Dedicated
Jepsen's "Dedicated" has its ups and its downs, but fans are still here for its rollercoaster ride. (Image via Instagram)
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Dedicated

The latest album from the pop darling is for herself, her lovers and the sounds of her past.

Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Dedicated,” which debuted on May 7, is currently the highest user-rated album in history on Metacritic. The album was preceded by a slow release of singles over a half year period, the first single being “Party for One” released Nov. 1, 2018. The song is a motivational anthem about self-love when lacking the support of others. It wasn’t until this February, though when dedicated fans were treated to a dual single release of the songs “Now That I Found You” and “No Drug Like Me.”

It was only four years ago when the “Canadian Idol” alumna and “Call Me Maybe” singer/songwriter released the ’80s-inspired and critically acclaimed album “Emotion.” The project was seen as her comeback and was quickly hailed as a new gospel in the pop bible, with critics and fans enthralled by Jepsen’s witty songwriting and nuanced production.

While no tracks off “Emotion” reached the commercial fame of “Call Me Maybe,” the lead single, “Run Away With Me,” is considered the best pop song of 2015. “Emotion” was a step out of the mainstream for Jepsen, and a dive into the raw — and often experimental — side of pop.

The album has also proven popular within the LGBTQ+ community, who consider Jepsen a modern pop icon. Given Jepsen’s newly matured sound and her fervent audience, the latter of half of the decade has given way to the singer’s renaissance.

While “Now That I Found You” feels right at home with Jepsen’s classics “I Didn’t Just Come Here To Dance,” “I Really Like You” and “Good Time,” the third single off “Dedicated” hints at more experimental production from the Canadian songwriter. Two more singles, “Julien” and “Too Much,” were released between February and the May release date of “Dedicated.”

So are fans as dedicated to “Dedicated” as they are to “Emotion?” Yes. Does that mean her album is good? Yes. Does this mean “Dedicated” is better than “Emotion”? No.

“Dedicated” is an incredible record that digs into the core of being in love. The joy, the pain and the thrill of romance are all present on the album, as Jepsen glides in and out of sounds from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s treated with a modern flare.

At its best moments, “Dedicated” is a risk-taking record that sounds like nothing ever heard before, yet also like every pop album ever recorded. It’s highly advanced, yet incredibly familiar. “Dedicated” falls short of “Emotion” on the songs that fall out of this zone and into pop obscurity.

Simply put: a handful of songs on “Dedicated” are just okay. They’re not bad, but they’re nowhere close to the level of artistry other songs on the album achieve. Some songs even feel out of place on the record. While “Emotion” masters curating an album full of songs that all deserve to be singles, “Dedicated” is a few songs too long, and generic at times.

Here is a look into what makes some of these tracks iconic, and some not so much.

The Highs

Julien” — The first track on the album is an ode to a lover like no other. Jepsen sings that she is haunted by her time with Julien because he was just too damn good. In the years between “Emotion” and “Dedicated,” Jepsen hinted at a disco-inspired album. Because of these hints, I was left a little disappointed with the previous singles that showed little to no signs of groovy, disco jams.

“Julien” is definitely a remnant of Jepsen’s supposed disco fad and is a joyous start to the album. With the tasteful woodblock sounds in the chorus and the breathy and sensual vocals, combined with a beat made to dance to, “Julien” is truly the heart of the album, as Jepsen describes it.

No Drug Like Me” — While “Julien” is totally engrossed in its inspirations from the past, “No Drug Like Me” feels incredibly futuristic. Jepsen sings of her own assets in the song, juxtaposing her praise of another in “Julien.” Jepsen’s love is a drug, and the production perfectly matches her lyrics. Heavy, stuttering synths fill the chorus with a psychedelic feeling that harks back to ‘70s pop, yet leaves the listener adrift as if floating in space. It’s romantic, and all kinds of original.

Now That I’ve Found You” — Bright sunshine, blue skies, musical numbers in a colorful movie: that is what “Now That I’ve Found You” feels like. It’s the morning-after song for Jepsen and this mysterious Julien. It’s jubilant, bouncy and simply loads of fun. It’s a very radio friendly track, but original enough to not be generic.

Everything He Needs — This is a cute, bubbly track that feels like valleys of flowers in summertime, but also like love on a spaceship. There’s an alien vibe to this song that creeps into a few other tracks on the record that I wish was explored more throughout “Dedicated” as a whole.

Too Much” — A self reflective anthem that is not only deep but also deeply catchy. It’s a very subtle song. It doesn’t jump out at listeners with a thumping bass or a quick tempo. It’s understated and a good transition song in the album from Jepsen being head over heels in love to the challenges that come with being in a relationship.

Want You In My Room— This song is holy. It is the definition of pop perfection to the highest degree. It’s the “Run Away With Me” of this album, it is THE song of the record. The contrast of Jepsen’s angelic, layered vocals shouting, “I want to do bad things to you!” is genius.

She croons like Cyndi Lauper, while the production has hints of Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer.” Subtle notes of ’90s girl groups like TLC and En Vogue bleed through as well, and the song completes with a keyboard and saxophone duet to bring us back into the ’80s. Such a crafted blend of decades mixed with futuristic, edited vocals makes for a song that will stand the test of time.

Just Okay’s

“The Sound” — Another futuristic, close-to-alien-sounding song that is a blend of “Everything He Needs” and “Too Much” in sound and theme. It’s as devotional as it is reflective, and definitely is not a skip by any means. It would work well as an album-closer, but not smack in the middle as it is.

“Automatically In Love” — In the same vein of “Too Much,” this song is understated until the chorus. It explodes into a tight combination of Jepsen’s high vocals and snappy percussion. The issue is that the chorus takes over the rest of the song. The verses aren’t terribly memorable, which puts this song as just okay.

“Right Words Wrong Time” — This track has an addictive hook and an interesting chord progression, but not much else. This is where the songs on the album begin to sound the same, and not in a cohesive way.

“Party For One” — Even though this song was the first taste of “Dedicated” we got to hear, it wasn’t exactly memorable. It’s one of those songs you forget exists, but when it comes on you start dancing around your room using a hairbrush as a microphone. It’s a sleeper hit; it gets you when you least expect it.

The Lows

“Happy Not Knowing,” “I’ll Be Your Girl,” “Feels Right,” “Real Love” and “For Sure” all have two things in common: good choruses and tight production, but lackluster verses and forgettable melodies. Some of these don’t even feel consistent with the sound of the album. While they’re all well-made songs, none of them even stand out as much as the okay songs. Despite this, they’re still good! They just don’t compare to the rest of the well-crafted tracks on “Dedicated.”

Jepsen is an incredible artist and “Dedicated” is a worthy follow up to her acclaimed album “Emotion.” It’s distinct enough in sound to stand out from its predecessor, and it makes a name for itself as an iconic pop record — despite some shortcomings. “Dedicated” has enough hits to satisfy not only fans, but also critics and newcomers to the sound of Jepsen.

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