Carly Rae Jepsen
Dedicated


3.4
great

Review

by Will R. STAFF
May 23rd, 2019 | 240 replies


Release Date: 05/17/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: emotion...

Trying to argue that “Run Away With Me” is a perfect song is like trying to argue an object dropped from ten feet will fall to the ground: the claim is axiomatic, a truth so fundamental to the fabric of the universe that it hardly even bears mentioning. And yet, in the context of Dedicated, a brief reexamining seems appropriate. I was a college freshman when “Run Away With Me” came out. That year is when the world opens itself to you: you’re newly an adult, away from home and largely unsupervised by the forces that have sheltered you for the first eighteen years of your life. You can transgress far less surreptitiously than you ever would in your hometown; drinking, smoking, and hooking up move from the shadows of quiet basement parties to the limelights of bars and frat houses.

More critically, though, you used to be defined to some degree of rigidity by your family, community, and (necessarily more restrictive) high school; here, you’re free from all of that. As a result, you can be a more unfiltered version of yourself - and when you’re more unfiltered, so are your emotions. You launch into love and heartbreak and angst with a fluidity impossible when those around you have known you for more than six months; you become a more intensely felt version of yourself. “Run Away With Me,” more so than any other Carly Rae Jepsen song, understands how those floodgates open. It is pure joy, pure uplift, and pure power; it feels the terrifying swoop of new love as though nobody, least of all its deliverer, has ever felt like that before. It is in all ways an unparalleled four minutes and eleven seconds, a whirlwind so unspeakably ferocious that when Jepsen recently ranked her own songs, bracket-style, for BuzzFeed in an effort to promote Dedicated’s latest single “Too Much,” I almost believed she’d nevertheless pick the former over the latter in the bracket’s grand finals.

Then again, I suppose it’s appropriate that Jepsen picked “Too Much” as her favorite song she’s penned. The musician has said across several interviews that album opener “Julien” best encapsulates the spirit of Dedicated, but of all that album’s fifteen tracks “Too Much” best encapsulates the spirit of Carly Rae. She’s at her best when she’s feeling with reckless abandon; her best work so Platonically idealizes the concept of “Big Mood” (capital-B-capital-M) that the idea of the musician having to workshop names for Dedicated’s masterpiece predecessor, and therefore the mere possibility that said name could have been proposed to be anything but E•MO•TION (capital-everything, two full stops before word’s end) is blasphemous. That all-caps is audible in, of course, the unadulterated joy of “Run Away With Me,” especially its sublime bridge (“Over the weekend, we could turn the world to gold”), but also: The laissez-faire of “Boy Problems” that can only go skin-deep before its easily permeable cool unravels; the staked heart of “Turn Me Up,” alchemizing breakup into cataclysm; the disquiet of “Warm Blood,” a purportedly slow burn that feels more like a nuclear reactor roaring at full capacity. Carly Rae’s bracket-winner best represents its progenitor when she sings “When I feel it, then I feel it too much” in its chorus, simultaneously a perfect one-line summary of what makes her essential and yet, in typical Carly Rae fashion, an understatement so grand that all other understatements lose claim to that word.

Dedicated, at its best, demonstrates Carly Rae at her two-full-stops self. Jepsen swings well past the moon on individual songs, and at its many peaks her work here belongs in the company of her previous perfection. Clear standout “Happy Not Knowing,” an unassailable banger of titanically synthy proportions (and, incidentally, one of maybe two or three songs here that would have fit seamlessly into E•MO•TION’s collectiion of B-sides), wusses out of romantic potential with a pained, unconvincingly carefree smile so viscerally similarly to far too many of my own lived experiences that I feel obliged to tweet “Carly Rae Jepsen is @ing me again” every time I hear it despite having deactivated my Twitter a year ago. Polar opposite “Now That I Found You” is similarly massive, a spiritual rehash of “Cut To The Feeling” that breathes new dimensions into that song’s breakneck euphoria while maintaining the acrid aftertaste of its paralyzing romantic uncertainty.

