Schoolboy / Interscope Records
Release Date: May 17th 2019 [Dedicated] / May 21st 2020 [Dedicated Side B]
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
Track Listing [Dedicated]
- No Drug Like Me
- Now That I Found You
- Want You In My Room
- Everything He Needs
- Happy Not Knowing
- I’ll Be Your Girl
- Too Much
- The Sound
- Automatically In Love
- Feels Right (feat. Electric Guest)
- Right Word Wrong Time
- Real Love
- For Sure
- Party For One
Track Listing [Dedicated Side B]
- This Love Isn’t Crazy
- Felt This Way
- Stay Away
- This Is What They Say
- Summer Love
- Fake Mona Lisa
- Let’s Sort The Whole Thing Out
- Comeback (feat. Bleachers)
- Now I Don’t Hate California After All
- Let’s Be Friends
For virtually all of my life, I haven’t had the inkling to listen to pop music. Actually, I don’t think that the statement I just mentioned is true. Over the years I have listened to pop music… but it was always attached to something. It was always pop with another genre, or pop from a certain perspective. Not ‘straight up pop’. Confused? Well let me try to make it all a bit clearer. You see, Avril Lavigne was pop/rock, Amy Grant and Lauren Daigle both pop/CCM, Delta Goodrem was pop but from an Aussie perspective… and so the list goes on. Kelly Clarkson, Mandy Moore, Natalie Imbruglia, Vanessa Amorosi and Colbie Caillat are other ‘pop’ stars with another more vulnerable or rocky or edgy or reflective side to them, while Ed Sheeran- some version of pop- was a ‘thinking-man’s’ version of pop (pop with an intentional edge of writing deeper and more meaningful lyrics). Yes, indeed Backstreet Boys, One Direction and Westlife were all heavy pop in the sense that these were all boy-bands… yet none of them connected with me that much, and hence I was only a casual listener of their brand of pop. And of course I listened to pop on Christian radio, but that was CCM- artists like MercyMe, Tenth Avenue North, Casting Crowns, Newsboys, Third Day, Big Daddy Weave, Sidewalk Prophets, Natalie Grant, Francesca Battistelli… you get the picture, right? And when you think about the pop on the radio right now… the mainstream pop music which said something superfluous and only spoke about drugs and sex and partying and having a good time… well I didn’t really want to touch that.
However things were about to change with regard to me not listening heavily to ‘straight up pop’; as it was about a month ago when I discovered Carly Rae Jepsen’s fun, bubbly, somewhat naïve sense of pop/dance music- and that brand of pop I instantly connected with. My brother Jon uploaded his blog about her as one of the most influential artists of all time– and though at the time I wasn’t entirely convinced at whether Carly really belonged in that list or not, I still powered on in reading the blog and watching the videos Jon embedded in the post. The result is me now loving Carly’s music, and becoming a fan! Sure, I’m definitely not part of her target demographic (as she sings predominately angsty love songs masqueraded as EDM pop jams perhaps 90% of the time or even more!), but there’s something powerful and dare I say it, spiritual, about Carly’s music and her lyrics and just the way she delivers them. In a world where artists like Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Katy Perry, Halsey, Dua Lipa, Bebe Rexha and The Jonas Brothers rule the radio and the pop stratosphere, with their overall lyrics and themes not entirely wholesome (and that’s why I steer clear from artists like these, as they aren’t that edifying for the soul!); Carly’s music is refreshing and revitalising- as we remember that a seemingly ‘one-hit wonder’ (“Call Me Maybe”) definitely isn’t so, and that if you are sleeping on Carly, you better wake up very, very soon. In my opinion, Carly’s pop songs are so catchy, and fun for the whole family to listen to, and I for one will recommend Carly to whoever I meet, simply because I believe that her music will resonate with many.
