If you’d released a world-beating pop mega-hit like ‘Call Me Maybe’, the 2011 breakout banger that made Carly Rae Jepsen a bonafide pop star – it’s shifted more than 18 million copies and was the year’s bestselling digital single – you’d might rest on your laurels a bit, mightn’t you? Not Jepsen.
In the four years between releasing two brilliant albums – 2015’s ‘80s-inspired ‘Emotion’ and 2019’s disco extravaganza ‘Dedicated’ – she flew around the world to write more than 200 songs. Somehow she also found time to tour with Katy Perry; collaborate with Charli XCX on 2017 banger ‘Backseat’; and, in 2016, play Frenchy in a US TV remake of Grease.
Now the 34-year-old Canadian has released ‘Dedicated Side B’, an album of material written during that four-year exploration. And it’s easily one of the best pop records of the year so far.
Sparkling opener ‘This Love Isn’t Crazy’ is Jepsen at full speed. Working with mega-producer Jack Antonoff (who’s twiddled knobs for the likes of Lorde and St. Vincent), it’s a glitzy, pulsating anthem that calls for open sunroofs and wind in your hair. ‘Comeback’, another collaboration between the two, is an introspective duet, swapping sun-drenched highways for something more gloomy and claustrophobic. This is as brooding as ‘Side B’ gets, but even in the darkness, Jepsen holds onto hope as she sings, “I was thinking ’bout making a comeback – back to me.”
‘Side B’ is from the same lush world as her fourth album ‘Dedicated’, all rose-tinted nostalgia and big emotional choruses, but it’s not a simple rehash. The excitement is never diluted. Full of bass-led groove, ‘Window’ is a finger-clicking pop banger, while the urgent ‘Felt This Way’ and ‘Stay Away’s find Jepsen pouring her heart out. “My home is your body / How can I stay away?” she asks, finding joy and not wanting to surrender it.
‘Solo’ is a powerful anthem of self-love. “So what you’re not in love? You shine bright by yourself dancing solo,” sings Jepsen. All wonky pop and pick-you-up-from-the-floor tenderness, it’s a confetti-doused burst of empowerment. On tropical slow dance ‘Now I Don’t Hate California After All’, she finds herself in paradise, singing, “Love on the beach and the tide is high.” As the track fades out to the sound of waves on the sand, it feels like the close of one era, with a door left open for wherever Carly wants to head next.
‘Dedicated Side B’ provides a joyous burst of escapism from the miserable everyday, the lockdown ying to the yang of Charli XCX’s ‘How I’m Feeling Now’. Consistently brilliant, ‘Side B’ might be a collection of offcuts but this is the sort of record that most acts could only dream of making.
Release date: May 21
Record label: Interscope