The rest, though? It’s, well, pretty fine. Jepsen has discussed that a working pre-release title for Dedicated was Music to Clean Your House To, that the original thematic concept threaded through its creation was “chill disco.” In practice, “chill disco” only goes so far in covering the album’s fifteen songs - Jepsen’s blessedly too much of a sucker for ‘80s cheese to fully commit to the coolness of “Julien” and “No Drug Like Me” - but its conceptual presence puts ankle weights on too many songs that should otherwise soar unencumbered. In its wake, a monochromaciticy that’s so rarely appeared in her work before permeates too much of Dedicated. Too many instrumentals plod, too many lyrical conceits stumble, too many songs blend into the work of other artists. Much of the album’s last third, in particular, feels uninspired. In the album’s promotional run-up, Jepsen’s talked about having written and recorded two hundred songs from which she picked her favorite fifteen, and it’s disappointing to see such a concentrated cluster of duds picked for the final bouquet. “Feels Right” veers perilously close to the sprawling blight of Taylor Swift’s “ME!”, a stab at Spotify-core featuring Spotify-core king Asa Taccone contributing an utterly insubstantial line to its chorus; “Right Words Wrong Time” captures the lethargy of “All That” but misses its quiet desperation; “For Sure” would have slotted nicely into ODESZA’s A Moment Apart, itself appropriately a major step down from the brilliance of its predecessor In Return.

To be clear, even amongst the overabundance of drab, Carly Rae still shines through the cracks. The aforementioned “Feels Right” almost redeems itself with a coyly-delivered “I bet we can make things sliiiiiiide into Monday”; the otherwise Capital-One-TV-spot sonic fingerprint of “I’ll Be Your Girl” swings from anger to anguish to emptiness and back again so neck-snappingly that it nevertheless is redeemed. This is still a Carly Rae Jepsen album, albeit an all-lowercase no-stop “emotion...” that eventually trails away instead of bursting like a firework. It even nails its more serene moods half the time - “Julien,” despite ostensibly inspiring much of the album’s lethargy, punches through via perfect wah-wah accompanying the singer’s too-casually-spun yarn of breakup pain.

And yet, even if Dedicated resides within the zip code of “emotion,” it nevertheless lives in shabbier digs. When many works of art are met with mild approval, it’s all well and good, but “mild” and “Carly Rae Jepsen” should only appear in the same sentence if the “mild” is wryly understated with the quiet potency she’s all but mastered before this. Dedicated is a quiet weekend at home too soon after finding lips in the streetlight, a shrug at the end of a relationship where tears might have been years prior, an ethos of “chill disco” from a songwriter who made her mark by forgetting that the first word in that phrase existed for some blessed period of time. “Run Away With Me,” and CRJ’s best material, indiscriminately sweeps everyone and everything in its path into its tornado of forlorn desire. Dedicated is good, but it doesn’t whirl with the same destructive force; in that sense, it is Carly Rae’s first genuine failure in a decade.



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user ratings (296)
3.6
great
other reviews of this album
Kirk Bowman CONTRIBUTOR (3.5)
back on my beat...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Brostep
Staff Reviewer
May 23rd 2019


4484 Comments

Album Rating: 3.4

CRJ reviews her own songs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBQxpMbVkqc

Too Much: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJA42HLg5k4

Happy Not Knowing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4YbNztrCIA



is this all that we could do with this emotion?

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
May 23rd 2019


42840 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

I agree with the monochromatic comment for sure. there's two-three song blueprints on here at a pinch and it really starts to show



no Automatically In Love mention though? easy standout to me

BigPleb
May 23rd 2019


59949 Comments


Does this bang?

Green Baron
May 23rd 2019


24798 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Everything He Needs is really bad. Just when I thought this could have been her most consistent release.



Hot take: Emotion Side B is her best so far

Dmax28
May 23rd 2019


723 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Automatically in Love is the standout yea.