Well, did you guys all come here to read about Carly and have a history lesson as to how she got her big break in music? I’m sorry everyone, because you’re about to be disappointed. I’m not touching upon Carly’s history and her story (leave it to Jon for the in depth analysis!); and if you guys are ‘lazy’ and not wanting to read Jon’s long blog… well then tough luck! In all seriousness though, you can check out Carly’s history on the ever-reliable Wikipedia– or you could use Google. But what I will say is this. Carly doesn’t really reinvent the wheel genre-wise or lyric-wise. The subject matter and the musical structure of KISS (2012) is very similar to EMOTION (2015) and Dedicated (2019); and while you may believe that that is a sign of an artist being stagnant and not growing, I for one applaud Carly for sticking to what she knows best and what she is good at. Doing one thing and doing it well, is far more admirable than trying a lot of things and failing, or only doing them half-heartedly.
2020 has been a bit of a downer of a year (the ongoing COVID-19, the riots in the US surrounding George Floyd’s death, and the bushfires in Australia to name just a few harrowing incidents) yet for me I have used this time to expand more on my musical tastes- finding new favourite artists and inspiring albums that I wouldn’t normally have explored prior to COVID-19. Carly Rae Jepsen’s Dedicated Side B is one of those albums- the ‘B-sides’ or companion CD to Dedicated from 2019. While Dedicated Side B released in May this year, it’s only in the past few weeks that I have had the pleasure to sit, contemplate and ruminate over the many, many songs of Carly Rae Jepsen. Dedicated Side B is one of them, and I believe that this project is one of the most poignant, hopeful, underrated, and sonically brilliant albums of the year. If any of you all don’t believe me… then take a listen to this album on Spotify or on Apple Music or on YouTube or anywhere you consume music. Yep, go do it now, I’ll wait. Ok. Now, have you finished? Let’s go on and dive in deep to this near-flawless masterpiece shall we?
Before we pick apart Dedicated Side B, let us briefly touch upon Dedicated. For these two albums are really two sides of the same coin so to speak. With the 13 tracks of Dedicated Side B being ‘off-cuts’ from the pool of 200 + songs Carly wrote in preparation for Dedicated (which in fact spawned 15 songs!), these songs were birthed within the last few years- and even one listen of Dedicated reminds us that Carly’s music is a step above the other pop artists from the past few years. Quite a number of songs have stood out to me on Dedicated– and while I won’t ‘review’ this album in a traditional sense so to speak- what I will do is quote my brother Jon verbatim from his blog about Carly when he himself briefly spoke about Dedicated. Because as Jon has spoken about these songs somewhat briefly so, so articulately and eloquently- why would I want to spend more time and effort talking about similar standout songs when Jon’s opinion of Dedicated is virtually similar to mine? So below is Jon’s thoughts on Dedicated as well as behind the scenes story of two of the songs (“Too Much” and “Party For One”) from Carly herself, that are a couple of my own personal standouts. And just for variety and good measure, I’ve also included a video about youtuber Ashley Ippolito reviewing Dedicated (which was one of the videos recommended to me on my home page). It’s a 16 minute video- an in-depth review… but beware there is some explicit language, so this video is not suitable for young children, and should be viewed with caution.
Songs like ‘Now that I Found You’, ‘No Drug Like Me’, ‘Automatically in Love’, ‘The Sound’, ‘Right Words Wrong Time’, ‘Real Love’ and ‘Feels Right’ are great standouts on her new collection of tracks- songs that I can’t necessarily do justice writing about: there’s so much lyrical depth and richness on Dedicated and Dedicated Side B that needs a few more listens concurrently, to understand. But from what I’ve heard of these two albums, it has been these songs on her 2019 album that has given Carly a rebirth of sorts, a way for her to live her life with less of a pressure than maybe before. Shedding her persona as a bubblegum pop artists a la ‘Call Me Maybe’, Carly continues to have the vocal pops to assert her place in the current state of pop today, not that she really wants to though. Listen to the album on Spotify if you want so that you can get an overall feel of Dedicated, but what I can tell you all now, is that this is an artist who respectfully wears her heart on her sleeve, all for all the right reasons.
