Schoolboy / Interscope Records
Release Date: October 21st 2022
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Surrender My Heart
- Joshua Tree
- Talking To Yourself
- Far Away
- Beach House
- Western Wind
- So Nice
- Bad Thing Twice
- Shooting Star
- Go Find Yourself Or Whatever
- The Loneliest Time (feat. Rufus Wainwright)
- No Thinking Over The Weekend
- Keep Away
For virtually all of my life (aside from the last few years), 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 that I deemed much more meaningful, inspiring and relevant. It was always pop with another genre, or pop from a certain perspective. Not ‘straight up pop’. 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 (although right now, Mandy Moore is more ‘alternative’ than ‘pop’…), 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 boybands… yet none of them connected with me that much on a deeper level, 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. Because that kind of pop was simply not edifying for my soul.
However, things were about to change with regard to me not listening heavily to ‘straight up pop’; as it was about a couple of years 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 in 2020– 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 essentially 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, Olivia Rodrigo, Ariana Grande, Katy Perry, Halsey, Lady Gaga, Harry Styles, Tate McRae, BTS, Lizzo, 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 try to steer clear from artists like these, as they aren’t that enriching for me as a person and as a believer!); 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.
Since we blogged about Carly, we’ve reviewed her single “Me And The Boys In The Band” (released only as a music video) as well as Carly’s album Dedicated Side B. You can read these reviews at your own pace, and 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. And now, as we fast forward to now, Carly is back today (or yesterday if you live in Australia like me!), with her brand-new album The Loneliest Time. Her sixth album in total, we are treated to 16 vibrant, eclectic, joyous, celebratory, moody, angsty, poignant and quite powerful melodies. These songs are dance bops as well as ‘dance-in-the-living-room-when-no-one-is-watching’ type of pop songs; and I truly believe that Carly has delivered songs for every person on this album. It’d be unfair to say that this is Carly’s best album of her career (simply because I haven’t fully listened to KISS nor EMOTION straight through yet… but what I do know is that The Loneliest Time is a project that will put a smile on your face. No doubt, the world will be clamouring to immerse themselves into Taylor Swift’s already iconic and legendary new album Midnights. And I’ve heard some of Midnights and it is truly magical and other-worldly in the best sense possible; so, I’d say that eagerness to be up to date on all things Taylor is indeed warranted. And I firmly believe that all of us are under no illusions- there’s no way that Carly could ever displace Taylor in terms of sales and popularity for the upcoming week. It’s just the way it is for Carly and other artists who have released their albums today, including Meghan Trainor, MercyMe, Matt Maher, and Josh Baldwin. But if you for some reason feel like you need a break from Taylor (because 20 songs of lyrical masterpieces need to be consumed in bite-size pieces); then Carly’s album is a great alternative as we celebrate life, relationships and the messy complexities and emotions in life that make us all human.
Spotify crashed yesterday because of Taylor. I don’t know if it’s still up online or not, but that’s not the point. The point is that Taylor is a force to be reckoned with and no one can come close to competing with her. But perhaps… the Loneliest Time– a moody, poppy, sometimes-reflective but sometimes jovial album, complements the dreamy and wistful Midnights. And truly- Carly’s lead single “Western Wind”, is something that possibly could’ve been right at home on Midnights. “Western Wind”, on the surface, may not be for those who love Carly’s earlier music and thinks that this song is just a similar structure musically and lyrically as previous hit songs. Because… this melody is quite different. Melodically and sonically, this track is more ‘acoustic’ and laid back and breezy and moody and mysterious and ethereal. It’s a song with the piano in the forefront, and though Carly sings in metaphors and imagery more and more on this track than on any other track; “Western Wind” lyrically at its core is quite similar to her previous work- it’s a love song where Carly sings to her partner against the backdrop of a second love song to California. “Western Wind” is a song with many layers, and as Carly reminded us back in May when the song dropped, “…I didn’t want to be defined as one thing when I’m feeling all the things – sometimes very playful, sometimes more serious. I wanted to lead with Western Wind because it was so opposite to what I normally do, which is start with the jingle-esque type song, and leave the rest for later…”
I had the playground of all the eras to jump from, and this was more just writing from the heart, in whatever direction the songs wanted to go. It excited me to have those moments of flirtation on the [new] album, but also broaden the spectrum of what the subject of a pop song was allowed to be.
I have a flavour that’s really playful and young, to my actual personality that comes out, and then there are other flavours that have been embraced. With The Loneliest Time, I was reflecting more on what that extreme emotion causes in you. It’s a subject that I find really inspiring because there’s a lot of different things to take away from it, and that was what I was broaching with this album.
