Too much of a good thing feels just fine when the rest of the world is as bleak as it’s been lately. So, when Carly Rae Jepsen announced to the quarantined masses last Friday morning that a surprise collection of more pop bops was on the way from their fav, it immediately registered as fantastic news. Following up on the same timeline she used for her last album cycle, Jepsen dropped the B-sides collection to the 2019 record, Dedicated, on the one-year anniversary of the original album’s release date.
“So yes there have been whispers and I’m bad at keeping secrets,” Jepsen wrote in an Instagram post last Friday morning. “Side B for Dedicated is out now babies and I couldn’t be more thrilled to share these tunes. I hope it makes yah dance your pants off! Thank you for all the joy you shared with me on this last year of touring. I owe ya one.. or like two albums turns out. For the record, I love all of you.”
Perhaps this release wouldn’t feel as rote if she hadn’t followed this exact same formula for the one-year anniversary of Emotion, and unlike that cult-classic record, Dedicated didn’t quite have a career-altering, critical-darling impact. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of sparkling, left-field jams on both B-sides that will have fans just as excited as her once-massive hit “Call Me Maybe.” And the pop star release schedule has been strained in 2020 due to the impact of a global pandemic, and with Lady Gaga and the Dixie Chicks both pushing big releases, there was a Carly-shaped-hole in the listening calendar — Dedicated B-sides slots there just fine.
Without huge stadium tours from the likes of Lana Del Rey — who may or may not have lost a bulk of ticket-holders due to her repeated rants over the last week — or Taylor Swift and Harry Styles, there’s even more attention to go around to new pop albums. And these deeper cuts from Carly are also a welcome balance to huge new singles like “Rain On Me” or the lingering impact of hip-hop focused hits like Doja Cat’s “Say So,” Megan The Stallion’s “Savage” remix with Beyonce, or Roddy Ricch’s “The Box.”
There is nothing there that will vie with any of those songs for a spot in the top 20, and even less that leans into the hip-hop sound that has become all but synonymous with radio dominance. But for those who are into the optimistic synth-pop sound that Jepsen has leaned into on her last two albums (or make that four releases, counting both B-side compilations), here’s another twelve songs that flit between wide-eyed innocent love, occasional fits of regret, and the kind of nights that make the constant vacillating between those two extremes feel completely worth it.
Returning to tried and true producers and co-writers like Ariel Rechtshaid, Jack Antonoff, and Dev Hynes, along with plenty of others in keeping with her proclivity toward an always eclectic sound, Dedicated B-sides has some moments that are even stronger than the namesake that preceded it. “Stay Away” is the addictive, glitchy sendup of the honeymoon stage with a new lover that’s great for a dance party anywhere, even alone in your bedroom, and “Fake Mona Lisa” contains the kind of strangely specific details that Jepsen fans quickly turn into wry inside jokes and memes, while the production is funkier and weirder than she usually gets, almost like a younger sister of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories era.
Then, there’s the knockout — every Jepsen album has one — “Comeback” showcases the feathery register of her voice that resonates so much more than when she belts. Joined on vocals occasionally by Antonoff, and with the only credited guest on the record, Antonoff’s project Bleachers, “Comeback” is the kind of uplifting epic that transcends romantic pain and gets into self-actualization. This song heads straight into Phil Collins territory and doesn’t look back, looping vocal tracks and synths into a glistening web of nonsensical lyrics that are nevertheless inspiring — “I am the keeper of that beat” will make sense to every music lover, regardless of context.
Some critics argue there is a certain generality to Jepsen pop songs, and she’s been faulted for that before, but within the broad strokes she paints — and occasional idiosyncratic, wildly specific motif — listeners can fill their own colors in between the lines. It’s why the last four albums have resonated so deeply with her core fanbase, even if the charts and the mainstream at large have never connected as strongly with her as they have with other pop stars. For those who see and hear themselves in a Carly Rae Jepsen song, even the most nonsensical phrase has the sheen of unassailable wisdom. These dedicated ones, we are the keeper of that beat.
Dedicated is out now via Schoolboy/Interscope Records. Get it here.