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Carly Rae Jepsen performs at Lollapalooza at Grant Park on August 4, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo: Timothy Hiatt, WireImage)
This Friday brings good news for the Carly Rae Jepsen fans who have waited four-plus years for her new full-length album.
It’s a wait that has, at times, felt twice as long — because of how rapturously received her 2015 release “Emotion” was, as was the collection of “Emotion” b-sides she released in 2016, with her throwaway 2017 single “Cut to the Feeling” only doing more to whip up anticipation for an album that was years away.
The fans weren’t the only ones struggling with the process. Jepsen, the 33-year-old Canadian star who translated her one-hit wonder status earned from 2012’s “Call Me Maybe” into raving critics and obsessed fans, has been open in interviews with how much trouble she’s had in narrowing down the 200+ songs she’s written over the past few years into a single album.
“Dedication,” the appropriately-titled and hard-fought result of Jepsen’s exhausting creative process, arrives this week, a sleek 15 songs that may not hit the same highs as “Emotion” quite as consistently, but comes satisfyingly close.
Where “Dedication” does succeed over “Emotion,” though, is Jepsen’s total commitment to the ‘80s-pop aesthetic she explored on her previous album. While Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift and many of her other pop peers looked towards hip-hop on their most recent albums, “Dedication” doubles down on the synths, vocoders and new-wave guitars for an album that seems entirely cast in soft-focus.
Jepsen’s heart-on-her-sleeve songwriting has always focused less on nitty-gritty personal details and more on broad-strokes storytelling about love and loss, but mostly lust. Where the giddier, more wide-eyed “Emotion” sounded like the beginning of a night out, “Dedicated” sounds like the end of a party and the coming-down hours after, spent mostly in Jepsen’s bedroom. Over the course of the album, she alternately longs for loves that are long lost (“Julien”), thirsts after loves belonging to other partners (“I’ll Be Your Girl”), celebrates current flings (“Want You In My Room,” “Everything He Needs”) and mourns those that she knows won’t last (“Real Love,” “For Sure”).
Jepsen is at her best on the album, though, when she’s singing about herself, like on her cheeky initial single “Party For One,” which extolls the benefits of personal pleasure, and the moody ode to excess “Too Much,” with a chorus that’s just begging to be some fans’ summer anthem: “When I party then I party too much, when I feel it then I feel it too much / When I’m thinking, then I’m thinking too much, when I’m drinking then I’m drinking too much.”
While the streamlined ‘80s dance-pop of “Dedicated” is impressive for its laser-focused sound it does lose some of the eclectic charms of “Emotion,” a less-polished album that nevertheless felt more warm-blooded than the icy sheen of Jepsen’s new release. And while there’s not a true dud among the 15 songs of “Dedicated,” the album’s singular vibe requires a few listens in order to remember which song is which, flowing almost too seamlessly from track to track.
Thankfully, “Emotion” was the kind of album that only became more gratifying to listen to after a few spins, and that’s even more so the case with “Dedicated,” an album of many pleasures that, like Jepsen herself, takes its sweet time unfurling for the world.
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