And I agree that Emotion Side B is her best. I like her colorful, cute, energetic synthpop side the most.



theacademy
Staff Reviewer
May 23rd 2019


31658 Comments


i love The Sound

FearThyEvil
May 23rd 2019


17086 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I only got to hear the first 3 songs but Julien is a banger

JS19
May 23rd 2019


7419 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I think 2/3rds of the songs here are the level of the last album and the others are a bit flat - but that's still enough for this to be a great pop album

SowingSeason
Moderator
May 23rd 2019


32813 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

Agree that “Run Away With Me" is perfect pop, although I try not to compare this album to it because anything she does will falter when pitted against those sort of expectations. I also agree with "The rest, though? It’s, well, pretty fine." There are absolutely chunks of this that float by totally unaffecting. The album seems to be about 4 tracks too bloated - something maybe attributable to "the streaming era" where it's more profitable to pack an album with as many songs for streaming revenue than it is to fashion a singularly coherent experience. With all that said, I find myself drawn to the lyrics of all things here; I'm helplessly relating to them for whatever reason. She sings with such a dedicated (no pun intended) passion that is also very sexy, it's so easy to get drawn into her lyrical scenarios. For example, on No Drug Like Me:



I can see you spinning around in your head (There's a little ghost of us)

A little history of us in there

And now we've finally got to the safe other side (Something's coming over us)

Why would we risk it for another try?



I'm just so wrapped up in this even though I'm well aware of its shortcomings. My favorite song has to be 'Happy Not Knowing', although 'Want You In My Room' is a banger and 'Real Love' might be her most brilliant actual song since 'Run Away With Me'. There's a lot to love here, a lot probably worth dismissing. But I'm going to ride out this intoxicating honeymoon rush, for as long as it takes me.

Digging: Coldplay - Everyday Life

luci
May 23rd 2019


12012 Comments


"I think 2/3rds of the songs here are the level of the last album and the others are a bit flat - but that's still enough for this to be a great pop album"
rated this a 4 for the same reason
dedicated side b is gonna be fire

luci
May 23rd 2019


12012 Comments


"The album seems to be about 4 tracks too bloated - something maybe attributable to "the streaming era" where it's more profitable to pack an album with as many songs for streaming revenue than it is to fashion a singularly coherent experience"
This argument doesn't make sense for this record. The standard edition is 13 tracks which is on par for a pop album. If the latter tracks are weaker then it's due to her judgement in narrowing down the project rather than padding reasons. For what it's worth I think the album is a cohesive experience, "The Sound" and "Feels Right" are the only weak tracks for me.

granitenotebook
Contributing Reviewer
May 23rd 2019


970 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

really good review. loved your connection w/college, i was also a freshman at that time and so my primary memory for the album is practically skipping back to my dorms while listening to “let’s get lost.” “You launch into love and heartbreak and angst with a fluidity impossible when those around you have known you for more than six months; you become a more intensely felt version of yourself” might have been meant as a personal statement but it felt like you were writing about me

ProjectFreak
May 23rd 2019


3988 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

yeah this is an exceptional review, even though I think I like this a touch more than you

Get Low
May 23rd 2019


6802 Comments


Guess I'll sub now that this is the flagged review, even though I prefer Kirk's.

Brostep
Staff Reviewer
May 23rd 2019


4484 Comments

Album Rating: 3.4

thanks Granite, loved your review as well :] I think the beauty of CRJ, on the whole, is that she hits on personal experiences so accurately/understands the visceral feelings behind things that a lot of people go through but are so cataclysmic that they feel fully individual that her at her best is just @ing all of her listeners one by one. it's a really wonderful thing when it's done right



ty for posi vibes all around as well

Brostep
Staff Reviewer
May 23rd 2019


4484 Comments

Album Rating: 3.4

also yeah The Sound is a 5/5 song Automatically In Love is a 4.5/5 song Real Love is a 4.5/5 song but the review is already 1300 words as is and I figured not worth bloating it even more. paraphrasing a sadly-deleted spookynewghostfriend review of Woob "staff reviews are good because they only describe four songs instead of the whole album so I will stop here :]"

Rev
May 23rd 2019


9881 Comments


great review, and even better avatar

party for one,
if you don't care about me
making love to myself,
beating my meat

Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
May 23rd 2019


57032 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Everything He Needs is real bad but I love this

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
May 23rd 2019


42840 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

still confused by the mixed reception to Party For One, easily the best single from this not called Julien



agreed about the 1/3 of this being fairly weak comment. my major problem would be fixed if you cut Feels Right and Right Words and made For Sure > Party > Real Love the ending

NessieKV
May 24th 2019


75 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Emotion is not that good. This one is great!



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