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Review: Carly Rae Jepsen’s Dedicated Side B Boldly Embraces the Pangs of Lust

The album demonstrates the tangled multi-dimensionality of both the singer’s own psyche and the act of sex itself.

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Alexa Camp

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Carly Rae Jepsen, Dedicated Side B
Photo: Natalie O'Moore

A defining feature of last year’s Dedicated was Carly Rae Jepsen’s embrace of her sexuality—a topic the singer had, for the most part, previously sidestepped in favor of more chaste subject matter. Jepsen’s girlish vocals and perky pop hooks certainly lend themselves to PG-rated sentiments, but songs like “Want You in My Room,” “Everything He Needs,” and “I’ll Be Your Girl” found her dipping her toes into carnal waters. The dozen songs that comprise Dedicated Side B, all leftovers from the original recording sessions, are less musically adventurous than those particular tracks, but they double down on pillow talk, lending the album a uniformity that its predecessor lacked.

Side B’s opening salvo, “This Love Isn’t Crazy,” is as immediate as anything in Jepsen’s catalog and finds producer Jack Antonoff at his most unapologetically pop. The song is expertly constructed, with drums dropping in and out as it slowly builds up anticipation—at apt start to an album that celebrates the euphoric, occasionally painful pangs of lust. “I tried your mouth and I can’t come back,” Jepsen swoons over a softly percolating beat on the simmering “Felt This Way,” while “Stay Away” finds her reprising the same refrain—“Both our hands speak for us and complicate it/My home is your body, how can I stay away?”—but with more urgency. If “Felt This Way” is the pre-chorus, “Stay Away” is the climax, with all the punnery that implies.

Of course, this is a Carly Rae Jepsen album, so casual sex eventually gives way to something deeper. “I was down for the first night/And I’m down for a second try,” she breathlessly admits on “Summer Love,” which pairs a “Billie Jean”-esque beat, shimmery synths, and thoughtfully placed disco strings. And sexual adrenaline spills over into something close to spiritual ecstasy on the sublime “Heartbeat,” angelic trills punctuating Jepsen’s every declaration of longing.

In a callback to Dedicated’s “Right Words Wrong Time,” the island-flavored closing track, “Now I Don’t Hate California After All,” celebrates a temporary tryst that renews Jepsen’s love for the titular state. That songs as strong as this and the anthemic “Solo” were left off Dedicated speaks to not just the wealth of treasures she had to choose from, but her ability to craft a cohesive narrative. “I’m at a war with myself/We go back to my place/Take my makeup off/Show you my best disguise,” Jepsen offers wistfully on the meditative “Comeback,” demonstrating the tangled multi-dimensionality of both her psyche and the act of sex itself.

Label: Interscope Release Date: May 21, 2020 Buy: Amazon

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