Review: Carly Rae Jepsen – Dedicated

Four years is a long time to wait between albums. While fans clamor for new music, artists risk losing cultural cachet. This is, of course, inherently dumb because time is a flat circle and, also, art doesn’t work on a schedule. Nevertheless, the antiquated expectation is a real thing. Just maybe not so much for Carly Rae Jepsen.

You can buy or stream Dedicated on Apple Music.

In the four years since the one-time one hit wonder reinvented herself with 2015’s Emotion (my personal favorite album of the decade so far), Jepsen has become meme-able in the best of ways. Her newfound niche fanbase has found community in her quirky pop and personality, often inciting viral moments to spread the good news.

It helps that Jepsen has offered up appetizers in the form of 2016’s Emotion: Side B, 2017’s summer single “Cut to the Feeling” and last year’s new-album-primer “Party for One”. Even when she was on hiatus, it never really felt like she was gone.

But here we are – finally – with a new full-length album called Dedicated. To cut right to the chase, Dedicated does not match the masterful execution of Emotion, but it’s a hell of a fun pop record. Whereas Emotion found synchronicity in theme and sound, Dedicated reads more as a collection tried-and-true tactics and delightful experiments. When you write more than 100 songs leading up to a record, they may not all live in harmony, but the best of the crop are fairly certain to be good.

Unsurprisingly, Jepsen has already shared the obvious singles to quench our expectations – light, bubbly pop anthems with big hooks. “Now That I Found You” is the “I Really Like You” of Dedicated, an easy anchor to draw us in. Similarly, “Too Much” and “No Drug Like Me” fit the bill for heart-on-her-sleeve Jepsen material, equally catchy and eccentric. Where Dedicated really excels, though, is when she leans into experimentation and allows herself to get a little weird.

“Want You in My Room” is a great example, proving that the Jepsen/Jack Antonoff partnership is just as fresh as when it began. A track that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the last Bleachers record, “Want You in My Room” matches deep bass and organic instrumentation with Jepsen’s breath-y delivery of lines like, “I’ll press you to the pages of my heart”. It’s everything fans of Carly already love about her, freshened up with new sounds and tempos that sound specifically built for Summer 2019.

Similarly, “Happy Not Knowing” uses the sonic building blocks of Emotion to achieve something new, coupling shoegaze guitar licks with the synth sounds we’ve come to know so well. It’s also peak CRJ in the best way, honing in on those feelings of longing and the insecurities that keeps us from acting on them: “I don’t have the energy / To risk a broken heart / When you’re already killing me”.

“The Sound” lays a tinkling piano behind the synthesizers while “Automatically in Love” finds Jepsen experimenting with pitch and pace to create a fantastic chorus to match the most Carly Rae song title in history. All of the new pieces seem to come together on “Feels Right”, where the partnering of Jepsen and Electric Guest results in one of Dedicated’s highlights.

On the whole, Dedicated feels like the output of an artist who has earned the opportunity to test some new waters without losing even one iota of who she is, allowing her to stay firmly in her own wheelhouse while still creating something new. What a treat for fans that identify so deeply with her penchant for leaning hard into her feelings.

At a time when it feels more enticing than ever to disengage, Jepsen invites us to do the opposite without ever sounding forced or cheesy. Just listen to the lyrics of “Too Much” and try not to smile: “So be careful if you’re wanting this touch / ‘Cause if I love you, then I love you too much”. At every step, Jepsen reminds us that it’s good to feel completely and without shame or fear. It’s likely what keeps her from ascending back into the upper echelon of pop music, but it’s something that makes her music so much better and refreshing.

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 online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

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Carly Rae Jepsen to Release “Dedicated” on May 17

Nearly four years after the release of her last full length album, Emotion, Carly Rae Jepsen has announced her new album, Dedicated. The 15-track release will drop on May 17 and be followed by a U.S. tour this summer. You can view the tour dates below and pre-order the album here.

Emotion was heralded as one of the best pop albums of 2015 and has since gained traction in the discussion for best pop album of the decade. A year later, Jespen followed up that release with Emotion: Side B, a collection of b-sides that didn’t make the cut, but were still some of the most enjoyable pop tracks of 2016.

So far, Jepsen has released two songs from Dedicated: “No Drug Like Me” and “Now That I’ve Found You”. What are you excited to hear from Carly Rae on her new album? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Queue It Up: March 4, 2019

Yes, March 1st was a big release day this year. We have new full-lengths from Hozier, Solange and Weezer for our listening pleasure. However, a few of our other favorite artists have released new singles worth jamming, too.