The rest of The Loneliest Time is lyrically quite intense- Carly sings in metaphors on almost all of the tracks. But it’s easy to get your head around, and once we do… boy do we see that Carly is singing about some pretty relatable material- loneliness and intense emotion are at the top of the list, and how we as humans healthily deal with overwhelming feelings. Album opener “Surrender My Heart” speaks about insecurities and regrets and the concept of being vulnerable with someone and what that actually entails. A pop song at its core, the lyrics feature Carly admitting that she has issues with being honest, open, and vulnerable around people (romantic relationships and platonic relationships); while Carly also admits that she keeps people at arm’s length in order to feel safe and secure. And as Carly addresses the stigma of mental health and anxiety, she rationalises that ‘…the benefit of all the broken hearts that I broke before they could break me, is a little bit of life regrets I won’t bring that mess to you when you’re with me, and I wanna be brave enough to show you my not-so-perfect family, and I wanna be brave enough for everything…’; while we as listeners marvel at the way Carly has cleverly dressed up an intense topic in a glamourous pop sheen- bright and sunny but actually quite moody and profound. Isn’t Carly a genius or what? Delivering a pop banger while also delving into passionate and relevant issues- this time about the fear of actually being open and surrendering your entire self over to someone… now that takes absolute skill and class.
“Joshua Tree”, a bass heavy 2-minute alternative type of melody, is again unlike Carly lyrically, but so much like Carly musically. The introspective and reflective song speaks about retreating from the busyness of life and just figuring out your place, meaning and purpose in the world through nature and maybe actually taking a road trip into the deepest and most remote parts of the country (like actually reflecting upon life at the Joshua Tree!); while the exuberantly danceable pop tune “Talking To Yourself” delves into the concept of us all having insecurities and wondering what other people (friends or even a romantic partner) are thinking about when we’re not around as it pertains to us. Carly eloquently and passionately sings out and wonders ‘…are you thinkin’ of me when you’re with somebody else? Do you talk to me when you’re talkin’ to yourself? Are you reachin’ for me, makin’ love to someone else? Do you talk to me (To me), when you’re talkin’ to yourself-self?…’; and though that kind of thinking and pondering over people’s private opinions of us, can be labelled as possessive or obsessive, the reality is that we all have our idiosyncrasies, and we all have this incessant need to be liked and loved. we all have this innate desire to know that we matter to the people around us, but the reality is that some people may not like us and will only pretend to. This song is an eye opener, and one that forces us to look in the mirror to see whether our self-worth is tied to how many people say they love us. We all need to find inner peace and love within (from ourselves and from God); and Carly beautifully expresses this fact in this poppy head-banger. “Far Away”, a breezy, serene love anthem, speaks about two people with maybe platonic history who are in the initial stages of trying to have a go at a romantic relationship (with the song providing each one of us hope that we might find that someone special and have a similar feeling as well!); while the thought-provoking melodically powerful “Sideways” speaks about confidence and security in a romantic relationship, and feeling secure even when things aren’t perfect.
“Beach House”, a fun but possibly realistic look at the romantic dating scene, features Carly as a sceptical and cynical person who has dated many men before, but in this song, reveals that one man had his mum making his food, and another man was married, and another man wanted to harvest her organs. This song, and also the music video, is presumably tongue-in-cheek and maybe satire; but there is a hint of realism here. These days, men and women have equally different standards of what they want from a relationship, how serious it should be, and various other particulars. And as “Beach House” places the concept of casual dating under the microscope, with Carly outlining that she hopes and pleads with men that they are genuine when wanting to date her; we are met with probably one of the most important songs on the album, and we are encouraged to examine our dating habits to see if they need changing for the better. “Bends”, a heartbreaking, personal track, is inspired by a close personal family member dying and Carly dealing with the aftermath in her own unique way, and the lyrics are vague enough to make this track mean whatever the listener wants, but still oddly specific and unlike any other song that Carly has written about romantic and platonic relationships- she misses her family member and relays that ‘…I can feel the sun on you, warm me up the way you do, after all the clouds have dried, here’s a jar of tears I’ve cried, keep it in a sacred place, hold me in your humble grace, ‘cause I can feel the darkness sometimes too…’. “So Nice”, a optimistic and hopeful pop song, has Carly reiterating her need for ‘nice’ guys and people that treat her with kindness, dignity, love and adoration; while the powerful, emphatic and poignant 80’s inspired melody “Bad Thing Twice” has Carly addressing her tendency to fall back into bad habits, into unhealthy relationships- and as Carly cries out ‘…is it my, is it my destiny? I wanna do a bad thing twice, a critical, critical test to me, I wanna do a bad thing twice, can’t stop feelin’ the rain before the thunder, I thought it through and I wanna do a bad thing twice…’, we are met with a track that ultimately discourages us from jumping into relationships and situations that aren’t healthy for everyone involved.
