I’ve spent the last few days knocked to the canvas by a cruel summer ailment. Maybe it’s a summer cold or a bout with the flu. Maybe it’s something yet worse that I, a stubborn fool, should have already gone to the doctor to discuss. My implementation of a healing plan has been haphazard and confused, a near-random combo of hot tea and middleweight over-the-counter medications. Today, I finally took a more drastic step, dosing myself with one of the most formidable tools in the arsenal of self-care. I listened to Carly Rae Jepsen.
More specifically, I finally made the time to go through Dedicated, the new Jepsen album. Her fourth full-length overall, Dedicated extends and expands the sugary pop ingenuity that made Jepsen’s 2015 release Emotion a sensation among music fans who weren’t afraid of letting a little happiness into their protective bubbles of unassailable esoteric taste. Jepsen’s best tracks are bright as klieg lights, even when they’re centered on heartache and pain. “Now That I Found You” is a fine example. It starts at a strong rev and bursts into such joyous sounds that glittery confetti practically flutters out of the speakers.
As if protecting some intense music snob identity, I often often find myself truffle-hunting for the complexities within Jepsen’s songs. I like that “Julien” gets subtly gnarlier as it goes on, finishing in pop tones twisting into barbed wire, and that the peppery synth manipulations of “Automatically in Love” make it seem like Jepsen might have listened to a little Daft Punk — but, truly, only a little — between albums. I hear other artist echoes that theoretically confer a little more legitimacy to the works, as on “Want You In My Room,” which is like Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love” genetically spliced with Tom Tom Club, or “Feels Right,” which isn’t far off of Control-era Janet Jackson. Occasionally, twisty association algebra isn’t required. On “Everything He Needs,” Jepsen takes Harry Nilsson’s “He Needs Me,” from the soundtrack to Robert Altman’s Popeye, turns it inside out and bedazzles it.
Surely all my anxious assertions to imbue approval on Jepsen and Dedicated are unnecessary. Good music is good music, requiring no cobbled-together justification. The sly groove “Too Much” is grand on its own, as is the album-closing pop epic of self-pleasure “Party for One.” And it is the breezy, ephemeral quality of Jepsen’s songcraft — notably arrived at only after a tremendous amount of work and ruthless culling — is precisely what makes it special, sometimes borderline miraculous. As I suggested at the top, I’ve only listened to Dedicated once. That’s not my usual approach before sitting down to tap out words in reaction, but it strikes me as appropriate for Jepsen’s album. When soaking in the warmest, most rejuvenating bubble bath in the universe, it’s okay to simply enjoy the experience rather than scrutinize every soapy sphere.