“Sucker” by The Jonas Brothers

THEY’RE BACK. I can’t believe this is happening, but in 2019 The Jonas Brothers returned to social media to tease new music. The first new music in six years from Kevin, Joe and Nick was released at midnight, and you can bet your firstborn that I stayed up for it. Oops, your firstborn is gone now. It’s a great track and the video is even better. Filmed in the castle that also housed Oscar winner, “The Favourite”, the video showcases the guys’ respective significant others – Danielle, Sophie and Priyanka. It’s everything I ever dreamed of and they’d better go on tour or I might cry.

“Superstar” by Marina

“Handmade Heaven”, the first single from Marina’s new album, Love + Fear, has been out for almost a month now. Both singles, as well as “Baby” from late autumn 2018, are from the “Love” part of the album, and I’m curious as to whether she’ll release a single from the “Fear” portion. This single is totally different from “Handmade Heaven” and is more reminiscent of the Marina we’ve been in love with since 2010. “Superstar” is a great track and I’ve been playing it all weekend.

“Now That I Found You” / “No Drug Like Me” by Carly Rae Jepsen

The addition of Carly Rae Jepsen here is admittedly for Kiel [Thank you! – Kiel]. I’m not personally a huge fan of Jepsen’s work, but I’ll say that the two songs she released this week are great. It’s very Carly Rae; she seems to have found a niche that she’s sticking with. We’ve got three singles, but no release date for her fourth album. Both tracks are pretty thematically similar, but I do prefer the second of the two, “No Drug Like Me”. She used some heavier 80s synth than she usually does, and the distinction is nice.

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Carly Rae Jepsen Shares the Stage with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra

As Carly Rae Jepsen’s devoted following awaits a proper follow-up to 2015’s critically acclaimed Emotion, the pop songstress has done little to slow down. Last year’s Emotion: Side B was a killer collection of B-sides that felt like a completely new album. Throw in a role in Fox’s Grease Live, the release of 2017 song of the summer contender “Cut to the Feeling”, and an upcoming opener slot on Katy Perry’s Witness tour, and Jepsen has kept a full schedule.

In the midst of it all, Jepsen found time to perform with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra on November 21. While the initial announcement of the performance garnered varied reactions, the night itself lived up to every possible expectation.

While covering Jepsen’s Gimmie Love Tour in 2016, I remarked on the joyfulness of Carly’s audience and her unique ability to liven a room. A year later, even the confines of an orchestral performance inside the gorgeous Hilbert Circle Theater in Indianapolis couldn’t hold onlookers in their seats.

Such a performance requires a bit more than mere stage presence, to be sure. Without the familiar comfort of her backing band and tracks, no backup singers, and accompanied by one of the most renowned symphonies in the world, Jepsen held her own. From the opening moments of “Run Away with Me”, preceded by a beautiful introductory arrangement, Jepsen’s voice filled the auditorium.

Throughout the evening, Carly showcased her vocal abilities, hitting big notes with ease on tracks like “Making the Most of the night” and “When I Needed You”. Perhaps even more impressive than her pitch-perfect delivery was her knack for morphing her unique brand of pop to fit new arrangements. It’s hard to imagine a song like “Cut to the Feeling” meshing with strings and woodwind instruments until you hear it for yourself in such a setting. Give credit to the Indianapolis Symphony for capturing the heart of these songs in new and exciting ways.

Just as sections of the crowd near the stage would begin to stand and move with the music, strategically placed intermissions allowed for Jepsen to exit as the symphony played classical pieces. Still, as the night progressed, performances of “Boy Problems” and “Call Me Maybe” ended any reverence for the theater setting. By the time Jepsen returned for an encore of “I Really Like You”, the auditorium aisles had transitioned to narrow dancefloors.

The point here is that the joy of a Carly Rae Jepsen performance is not determined by setting or arrangement. Standing in front of an orchestra, dressed in gown and heels, Jepsen not only held her own as a vocal performer, but shared the joy of the moment with her audience in a way that so few artists can. That’s a talent that doesn’t fade quickly, and it’s why so many of us are so excited for what comes next.

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 online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Podcast: Predicting the Song of the Summer

Today marks the first day of summer, and you know what that means – time to sing along to the Song of the Summer! But wait, where did that term come from? And what does it even mean? And does any of this even matter?

