Review: Carly Rae Jepsen – Dedicated Side B

As spring transitions to summer, it’s typically a seasonal cause for celebration. School is out, the weather is warm, road trips are abundant, concerts are in full swing, and friends are gathering. That’s obviously not the case this year, and even as many states begin to “reopen,” there’s a palpable concern that the pandemic is far from over. Needless to say, this stands to be one of the strangest summers on record. 

You can buy or stream Dedicated Side B on Apple Music.

It’s in this stage of careful transition that Carly Rae Jepsen’s Dedicated Side B arrives – a 12-track companion piece to last year’s Dedicated that sounds every bit like the escape so many of us need right now. When Jepsen released Emotion: Side B as an encore performance to one of last decade’s most unexpectedly brilliant pop records, it opened a new door of artistic possibilities for Jepsen. Sure, you could call it a burn-off of extra B-sides left over from the Emotion sessions, but Emotion: Side B was full of really, really good songs.

The crazy thing is, Dedicated Side B is even better. In fact, it’s almost unfair to label it a collection of B-sides when it sounds strong and cohesive enough to be a standalone album. Without the delineation, would we have accepted it as such? I think we might have, and some may even argue it superior to Dedicated.

To be clear, these tracks are clearly cut from the same cloth, but there exists the same level of new experimentation that was found throughout Dedicated. On the bass-heavy “Summer Love”, undoubtedly destined to be one of the best pop tracks of this weird season, Jepsen’s vocals are moody and reserved as she delivers an effortlessly sultry chorus of, “I was down for the first night / And I’m down for a second try / When you touch me, I wanna fly / I’m so down for you all the time”.

Synthy dance track “Stay Away” feels like a cross between Jepsen’s knack for radio pop vibes crossed with the disco leanings of Dua Lipa’s recently released Future Nostalgia. The same could be said of “This is What They Say” and “Fake Mona Lisa”, the latter of which features Jepsen’s signature breathy delivery, once again sounding more one-night-stand than dedicated relationship: “Oh, you took my clothes off, said, ‘It’s gettin’ hotter’ / Don’t know how to swim, but let’s breathe underwater”. In almost intentional ways, Side B introduces a duality in thematic approach that wasn’t existent on Dedicated, making it feel far more purposeful than collection of tracks left on the cutting room floor.

But Side B also features well-timed changes of pace, adding to the argument that this should be considered its own full-length. “Comeback” featuring Jack Antonoff is one of the best Carly Rae tracks, period. Reminiscent of forlorn duets of the 80s, Antonoff and Jepsen mesh perfectly in this tale of a relationship nearing its end. In typical fashion, Jepsen is able to tap into those feelings that feel hard to articulate and make sense of the mess. “And I won’t say you’re the reason I was on my knees / But I’m thinking ’bout making a comeback, back to me”.

Dedicated Side B, like most of Carly Rae’s body of work, is deeper and richer than its facade would lead you to believe. It’s a collection of songs that explore the looser and less tangible aspects of relationships. The places you drift to when there’s no more room in your mind to process the heavy stuff. And while I’m certain she didn’t plan it this way, it’s kind of the perfect metaphor for life in 2020. It’s here, it’s complicated, and we can’t quite get out from under it. But if you close your eyes and feel the warmth of the sun on your face, you can imagine yourself somewhere else. And that feels nice.

4/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple pop culture outlets and was previously an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife, daughter, and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

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