‘Now That I Found You’ is a joyous feeling that you get when you’re head over heels in love, while ‘No Drug Like Me’ is when you’re trying to convince someone you have an infatuation with, that you are the missing piece to their puzzle, someone that can help them in their own lives, as much as they can help you in yours. The 1990s’ feeling of ‘Automatically in Love’ showcases love as an automatic feeling- it just happens when you’re in the presence of someone- it’s not willed into existence, it just happens or it doesn’t; while the song ‘Real Love’ challenges us all to find a love that is real and true, rather than the surfacy lovey-dovey fake infatuation the world tries to sell as love. But it is the songs ‘Too Much’ and ‘Party For One’ that mean all things personal for Carly Rae Jepsen, and that if there’s a couple of songs to listen to from her new collection of tracks, those two would be it. ‘Too Much’ asks the question of whether we believe society if they say we are ‘too much’ for whatever reason, while ‘Party For One’ reminds us all of the self-love and care for our mental, physical, psychological and spiritual selves that we need to practice. Below are two excerpts by Carly about the stories behind these two songs, and the meanings of what she wants to convey through them
ABOUT ‘TOO MUCH’: I definitely have been called that in the press [too much]. The concept [for the song] actually started from a girlfriend of mine who was explaining a memory that was so vivid to me, like a movie. She was dancing at this party, her boyfriend was there and she was feeling gorgeous, she was really getting into the music and letting loose and feeling like eyes were on her in this really positive way. And then this guy kind of came over and said, ‘Can you, like, keep it together?’ And it was such a subtle but hurtful thing. And I felt like that explained how we all feel. A couple weeks back Lena Dunham posted about what it is to feel like ‘too much’. I sent her a direct message just being like: ‘It’s such a wrong way of thinking.’ And I think this song was me processing my own insecurities of that and getting to the other side. Like, realising that too much is a great thing. And if somebody can’t handle you for all of your colours and wildness and intensity or the way you feel things, then that’s kind of their problem…I think it’s not just a female felt thing. I think men can also sometimes worry about letting loose because there’s this idea that you have to be a certain sort of, I don’t know, ‘together person’. But we are all messy individuals behind closed doors. And I think the more you share that, the less lonely life will be, right?
ABOUT ‘PARTY FOR ONE’: As with most songs that I make, it wasn’t just like “Party for One” birthed and formed in one day. It was over a couple of months. Years, actually? But the spark began the way that a lot of my music begins, which is just like a hotel writing session with my long-time collaborator and friend Tavish Crowe. And we come up with melodies and kind of lyrics all the time, and I had that for a while. Then I went to Sweden, and then life happened, and I went through a breakup. And actually, my kind of breakup came to the final sort of explosion happened in Sweden, and I was in my hotel- my lonely hotel that night- and I had a session the next day with two strangers that I had yet to meet. And I just was waiting for room service to come up, and I grabbed my wine bottle, and I stole that old melody and I went “party for one” and that sort of was what I brought in the next day to the session. Was just sort of that rebellious kind of feeling and how I wanted to create a song sort of around this melody and that sort of content. I mean, “Party for One” has many different emotions to it. It began as a sad party. It wasn’t a happy party for one. But it became sort of rebellious and then sort of empowering too. And it’s sort of what we really wanted to bring out from the music video as well. Was that this was an adventurous song. You can maybe start with a lonely place and sort of end in a kind of victorious place.
I find that I’m taking in music more than I ever have before actually, just because it’s so meditative and gets me out of my head if I’m in a space of overthinking things or getting anxious. I take music on my walks with me. I mean, the joke title for this album was Music to Clean Your House To. I didn’t know how real that was going get, and it got pretty real. And that’s when I listen to music, too. So I’m hoping that you put the broom down and you have a little dance party, it can be sort of a helping friend if you’re alone, you know?
We were toying with the idea of doing a very exclusive Side B tour, just hitting five cities, and I was looking forward to that, not going to lie. I think there will be time for all of those good things to come in the future. And in the meantime, I’m using my creativity to do Zoom sessions with Tavish Crowe and kind of write to each other from afar. And it’s weirdly working, it actually changes how you write because there’s so much room to analyze what you’ve done and pick it apart a little bit more meticulously than normally we would if we were just doing a one-day thing.
