Add to library: Just delete ‘Now That I Found You’
Dedicated is Carly Rae Jepsen’s much-anticipated follow-up to 2015’s Emotion, an album that’s widely agreed among music fans to be the apex of contemporary pop.
That’s a hard act to follow, but as the title suggests, the Canadian maverick again comes committed to calibrating the perfect pop album.
Say what you like about her, but Carly’s songs are instantly recognisable – or at least they would be if they were played on the radio (‘Call Me Maybe’ aside). Her cult fanbase have come to expect heart-on-sleeve tales of love, told through maximalist synthpop arrangements and petal-soft vocals gilded with a sweet rasp.
On her third effort, however, Carly shakes some of the fizz out of her sound. It’s a notably mellower set of tracks, even if the themes of intimacy and loneliness are no more bittersweet than they’ve always been.
The bad news is there’s no full-throttle, arms-aloft bops a la ‘Run Away With Me’ tucked away in the tracklist. The good news is Carly is horny, which naturally makes the obsessively insular songwriting far more interesting than the crisp and chic midtempo music that surrounds it.
Lyrically, ‘Everything He Needs’ delights in a young woman’s newfound sexual power. To call it Carly’s smuttiest track to date wouldn’t be saying much. The 33 year-old has long been expressing her sexuality in the kind of girlish aphorisms a high schooler would have scrawled across their journal. This is what Carly excels at, and while her imagery is a touch more eyebrow-raising these days – ‘When he can’t sleep, I understand / Like pressure points, my love can ease him in my hand’ – it is still sung with a wide-eyed amazement that’s startling in its purity.
There’s no shortage of intoxicating subtlety – from lowkey yet melodious cuts like ‘The Sound’ and ‘For Sure’ (listen out for a gorgeous afrobeat outro), to the Parisian nü-disco throb of ‘Julien’. As one of the few uptempo moments of the album, ‘Now That I Found You’ is a crushing disappointment, blindly microwaving the effervescent joy of Emotion into a substance-less mush. Electric Guest collab ‘Feels Right’ is a jaunty, piano-led rocker that’s mildly compromised by an interesting choice of upper register courtesy of Carly.
I admit the standard I’m holding Carly isn’t entirely fair. To her credit, from the immense pressure of delivering another instant classic, she’s managed to forge a handful of diamonds. ‘Happy Not Knowing’ and ‘Real Love’ are snappy and affecting dance numbers, but only ‘Want You In My Room’ truly advances her sound.
Picking up where the herculean 80s pop of Emotion left off, Carly’s perfectly at home amid the track’s big 80s drums and twinkly guitars, but there’s a worldbeat flair to its deeply funky synths that’s new for her. At the song’s heart is an amusing ‘my window is open for you’ motif that’s very much from the Mae West School of Seduction.
It’s no accident that the album’s best track happens to be yet another insight into Carly’s libido. If Dedicated proves anything, it’s that the girl’s getting good at it.
Err, good at writing about it, I mean.