Truly, there is no drug like Carly Rae Jepsen, and her latest album “Dedicated” proves as much. The “E•MO•TION” songstress jumps forward to 2019 with a collection of songs that are a step up in lyrical maturity, and with a cohesive sound to boot. “Dedicated” is a joyful, heart-tugging affair that balances love and heartbreak with plenty of bops to satisfy even the most uptight of music lovers.
Album opener “Julien”, which Jepsen says set “the heart and direction of the album”, is a synth-filled piece of disco glamour, where Jepsen sings about an all too short romance she can’t get out of her head, or heart. The repetitious breakdown of the name “Julien” in the post-chorus inspires a kind of yearning only achieved after being ghosted by a guy you went on a Tinder dates with and thought you were really hitting it off. (Am I bitter? Maybe.) Anyway.
“No Drug Like Me” serves as a wonderful ode to being open and vulnerable in a relationship, and is reminiscent of Troye Sivan’s “Bloom” with Jepsen’s promise to “make me feel in love / then I’ll blossom for you”. It’s a sexy slowjam that wouldn’t feel out of place on many a makeout playlist.
Queer Eye-and-Target-approved bop “Now That I Found You” treds familiar territory for Jepsen, belting high and loud about the happiness once feels when one finds a partner worthy of devotion, or say, dedication. (I see what you did there, Carly.)
Jack Antonoff-produced “Want You in My Room” mixes sultry and sweet to great effect. “I don’t care anymore / I wanna do bad things to you”. While there is a missed opportunity to sample the Vengaboys’ hit “Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom!!!” at some point, the song remains a hit while we all wait for the boy of our dreams to come crawling in through our bedroom window.
“Everything He Needs” is a boppy brag of a song where Jepsen claims to have a hold over her love in all the ways: “emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, sexually”. Talk about a good checklist to keep at hand. “Happy Not Knowing” acts as 2019’s version of “E•MO•TION: Side B”‘s “The One”, a wistful plea to not starting a relationship because the stress of it all is just too much. “I don’t have the energy / To risk a broken heart / When you’re already killing me”.
As I wrote about before, “I’ll Be Your Girl” is one of “Dedicated”‘s high points, and a must-listen-to part of Jepsen’s discography. Only she can make the poignant yearning of a taken love sound worthwhile and not just desperate.
New single “Too Much” contains some of my most favorite Carly-isms, that being she always does things “too much.” There are no half-assed attempts at love here, Jepsen is thinking, drinking, and feeling way too much in an attempt to get closer to love, and just maybe, it’s a little too much for the other person here. But then again, who cares what they think when Carly’s down to love?
“The Sound”, “Automatically in Love”, and “Feels Right” are all great songs, but would be the closest this record has to filler tracks. That being said, they don’t merit being cut out of the album, as they do a great job at reinforcing the central theme of being “dedicated”: “The Sound” is a suggestion that one has to do more than just say they’re in love; “Automatically in Love” speaks to the power of love at first sight; and “Feels Right” reminds us all that “it feels right when it feels right”. “Feels Right” also has Jepsen over enunciating “complicated”, which is just awesome.
The penultimate track “Right Words Wrong Time” leads us down the heartache and frustration of a love gone distant. “Took a thousand miles to feel the final separation / Don’t tell me now you know what you need”. The song is reminiscent of Madonna’s “Miles Away” with its focus on a love who can only express their “true” feelings once they’re separated. It’s frustrating, and exhausting work to keep a relationship going like that, and Ms. Jepsen has had enough of it.
This brings us to the album closer: “Real Love”. Acting as a motto and a underscoring of the album’s entire theme, Jepsen sings about wanting to take a relationship to the next level, and stop playing games. The opening verse is quite beautiful actually, with Jepsen suggesting that the insanity of the world has forced her to reconsider what matters most in her life, and what matters is connecting to another human being. Her earnest pleading of “But I don’t know a thing about it / All I want is real, real love” is a real heart-warmer, and ends the album on an optimistic note.
Speaking for the album’s bonus tracks, “For Sure” ruminates on the possibility of a relationship’s end, and “Party for One” remains a bop that might have been better left as a one-off single instead of at the album’s end.
What Jepsen has gifted us with is a record that tells a story of a woman grappling with love in its many forms. Whether it be too much, not enough, just right, or not right enough, love is something worth fighting for.