Carly Rae Jepsen delivers dedicated emotion

How does Jepsen’s latest album, Dedicated, measure up against its predecessor, Emotion?

Courtesy of Schoolboy/Interscope Records.

By: Kelly Chia, Staff Writer

I love Carly Rae Jepsen. Since I started really listening to her a few months ago on a whim, I have been obsessed with her music. I discovered Emotion just in time to prepare for her newest drop Dedicated — and you can bet that I’m more than ready for her concert in August. But for all the critical acclaim of Emotion, Dedicated has not been received with the same critical success — which I don’t think is really justified.

Emotion had thoroughly impressed me with Jepsen’s growth from the saccharine pop music of Kiss (2012) to a more sincere, potent sound that you could put on and groove to anywhere.  Emotion was thematically cohesive, pairing the ‘80s-inspired tracks with a vulnerability unique to Jepsen’s style.

“Run Away with Me,” the intro track to the album, starts with an iconic saxophone tone that gets the listener revved up and ready to listen to more. The whole song is escapist, feeling much like the initial brushes of infatuation with a new lover. It is completely fantastical, and it’s a great opener for the often dreamy feeling. When Jepsen beckons me to run with her, I feel compelled to follow.

“Warm Blood” is one of the tracks that I pinned immediately for having a smoky, moody vibe of the album’s numerous colourful tracks. The lyrics feel visceral, and are both fun and a little creepy at the same time. When talking about the song, Jepsen originally intended for the hook to be “Warm love, feels good,” but when she sung it to her producer, Rostam Batmanglij, he heard it as “warm blood”. Since then, the hook stuck, and I’m glad for that — the hook evokes a more tangible, physical image that really makes the song stick.

My personal favourite of the album, though, is “All That.” The whole song has a tinge of yearning to it, and where “Warm Blood” beckons the listener more sensually, “All That” has a vulnerability that is deeply relatable. Compared to the flirty lead pop single, “I Really Like You”, “All That” is honest and unsure. In these lyrics, Jepsen pleads to be a supportive pillar and confidant. 

Dedicated is a very different album. Where Emotion is more romantic and dreamy, Dedicated feels more melancholic. When talking about what the album is inspired by, Jepsen said, “I think the album goes through that process of like, ‘shit, what do I do now?’ And, at the same time, singlehood for the first time in a while, which I’m kind of new at! So there was an arc of like, full-on heartbreak to a new story.” Where Emotion had encouraged the listeners not to dwell in these feelings and to run, Dedicated feels like Jepsen is actively exploring the realistic and uncomfortable matters of the heart.

Dedicated’s opening song, “Julien”, lingers on the listener. Jepsen sings about how “haunted [she] is by [their] time” in the song, and for a subject that would normally warrant a piano ballad, “Julien” is a track that the listener is compelled to groove with. The synthesizers give a futuristic and funky feel to the song that echoes through the album. This song sets the precedent for the general theme of yearning for a lover that isn’t present.

Once again, Jepsen teases her sensuality in the lyrics of the songs, though Dedicated feels like a more overt take on it. “No Drug Like Me” echoes a darker version of Emotion’s “I Really Like You” by emulating the dizzying highs of a crush. The song also feels like “All That” as Jepsen dares her lover to reveal more of themselves to her, and her to them. “If you make me feel in love, I’ll blossom for you,” then, explores the opening stages of a relationship where lovers are learning to be vulnerable with each other.

Though I adored “No Drug Like Me” upon first listen, “Real Love” is the one that has really grown on me. It feels like the loneliest song on the album, where Jepsen begs for real love in a world where she “just doesn’t know who to trust sometimes.” Like the rest of the album, Jepsen still has me bopping my head and dancing to the pre-chorus as the lyrics cut to my core. This feeling of melancholic longing over a dance beat brings Robyn’s anthemic “Dancing on My Own” to mind, and I adore it.

Although Dedicated took longer to grow on me than Emotion did, I’ve gotten a real appreciation for it over the last few weeks. Jepsen proves that she is not afraid to experiment with her sound in Dedicated, and not just pop out Emotion 2.0. My early assessment of Jepsen as a typical teen pop artist for “Call Me Maybe” had been shattered when I listened to these tracks, as I realized that these songs were made for confused adults still experimenting with love and still trying to navigate it. Jepsen’s genuine lyrics continue to set a high standard in my heart, and I look forward to everything she touches in the future.