‘Dedicated’ is the fourth album from Canadian pop star Carly Rae Jepsen and is the follow up to 2015s acclaimed ‘E*MO*TION’.
Following up to a much-loved album can always be a tricky task; some artists try to replicate their previous successes, while some artists go in a completely different direction…Carly has gone with a mixture of both. It would be delusional to say that ‘Dedicated’ has strings of inspiration from its previous work; but there isn’t a moment where it feels like she’s trying to regurgitate the same work. The album follows a clear cut narrative of unrequited love, failing relationships and self love through icy and synthy beats; with a big 80s influence.
The record opens on the bombastic synth number ‘Julian’…an ode to heartbreak and the beginning of a chapter of doom and gloom suffocated in 80s synths and hypnotic beats. She sings on the track, “I’m forever haunted by your time”, and it gives a glimpse into a boy who became reckless with emotions once the relationship became partially serious. The track leads into pre-release singles, ‘No Drug Like Me’, & ‘Now That I Found You’; the latter being a wonderful alt-pop number about an over indulgent and intoxicating relationship; as for ‘Now That I Found You’, the heart is there but feels like it’s lacking it’s punch a bit and feels like the weakest link here on the record.
‘Dedicated’ soars in its highest peaks when Carly doesn’t try for a big chorus…‘Everything He Needs’, and ‘Real Love’ are the high moments on the record. ‘Everything He Needs’ is a weird, ice-pop number blessing in sweet childish innocence as Carly pleads on the chorus “he needs me” and as the chorus continues, the pitch gets higher and the track forms an underlying narrative of desperation. The listener begins to wonder if the male counterpart in the track does need Carly…or she wants him to need her. ‘Real Love’ seems like a mash-up of ‘No Drug Like Me’ and ‘Now That I Found You’, but better than both…it maintains Carly’s narrative of unrequited love and after experiencing a moment of heightened bliss, she now wants an actual romance: “I don’t know a thing about it / all I want is real, real love”. The brass instrumental post-chorus is absolutely heavenly and drives itself as it’s very own hook. The track takes you on it’s own journey with it’s highs and it’s end lows where Carly’s isolated vocals fall lonesomely on a synth as she makes one final assurance on her quest to find real love.
Carly ramps up the experimental nodules on the album’s only listed collaboration, ‘Feels Right’, which is a disco-tinged number with Carly detailing the ultimate one-sided relationship “we know you’re my complicated friend”. ‘Want You In My Room’ has a similar vibe, but feels much more playful with Jepsen donning a Marilyn Monroe-esque spoken vocal toward the end of the chorus “baby, don’t you want me too?”.
As discussed throughout, the album details the notion of unrequited love and the emotions that go with that…the delusional mindset that one goes into when being madly in love with someone who doesn’t see you in the same light: ‘Right Words, Wrong Time’ illuminates that narrative as Carly tries to justify her lazy lover’s correspondence or behavioural patterns with being at the wrong time, and the repetition of vocals towards the end of the track really do feel like a stream of consciousness. Carly Rae…the modern day Jane Austen.
‘Dedicated’ is a far more layered and interesting album than ‘E*MO*TION’. It deals with a range of different feelings and emotions & puts the narrator (Carly) in a series of conflicting mindsets – unrequited love, heartbreak and the inevitable – self love (which comes in the form of ‘Party For One’ – which was ironically the lead single from the project). ‘Party For One’, whilst blessed with a bit of “meh” factor, ties up a quite carefully constructed narrative rather peacefully and blissfully; even the penultimate track ‘For Sure’ sees Carly analysing the end of her relationship in sight; in a dream-like production before the inevitable ‘Party For One’. She might not have her Disney happy ending love but she has found love for herself.