Richard Clark joins Kiel Hauck to discuss the history of the “Song of the Summer” and reflect on some of their favorite summertime tracks. They also break down the elements that make a summer song successful and even offer up some guesses for 2017’s song of the summer. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What is your favorite song of the summer memory? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

New Carly Rae Jepsen Song: “Cut to the Feeling”

As we eagerly await a new album from Carly Rae Jepsen, a new song titled “Cut to the Feeling” has surfaced online. The track is featured in the animated film Ballerina and is pure pop bliss. Take a listen below:

Jepsen has kept herself busy since the release of Emotion in 2015, appearing in Grease: Live, releasing a b-sides album last year, and even appearing in a Target commercial with Lil Yachty. Here’s hoping more new music is on the horizon soon.

What are your thoughts on “Cut to the Feeling”? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Most Anticipated of 2017: #10 Carly Rae Jepsen Rides Her Own Wave

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“New album on the way…but here’s something to hold yah over till then.”

A year after releasing one of the most satisfying pop records of the decade, Carly Rae Jepsen followed up her quiet 2015 acclaim with Emotion Side B – a collection of songs that didn’t make the cut on her last record but still somehow sound better than almost anything currently playing on pop radio.

Ever since her one-hit-wonder fame of 2012, Jepsen has been unobtrusively rebranding herself as something of an underground pop icon. Her fervent core fan base reached cloud nine with the release of Emotion, transforming the perception of Jepsen and making clear that the best may be yet to come. After scrapping a folk-inspired follow-up to Kiss in favor of an 80s-infused explosion, it would seem that nothing is outside the realm of possibility.

To be fair, Jepsen fans have been spoiled these past two years – two stellar releases, a massive world tour, appearances on everything from Grease: Live to SNL with the theme song to last year’s Full House reboot thrown in for good measure. Perhaps that’s what makes the possibility of another record so enticing – it’s clearly Carly Rae’s time to shine. Or maybe we’re just greedy. Either way, here’s hoping for another dose of pop medicine in 2017.

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 online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Review: Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion: Side B

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Carly Rae Jepsen proved to be one of the most unexpectedly fascinating figures in pop music last year. Emotion, her follow up to 2012 smash breakthrough Kiss, proved to be one of the year’s most lauded releases, even if its commercial performance lagged. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait long to find out if Jepsen’s artistic resurgence was a fluke.

Just over a year after the release of Emotion, Carly Rae has blessed us with Emotion: Side B – a collection of songs that didn’t make the cut, but are just as worthy of praise.

You can buy Emotion: Side B on iTunes.

You can buy Emotion: Side B on iTunes.

If you come to our site with any regularity, you know that I’ve written ad nauseum about Jepsen’s unassuming brilliance and won’t be surprised that I find this latest release one of the most satisfying moments of 2016. Emotion: Side B is littered with pop gold and is a testament to Jepsen’s aptitude for writing killer songs. How is it possible that eight songs that didn’t make the cut for her last album are still better than 90 percent of what’s playing on pop radio?

“First Time” opens the release in Madonna-esque fashion, fully bathed the 80s influence that peppered Emotion. Over popping synthesizers, Carly Rae delivers the most Carly Rae chorus imaginable: “When my heart breaks, it always feels like the first time / If you stay here, we could kiss away the goodbye”. Mere moments into the first track, Emotion: Side B throws caution to the wind, dropping any pretense of self-seriousness.

Carefree indulgence continues on “Higher”, a song so damn good it’s hard to imagine why it was cut from Emotion. “You take me higher than the rest / Everybody else is second best / You pulled a gem out of the mess / I was so cynical before, I must confess”, Jespen belts during the song’s grand chorus. It’s another pulsing homage to 80s pop that sounds as though it wouldn’t have felt out of place on the soundtrack of Drive.

“Fever” is a moody song that works as the answer to “All That”, the Hot A/C track that felt slightly out of place on Emotion. “Body Language” is the dance-y sibling of “Let’s Get Lost” and finds its footing during a sizzling chorus: “Body language will do the trick / If you stay with me tonight, then we’ll talk it over”. Each track on Side B could easily fit within Emotion without causing much of a fuss, with the sole exception being the fairly uninspired “Store”.

Emotion: Side B is a delightful treat for Jepsen’s fans, who have become enthusiastic grassroots promoters of an underdog artist. It’s also validation for those of us who sang the praises of Emotion without irony and argued for the value of pop music as a self-aware salve. Jepsen holds the unique ability of bridging the gap between indie pretentiousness and mainstream inclusiveness – happily typecast, but delightfully surprising.

In short, Emotion: Side B is the irony-free pop music we needed in 2016. It’s also a pretty nice holdover as we eagerly await whatever comes next.

