Review Summary: Better than Dedicated. On par with Emotion.
Carly Rae Jepsen’s status as something of a critical darling has always evaded my comprehension. I don‘t view Emotion
as a decade-defining pop album…do certain songs from that album absolutely bang
? You bet. However, even at her best, she was a “singles artist” who surely could never craft a complete record like Lorde’s Melodrama
or Taylor Swift's 1989
. While I recognize the silliness of those comparisons right off the bat (all very different strands of the pop thread), the prevailing idea is that I never imagined a day where a Carly Rae Jepsen LP – or a B-sides compilation, no less – would consume all of my attention in a similar fashion. Dedicated Side B
is a collection of twelve outstanding pop songs with nary a weak link, and not only is it better than the album from which these songs were cast off, but it’s quite possibly the best Carly Rae Jespen release, period.
It’s surprising, but it really shouldn’t be. These are the sort of 80s-washed, electronic summer pop songs that Jepsen can now craft in her sleep. For all we know, she might have another hundred-something of these tucked away somewhere in a private folder. It would be interesting to see what we’d get if she took the Radiohead path of “unlocking the vault” and simply giving fans full access to her catalog. Regardless, these are twelve such songs – and while it’s baffling to imagine how tracks as fun and romantic as ‘This Is What They Say’ or hypnotically lustful as ‘Felt This Way’ were previously deemed not up to snuff – as fans, we should just be happy to hear them at all.
Dedicated Side B
is more upbeat, energetic, and memorable than its counterpart, featuring hook-laden verses and explosive choruses that only came through intermittently on what we’ll refer to as Side A
. It’s everything Dedicated
was and everything that it wasn’t, all rolled into one. These songs don’t feel even the slightest bit unfinished: ‘Heartbeat’ and ‘Now I Don’t Hate California After All’ fizz and bubble with the lushest of electronic brushstrokes, while her vocals alternate between sweet and singular (‘Stay Away’) and delicious, layered harmonies (‘This Love Isn’t Crazy’). More often than not, it’s an album that is going to make you want to get up and dance, speed down the highway with the windows down, or get drunk with your best friends. It’s all things youthful and vibrant.
If there’s a knock on Dedicated Side B
– which could also be viewed as an indirect compliment – it’s that there is no chart-topper to the tune of ‘Run Away With Me’, ‘Cut to the Feeling’, or ‘Real Love’. In essence, this is twelve straight four-star bangers, and I can’t think of an artist that needed to produce a record exactly
like this more than Jepsen – who has always seemed to be mired by an inability to string together all her best work in a row. This is that moment – something that the mildly disappointing Dedicated
didn’t do, and that even her universally-adored Emotion
fell short of. It’s proof that she’s always had this in her, buried somewhere in her unused files and folders. Perhaps more than anything, it suggests that Jepsen overthinks her A-tracks. If these playful, warm pop jams aren’t album-worthy, then there are few pop stars in existence who should even be making music.
is everything I could have wanted from a Carly Rae Jepsen record. It extracts all of the traits that I love most about her music’s aura – the summery warmth, carefree exuberance, flirty lyrics, earworm choruses – it’s all wrapped up within these twelve brilliant
b-sides. This album is good enough that had Jepsen simply released it with a new title, nobody would have batted an eye – it would have just been assumed that she poured her heart and soul into these tracks and that it is the spiritual successor to Emotion
. They don’t carry the stigma of b-sides – they’re not raw, unfinished, or any less captivating than the very best she’s given us in the past. With Dedicated Side B
, I think I finally understand why she’s so much more than a “singles artist”. As she ever-so-casually surprise releases her very best album to date – as if they’re songs she couldn’t care less about – she proves why she’s one of the best pop artists in the whole industry.