I think of it more as a cookie jar. I’m writing quite constantly, so I’ll have a little hook idea here or I’ll have a little melody that I’ve had stuck in my head for a verse-thing right here, and then I’ll kind of see what fits together. But I definitely show up with my hands full of ideas. And then the lyrics are really important to me, that’s something that I fixate on probably more than the average Joe, and really care about it sounding like me. So that’s something I would say I generally, I dominate that part just because it feels more real. Also, right now when Tavish just sends me like a track, I’ll send back a top-line, and then I’ll send him a couple lyric ideas and he’ll tell me which ones he likes and we can do the rest together afterwards. It’s just like a little game of musical tag.
If Dedicated was a musical experiment in EDM and how love songs can be created against a club backdrop and succeed… well then Dedicated Side B is a stronger batch of songs (who’d have thought!) that cement Carly’s stature and cult status as ‘pop’s most beloved underdog’. Equally as compelling as the ‘main album’, and overall quite more cohesive; Dedicated Side B is a joy to listen to, though it needs to be listened to in conjunction with Dedicated for the project to be appreciated more. Album opener “This Love Isn’t Crazy” is pop and EDM at its most intense and impacting, as Carly emphatically relays to us the ins and outs of a relationship that isn’t like the norm- reminding us that while one can’t help who they fall for, that if you believe that relationship to be true and right, then you have to fight for it and be active in the pursuit, as ‘…we got to hold on, baby, we could believe that this love isn’t crazy, this loving could save me, this love isn’t crazy (This love, it isn’t crazy), you gotta stand where (Stand where) I stand, who could believe that you’re holding my hand now?, this loving could save me, this love isn’t crazy…’. Employing musical elements of R&B, as well as including copious amounts of synth, Carly relays in the groovy “Window” that she longs for her lover to be more open, vulnerable, honest and authentic with her. This melody is another relevant track for each of us to be honest with anyone we are in relationship (romantic or platonic) with- especially with the people that we respect and hold close to us; while both “Felt This Way” and “Stay Away” are moments of musical and lyrical genius, with Carly delivering a slower pace keys led ballad in “Felt This Way” followed by a more upbeat version of the SAME song in “Stay Away”. According to GENIUS, “Stay Away,” is an upbeat take on the previous track, “Felt This Way,” where Carly sang atop moody, quieter instrumentation, giving the lyrics a frail, insecure and doubting intonation. Here, Carly celebrates her desire over explosive, dancy instrumentals, giving the same lyrics a more confident treatment. From these two tracks alone… we can tell that Carly is a once-in-a-generation pop singer, and even a once-in-a-generation pop songwriter, and I’m sure you all will agree with me!
“This Is What They Say” is an unashamed declaration of love to her significant other, whereby Carly ardently relays that she thinks she is in love with someone, and she loves that feeling- and this is a song that we all need to take note on, because we will feel these emotions one day, and we need to be able to distinguish real love from just plain attraction and/or lust; while “Heartbeat” is the antithesis of “Window”, sung from the perspective of the guy in the relationship, or at least the more insecure person in the relationship, declaring that they don’t want to share the innermost parts of themselves with their significant other, due to fear of rejection and abandonment. The themes in “Heartbeat” is I’m sure actually more common than one would think or believe- and that is a sad reality indeed where people can’t be honest and can’t be real with those around them; while “Summer Love” musically takes us back to the 80’s and is a fun, danceable and toe-tapping pop tune where Carly speaks about fleeting and transient romances. I may not agree with the way Carly promotes casual relationships- however this song is so, so catchy, and lyrically we do need to know about such topics, in order for us to figure out what we believe about love and sex, and the morals and values we’re willing to uphold even if it is contradictory to what the world believes.