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 online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Carly Rae Jepsen’s Gimmie Love Tour Shines Bright

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The Madison Theater is a diamond in the rough – a unique, historic venue in Covington, Kentucky, resting just south of the Ohio River in the long shadow of downtown Cincinnati. While not the most exclusive or celebrated concert hall in the area, it serves as an unsuspecting intimate setting with its own quirky style and layout.

On this night, these distinctive characteristics make it the perfect location for one of pop music’s most underrated and overlooked artists: Carly Rae Jepsen.

When I reviewed Emotion, the latest release from Jepsen, last August, I was still grappling with how much I enjoyed the record. Stepping out from underneath the piercing glow of “Call Me Maybe” was challenging for many music fans, but the light on the other side has proved to be even more enjoyable and lasting than another quick fix. Emotion has shattered expectations, becoming one of the most lauded pop albums in recent years.

In the time since its release, Emotion has appeared to gain steam due to its inclusion on countless end-of-the-year lists, Jepsen’s various TV and radio appearances, and word of mouth promotion from fans convinced of the record’s merit. Interestingly enough, Jepsen’s current Gimmie Love Tour serves not as a reintroduction to the artist we met four summers ago, but as a validation of her status as one of the most likable and unsung pop singers on the planet.

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Cardiknox

Setting the table on this tour is Cardiknox, a surprisingly powerful synthpop act that recently released their debut album, Portrait, and appear to be taking full advantage of this opportunity. Vocalist Lonnie Angle has the stage presence of a veteran singer and commands the crowd’s attention. By the second song of the band’s set, the crowd is bouncing and singing along to the infectious chorus of “On My Way”.

This lively set proves to be the perfect primer for Carly Rae’s own brand of synth-driven power pop. Taking the stage to the slick saxophone intro to “Run Away with Me”, Jepsen dives right into her best and most astonishingly overlooked track. It’s clear from the get go that the vast majority of the crowd in Covington has little longing for “Call Me Maybe” – the fans belt out every note of the chorus, nearly drowning out Jepsen’s voice.

It’s exceedingly rare that an entire night lives up to those electric opening moments when the main act takes the stage, but this performance is a communal one from start to finish. During the course of her 19-song set, Carly plays every song from Emotion (bonus tracks included), along with standouts from 2012’s Kiss. Never once does the buzz die down or the crowd become disinterested. Instead, they sing and dance along in unison.

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Carly Rae Jepsen

Looking around the venue, it’s a diverse gathering. With the event falling on St. Patrick’s Day, many don green as they hold a drink and dance to the music. Smiles abound and the vast majority of the crowd seems to know the lyrics to almost every song. In fact, the night’s most rousing moments come with the performance of random tracks from Emotion like “Gimmie Love” and “I Didn’t Just Come Here to Dance”, which elicit just as much energy from the crowd as more well known hits like “Good Time”. Perhaps the infectious nature of Emotion is finally spreading.

Jepsen’s stage presence matches her artistic persona – she appears full of joy and giddy excitement, but seems uninterested relishing the spotlight. Her performance feels akin to a friend singing along with you to your favorite song during a car ride, an act that seems natural and deeply familiar. It’s hard not to smile and nearly impossible to disconnect from the delight of those around you.

Carly shares relatable stories of heartbreak and longing before tracks like “Boy Problems” and “Tonight I’m Getting Over You” but invites everyone to brush it all off with “Let’s Get Lost” and “This Kiss”. No matter the subject, bright melodies, pulsing synthesizers and flashing lights keep the energy upbeat and the room jumping. By the time “Call Me Maybe” and “I Really Like You” crash through the speakers, the crowd is already on an emotional high.

Last year, I privately wondered whether the initial neon shock of Emotion would easily wear off over time. Nearly eight months later, I’m enjoying the record more than ever. There’s a very real shelf life in the world of pop radio – something Jepsen is acutely aware of. In 2015, certain pop mainstays managed to cast a convenient shadow over one of the year’s most critically acclaimed records, but Carly Rae’s ability to sidestep a potential drop off and barrel forward with the best music of her career has proved admirable. That she navigates an often dark and crooked business with a smile and a shrug, inviting us all to a much brighter point of view, is something even better.

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 online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Podcast: The Best Music of 2015

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Just when you thought those end of the year breakdowns were over – Kiel Hauck and Kyle Schultz return for one final discussion on the best music of 2015. During the chat, the duo break down splendid albums and singles from the likes of Kendrick Lamar, The Wonder Years, The Weeknd. The Early November, Carly Rae Jepsen and much more! What are you waiting for? Listen in below!

Subscribe to our podcast here. Share your thoughts in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck