Dedicated Side B
Carly Rae Jepsen
2020 – Pop / Synthpop
As much as Dedicated Side B actually seems like a mere extension of Dedicated, Carly’s new album has a unique sparkle, dynamics and beauty
In 2015, Carly Rae Jepsen released E•MO•TION, which was undoubtedly one of the best pop albums of the past decade. As she jumped through the city streets she sang: “Baby, take me to the feeling / I’ll be your sinner in secret / When the lights go out / Run away with me, run away with me” in “Run Away With Me”, the opening track of a solid and powerful, courageous and intriguing, dancing and exciting, but above all, simply an impeccable album. However, she felt that she hadn’t delivered everything yet and a year after the release of her third album, she released an E•MO•TION Side B, which managed to be even more amazing. Now, doing the same with her album of the last year, Jepsen releases the other side of Dedicated.
Although the name indicates another side of her previous project, Dedicated Side B looks, in reality, a continuation of Dedicated. Following with the same sonic, lyric and harmonious tendencies, Jepsen brings a synthetic and sparkling shine to her project launched during the COVID-19 pandemic: the same extra pop tracks that jump into our heads with extremely synthetic and digital beats, while Carly is dancing in a bright futuristic studio writing sharp lyrics while executing her ideas with an excellent prowess. The most amazing thing is that, even with the same sounds and lyrics, Dedicated Side B is not nauseating during much of its reproduction. It’s almost like everything here is something new, even though it’s something we’ve heard before.
As mentioned before, Dedicated Side B looks, for most of its duration, an extension of last year’s album. Fortunately, and ironically, that’s not a bad thing since at no time do you feel really sick from the Jepsen’s sound. It’s almost as if Carly is still taking gold from an infinite mine and is creating beautiful rings, bracelets and necklaces. The album starts with “This Love Isn’t Crazy”. Produced by Jack Antonoff, the track features saturated 2000s elements, such as the synthetic voices that sing “ooh-ooh-ooh”, but that worked really well here and helped Carly to create the feeling of freedom and hope for love and happiness. Although the lyrics have some weird lines, most of them manage to be very beautiful, cute and well built, managing to pass all the feeling that Jepsen is feeling, as well as her voice, which sounds beautifully liberating. Following the same vibe, “Window” seems to be a mix of what Selena Gomez did on her album Rare with Carly’s sharp lyrics that appeal to her boyfriend not to lock her out and let her into his heart and life.
Fortunately, there are rare times when this project really starts to sound like another face and not just an extension. “Let’s Sort the Whole Thing Out” looks like a mix of what Carly has been doing in the past, but even more cute, shiny and exaggerated. It is almost impossible not to associate the chorus of the track with stereotypical oriental pop songs, where we have this essence of cuteness in the singer’s voice. Also produced by Antonoff, “Comeback” has a different texture. Although the synthesizers sound bright and contrast with the thicker strings in the background, the track has a grand atmosphere making it look like Jepsen was in a big arena singing alone while the stars advance over the sky. Finally, one of the best on the entire album, “This is What They Say” has pop dance trends from the 2000s that build this incredible and captivating beat that build a golden path to the chorus where Carly sings beautifully and, with the help of a disguised choir, creates a kind of electronic and modern ballad that is extremely beautiful, cute, captivating, dancing and, above all, passionate.
However, I am not going to deny that there are songs here that could easily be discarded because they are, in most cases, an extension of another track either from Dedicated or even, from this album itself. I think this is very clear when you hear “Felt This Way” and “Stay Away” that use the same technique to create a captivating track. In “Felt This Way” she sings: “I can’t stay away (Away, away, away, away)”; and in “Stay Away”: “So little time and I’m way off track / I can’t stay away, away, away, away”. In fact, it is not something that really bother, but it is undeniable that it seemed a lack of creativity or even, a laziness, coming from Jepsen. But even so, both tracks can be very fun, well produced and relatively well written. Furthermore, while “Heartbeat” has a seductive chorus while Jepsen sings: “I was busy sleeping, sleeping with you / I thought I’d never feel this way, but I do”, “Summer Love” has no charm unless for some occasional strings and keyboards that end up giving a good finish to the track, but they can hardly save the lyrics, which is quite precarious. In short, the great enemy of these songs is the fact that they have no elements that make them stand apart, so they seem to be a little lacking in personality close to the other tracks.
Fortunately, it looks like she left the best for last. The biggest enemy of “Fake Mona Lisa” is its short duration that did not allow it to show all its power, being limited to just two minutes that don’t let the lyrics — that talks basically about sex — develop and become something really powerful. Fortunately, “Solo” received more attention with its instrumental formed by a set of remixed voices all together alongise electronic keyboards. Being the best on the album, “Solo” is an anthem of a theme that Jepsen has been working on for a long time: self-love. She intimidates us with intimacy: “So what aren’t you in love? / Don’t go wasting your nights getting so low / So what you’re not in love? / You shine bright by yourself dancing solo” before dissolving in a dance attack of her synthetic instrumental. Finally, abandoning everything we’ve seen on the album, “Now I Don’t Hate California After All” shows her on a swing closing a story she has been working on since E•MO•TION. While in “LA Hallucinations” she told how life in California is materialistic and in “Right Words Wrong Time” she talks about a relationship that is not working in LA, here she transforms synthesizers into guitars from Hawaii that are being played by friendly robots and decides to abandon all her past at once, forgetting everything she already suffered afterwards. Well, now that Carly has definitely broken with her past, I don’t know where she took us, but I’m sure it will be as good a place as the ones we’ve already visited with her.