“I’m bad at keeping secrets,” Carly Rae Jepsen confessed when dropping Dedicated Side B after weeks of swirling rumors. She has a point. All that speculation around this release was far from unwarranted, seeing as this isn’t even the first time Jepsen has put forth a series of outtakes one year after the main album. Following the runaway success of Emotion Side B, it stands to reason that she would repeat that success. And considering that it was released almost exactly a year after Dedicated, this is a surprise release only on a technicality.
However, that should dampen none of the enthusiasm for this series of outtakes from her last album. True to her brand, the songs feel like exactly the shot of joyous pop escapism that a scared, anxious world needs right now. While Dedicated Side B (★★★★☆) does not reach the shockingly good heights of Emotion Side B, it more than holds up next to Dedicated. Though it does raise the question of why some of its songs never made the cut for Side A.
Given that it is a collection of outtakes, it should be no surprise that for the most part, these songs find her in the same headspace she was in on Dedicated. This is apparent right from the glitzy, incredibly catchy opener, “This Love Isn’t Crazy,” a collaboration with Jack Antonoff that is strong in all the ways we would expect from Jepsen. She indulges in joyful, occasionally wistful or nostalgic, but always clear-headed musings on love and relationships. “I don’t know how to swim, but let’s breathe underwater,” she sings on “Fake Mona Lisa,” an ode to impulsively, and perhaps recklessly, giving in to love, coming as close as she ever has to just directly laying out the appeal of her entire approach to pop.
Despite its formulaic nature, Jepsen does deliver a few unexpected hits on Side B, notably “Solo,” a call to revel in the freedom of single life that features what is arguably the strongest chorus of the entire collection. “So what, you’re not in love?” is a sentiment that might seem to run counter to her entire ethos, but it is very Carly Rae Jepsen to celebrate love in all its forms, even its absence.
Jepsen may be a famously prolific songwriter, but that she had such a stellar collection of tracks left over from her last album is a sign of more than an ability to write songs in bulk and then curate a few standouts. With Dedicated Side B, Jepsen once again proves what we had already seen on Emotion Side B, that her power as an artist is in her ability to start with simple, universal feelings and experiences and build glorious earworms around them with unforgettably catchy hooks. She brings a visceral, intuitive understanding of relationships at their beginnings, endings, and all the grey areas in between, along with a relentlessly, stubbornly celebratory attitude to love that is impossible to resist.
Dedicated Side B is available for purchase on www.carlyraemusic.com and for streaming on Spotify and Apple Music.
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