Album review: Carly Rae Jepson – Dedicated

John Preston

South London based music obsessive with strong opinions about most things. Doubts Madonna has another good record in her but would love more than anything to be proved wrong.
John Preston

It is entirely possible that neither Carly Rae Jepson or her record company understood what made Emotion, Jepson’s last full length release of 2015, so great and why it went on to become somewhat of a pop phenomenon albeit one that commercially did not live up to expectations.

It might actually be that last point – cold-hard sales – which informed the direction of Dedicated, although nothing contained within its 15-song track list sounds particularly contemporary or screams hit. This album, Jepson’s fourth, is more of an exercise in box ticking.

Although there are successful moments certainly, its presumed intention to recreate Emotion but with more sonic diversity does so at the expense of any edge, originality or palpable mood, all of the elements that made Emotion so mighty and enduring.

The handful of tracks here that do work are wonderful. ‘Too Much’ has an unexpected eeriness that creeps into the song’s repetitive chorus the longer that it plays and ‘Want You In My Room’ is a Jack Antonoff maximalism ’80s homage and a proper banger.

The lyrically ambiguous ‘The Sound’ marries a sentimental tinkling piano with minimal, muted thuds and when Jepson sings ‘god you make me so tired’ you can feel it.

‘Automatically In Love’ calls to mind R&B acts of the mid-80s, such as Change and Shalamar, and has a fluid, mid-tempo disco warmth and complex chorus that is clever and instant. The most surprising success is ‘Right Words Wrong Time’ which is an unexpected mix of early naughties R&B and dub-step era Britney, with trap percussion and a decidedly pissed-off Jepson.

The remainder and majority of Devotion is dull and uninventive dance pop that has none of the intricate intimacy that Jepson perfected on tracks such as Emotion’s ‘Run Away With Me’ and ‘Warm Blood’. There are dalliances with different types of sound that are artless and bland, the cod-ska of ‘I’ll Be Your Girl’ and broadway pop on ‘Everything He Needs’ are both ill-advised.

Even Patrick Berger can’t make sense of the world music influenced ‘For Sure’. The generic EDM drop and undeveloped chorus of sad banger ‘Real Love’ already sounds dated although beautifully sung and a better producer would have pushed it in the direction of perfection.

Earlier singles ‘No Drug Like Me’ and ‘Now That I Found You’ slip by easily enough but fail to any incite any of the melodic nuance or euphoric escapism that Jepson has delivered so captivatingly before.

Jepson’s self-confessed underdog sympathiser status seems partly the reason for her now near cult-like status within the LGBT community, to the extent that she appears to have been appointed Queer Eye’s musical Netflix mascot. The fondness for singers and performers on some kind of personal and what is thought to be relatable level is often so strong that many will overlook – or forgive – a decline in quality.

Jepson is a great collaborator and still has a under realised muse like ability to make others’ songs her own and which has been perfected by the likes of Kylie Minogue, one of Jepson’s closest comparisons. Dedicated will have its fans, such is the strength of Carly Rae Jepson’s appeal, and her next move may be key as a shift into acoustic earnestness seems just as likely as a return to the immaculate electro pop that has secured her reign as the current Outsider Pop Princess.

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