an indie album which she created (but never released) as a minor rebellion against her hyperpop days. We saw a glimpse at the calibre of songs which didn’t make the cut in Emotion Side B, an eight-track EP which some have argued is even better than the original. There was never a massive public uptake for either the album or the subsequent EP, but Jepsen showed in 2015 that you don’t need billions of listeners to just make good music.

2019’s Dedicated is no less satisfying. While current pop music continues to hurtle towards hip-hop and RnB, Jepsen stays true to her roots, singing with the same old-school sincerity and uncurbed glee that has coloured her previous releases. Throw in on one hand a breathy hint of desire, and an impassioned plea or proclamation of love on the other, and you get an album that is as well-rounded as it is mature, as restrained as it is quintessential. 

‘The Sound’ is a personal favourite; the chorus is euphoric, and though the verses don’t shine as much, her voice is captivatingly desirous (or “cheerfully horny” according to my favourite tweet of the year) all throughout. The gentle groove of ‘Everything He Needs’ and ‘Feels Right’ conveys the assured understanding between two lovers, while ‘Want You In My Room’ expresses desire and lust in a way that is evolved—but not entirely detached—from Jepsen’s more innocent, coy releases in years past.

Jepsen has also described the opening track ‘Julien’ as the heart of Dedicated. It’s funky and danceable, but subtle at the same time. Her voice still sings with longing, but it’s a bit more wistful and grown-up now. Upon reflection, it isn’t difficult to understand why this song is the heart of the album: indeed, its most successful songs are all of these things, and at its best, Dedicated is an album that totally works for Jepsen’s talents and trajectory.

In creating this album, Jepsen wrote almost 200 songs yet only released a selection of 15—the title track didn’t even make it. The result, however, is an album that is unexpectedly true to its name. Yes, it’s another album about love, but it’s also another testament to Jepsen’s dedication to her craft. At its heights, Dedicated brims with excellence and maturity, while still remaining true to the girl-next-door from all those years ago.

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