Though Carly mainly sings about love and all of its ups and downs, in no way does this format and style of music become stale and uninteresting. In fact, the more and more I listen to Dedicated Side B, the more and more I enjoy a fun, inspiring, and hopeful album like this. “Fake Mona Lisa” describes the moment Carly met a guy with a ‘physical flaw’ (aka a beauty spot) but still loved him anyway, and reminds us that we don’t need to be hard on ourselves with all of our issues and hang-ups, as there will be a special someone for us who will love us warts and all; while “Let’s Sort The Whole Thing Out” is about the moment of a declaration of love, and working out the logistics between the other person of how the current relationship will fundamentally change in the end while transitioning onto the more vulnerable yet more fulfilling relationship. “Comeback”, a bittersweet piano-pop melody, speaks about a breakup due to one of the parties wanting to ‘find themselves’ or ‘explore who they really are’, which is a really icky and suss way to break up with someone, yet reminds us that if we ourselves aren’t sure of our own identity, then how can we adequately love someone else? As “Comeback” lyrically sounds like a very harsh track, a deeper listen reveals plenty of nuances and subtle allusions to figuring out who you really are before you commit to someone; while the high-octane and energetic pop tune “Solo” is a party anthem for all of the single people- similar to “Party For One” from Dedicated, as Carly declares that we as single people do not need to be in relationship with anyone just for the sake of it. If we feel content with being single for a season or two- then according to this song, it’s more than ok. “Now I Don’t Hate California After All”, a 5 minute laid back acoustic type track, delves into the notion of loving a city you once hated, due to the now association of said city with a loved one or a significant other, which shows great maturity and growth as a person. Dedicated Side B then ends with the lead single “Let’s Be Friends”. While Jon has spoken about “Let’s Be Friends” in his blog, let me just say that the tongue-in-cheek, edgy and in-your-face tune delves into the concept of being in friends with your ex- with I’d say is next to impossible; as the song attempts to ask the question of why would you break up with someone first just to be friends with them later on? Something to ponder about, as we leave Dedicated Side B wiser and more appreciated of the awesomeness of Carly Rae Jepsen in general.
It’ll depend on what I’m making, but I do like the idea of having a B side [for every upcoming album]. I think it’s a time to offer up the other half of things, like some of the more experimental things that maybe didn’t make sense for the first run. And for me, it’s my time to play extra. My A&R is very nice about just letting me be like, “Whatever you want!” And I’m like OK, cool, here’s what it is!
“Solo” and “This Love Isn’t Crazy” were not on the original list, but when I was looking for an opener I wanted something to really be a theatrical knock on your head and that’s where “This Love Isn’t Crazy” made it back into the ring. And now it’s kind of my favorite, so I’m glad that decision changed for me. And then “Solo,” I just was losing sleep like three, four nights in a row, and every time I would have “Solo” in my head and I felt like it was just such a perfect song for people who are in quarantine right now and alone and feeling like, “Where is my person?” I go through my own loneliness, so it was really kind of motivating me to get up and stop feeling sorry for myself and dance it out. I hope that would help other people the same way.
Carly Rae Jepsen to me is the find of this whole process of writing about influential artists, in my own opinion. I never knew that pop could sound so good before I listened to Carly’s music- and now that I have, I’m amazed at why she’s not as popular now than before during her “Call Me Maybe” days. While both Dedicated and Dedicated Side B are works of art within the musical genre of pop and EDM pop to be specific as Carly delves deep into the concept of love and how we as humans can sometimes make it more complicated than we need it to be; these two albums are perfect for quarantine and lockdown, as Carly engages, inspires and tugs at our emotions, reigniting our innate need to be closer to people and to ruminate upon the facets of love even if we do not yet have a partner. With these songs being very easy to dance to and being food for the soul as well; Carly’s reputation is bound to skyrocket- especially with the news of a Christmas song coming soon… so what are you waiting for everyone? Check out both Dedicated and Dedicated Side B… and then re-listen to these albums again- they’re so, so, so good! Well done Carly, I can’t wait to hear what’s in store next for you!
3 songs to listen to (Dedicated): Now That I Found You, Too Much, Party For One
3 songs to listen to (Dedicated Side B): Felt This Way, This Is What They Say, Solo
10 songs to listen to: Now That I Found You, The Sound, Real Love, Too Much, Party For One, Felt This Way, Stay Away, This Is What They Say, Comeback, Solo
RIYL: Delta Goodrem, Kelly Clarkson, Dua Lipa, Selena Gomez, Julia Michaels, Halsey, Echosmith, Rachel Platten