Emotion had feeling but does Dedicated have heart? Carly Rae Jepsen’s fourth studio album is out and its disco influence should be enough to draw you in – even if the singer’s past efforts have not caught your attention.

While it’s not a hard turn from her previous sound, this new record has a couple of standout songs that are more mature, and two steps beyond the bubblegum pop sound we’ve grown accustomed to.

For pop lovers, there should be no doubt that Jepsen is a talented singer-songwriter, and that comes across while enjoying this new record. Just listen to the first song on the album: “Julien”. The opening track is by far one of her best. It’s a banger to sing and dance to with its blend of disco funk beats with pop melodies that live in your mind, radiating with infectious joy and emotion. So well measured in its structure, it allows the listener to sing along to Carly’s carefully crafted choruses and bust a move.

The album in general creates an icy atmosphere. Carly’s voice is far more seductive than what we’ve heard before. “No Drug like Me” is a shimmering example of how she can add soul to beats that could’ve easily sounded generic and dull if they were accompanied by a singer with a less gifted voice. “Too Much” is another track that’s a hit by adding texture to the different parts of a very repetitive chorus. There’s a sweetness to her voice different from any other pop star – even if she’s not very well known for her wide range.

Surprisingly, Dedicated feels like it’s trying to move on from the ’80s inspired sound of Emotion or the more traditional Kiss. While it’s not completely successful in that regard, thanks to the variety of styles each song on the album has, it’s evident that Jepsen is trying to find a way to reinvent her sound with different types of musical influences and rhythmic compositions. That effort, as an artist trying to improve her craft, is highly encouraged.

The album is not without its flaws. The biggest issue is the lack of a concept that either musically or thematically holds the songs together. While it’s perfectly valid to write a record about love, the topic is somewhat tired; a tiny bit of subtext could elevate the emotional resonance of the songs to deeper levels. In terms of musical inspiration, even though you can hear the disco funk influence on some tracks, not all of them have it – thus, making making the album feel inconsistent. While that may not necessarily be bad, it does bring attention to another issue with the record: the fillers.

This is something a lot of pop artists struggle with, but Dedicated is a great example of an album that would have benefited from having less songs on it. For each jewel like “Now that I Found You” and “Julien” there’s a filler like “Automatically in Love” or “Want You In My Room” that dulls the album experience. Jepsen could’ve avoided that by having a more focused concept.

Take 24K Magic by Bruno Mars for example, one of the greatest albums of this decade. It has nine songs in total, each different from the rest but with a clear throwback to the ’90s and a consistent R&B style that’s infused in every track. The issue with putting too many songs on a record comes from record labels hoping they won’t lose sight of a hidden gem to streaming culture, because the industry is far more single-driven, but ultimately (and rather frequently) this does take a toll on the end result for most records. Sadly Dedicated was no exception.

It is also interesting to note that there are no ballads on the album. Even though Jepsen seem to have a very rich lyrical talent for rhymes with a wide group of collaborators, it seems odd that no one produced a haunting ballad for her to sing, mainly because there’s no need for a stellar vocal performance. Marina’s “Happy” from Froot is a prime example of this. Given the romantic theme of the album, one can only assume Carly’s been either really lucky not having her heart broken, or is just not interested in singing sad songs.

Fans of the singer should have no major problems with the new record as it maintains her musical style with added jubilance. It’s sprinkled with gems to sing and dance to; what more could we ask for? However, some pop fanatics may crave a more diverse sound for a fourth album, but there’s no denying there are a couple of risks Carly experimented with when creating a body of work that blends electro-pop with other genres.

Dedicated has a heartbeat that you can hear palpitating even through the roughness of its less inspired tracks. Yes, it proves to be two steps forward and one back for Jepsen’s discography, but it doesn’t take much for it to become quite charming. It is a solid effort from the singer to grow into a more mature artist and expand her craft. Chances are you’ll find at least a new tune to sing on your way to work or even better: to be reminded of how intoxicating love sounds and feels like.

Leave a Reply