By this point during the middle of the album, we’ve found out that this project is by far Carly’s most reflective, introspective, and personal- and that doesn’t stop until the end of the album. “Shooting Star” however, is a ‘superficial’ and pure pop track if ever there was one, just to break up the seriousness and melancholy, with Carly announcing to the world that she wants to sleep with her current partner because ‘…I got you now, I’m Scorpio, it’s physical, it’s natural, my spiritual, my animal, caught my shootin’ star…’; while “Go Find Yourself Or Whatever” is Carly’s most personal, honest and emotional song on the album. As Carly sings about a fresh breakup, she reiterates to the person leaving that if they really want to, they should go and find themselves ‘or whatever’, while also reiterating that that may be the end of the relationship, even though she sings ‘…and I’ll wait for you…’, which is in fact ‘code’ for ‘I’ll just have to let you go now’. It’s a heartbreaking melody that speaks about how sometimes, breakups just happen, and they are painful; but on the flipside, could it be that “Go Find Yourself Or Whatever” is low-key throwing shade at people who want to break up with someone but don’t have the balls to do it properly, and instead want to claim that they need to go find themselves? Quite possibly… it’s a pretty ballsy move if it is. And though we don’t’ know if this harrowing melody is inspired by something that happened to Carly or someone she knew; the fact remains- that people should go into relationships for the right reasons- and not just half-heartedly to find themselves ‘incompatible’ in the long run.
The title track, with Rufus Wainwright on guest vocals, speaks about isolation and about feeling lonely during COVID-19, as Carly and Rufus speak for all of us and relay that we all need some companionship and friendship and some human interaction and connection after experiencing undoubtedly the loneliest time over the past 2-3 years. It’s a track that’s instantly relatable to all of us; while “Anxious” is an excursion into Carly’s head and psyche, as she outlines that she is anxious about diving deep into a relationship, so she wants to immediately deflect and move the relationship too quickly into the bedroom- which may be a bad idea in the long run. The penultimate track on The Loneliest Time is the haunting, ethereal and mysterious keys led melody “No Thinking Over The Weekend”, where Carly and her partner are wrapped in their own little world on the weekend, as Carly reiterates that she wants to keep dreaming about possibilities and what-could-bes… which could be therapeutic for the soul or detrimental, whichever way you look at it. The musically vibrant and diverse album then ends with “Keep Away”, where Carly outlines that she is still drawn to be in relationship with someone who is unhealthy for her- she longs to keep away from them but she just can’t help being infatuated and pulled into their orbit for one reason or another.
Being on the road, you’ve got an audience, but I definitely feel like that has been a hard thing for me to battle. It [the new album] wasn’t just trying to be overly happy or romantic. I wasn’t glossing over that it was the loneliest time of my life. I feel less pressure to be perfect… getting to live this experience and share songs in this way has made me realise that there’s no such thing as too much with the right people. And right now, I just want to dance my little ass off on stage.
Carly Rae Jepsen to me is one of the few finds that I never did expect, of this whole process of Jon and myself 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 in the midst of COVID-19, 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 with The Loneliest Time, which takes the themes of Dedicated and Dedicated Side B and expands on them a bit. With standouts like “Surrender My Heart”, “Talking To Yourself”, “Beach House”, “Western Wind”, and “Go Find Yourself Or Whatever”; Carly has impressed me greatly with this project- and she will impact upon each of you as well. So what are you waiting for everyone? Check out The Loneliest Time as well as both Dedicated and Dedicated Side B (obviously after you hear Taylor’s new album though!). And then re-listen to these albums from Carly again- they’re so, so, so good! Well done, Carly, I can’t wait to hear what’s in store next for you! Who knew that singing about ‘meaty issues’ could sound so fun?
6 songs to listen to: Surrender My Heart, Taking To Yourself, Beach House, Western Wind, Go Find Yourself Or Whatever, No Thinking Over The Weekend
RIYL: Delta Goodrem, Kelly Clarkson, Dua Lipa, Selena Gomez, Julia Michaels, Halsey, Echosmith, Rachel Platten