This is no longer a party for one—at least for the time being, as Carly Rae Jepsen takes us deeper into the cavern of her music with Dedicated Side B.
Somewhere in the backyard of Carly Rae Jepsen, there exists a mass grave of some hundred or so songs, including a fully realized album of glitter buffed, disco-inspired anthems that for reasons unknown will never see the light of day, let alone the chasm of darkness punctured by slivers of light and sweat-drenched bodies that is a nightclub. A prolific prophet of passion and pain, the perfectionist of a singer and songwriter is known to churn and chuck material at an equally exceptional rate, carving out a deliberate and precise record that is above everything, sincere. But in the world that she has created, the mortality of the music isn’t always set in stone, because right when we least expect it, she brings them back to life for all of the world to hear, and most importantly, feel.
This wouldn’t be the first time she pulled a surprise, having released the extended play of her superior pop offering, E•MO•TION in 2016, much to the rabid delight of her most ardent, sword-swinging fans. Historically, the B-side of an album stands as an artistic indulgence that fills the creative gaps of the musician with tracks that are deemed non-friendly or perhaps conceptually inferior to the mainstream offering. However, this notion has since been negated with capsule collections that have been technically stronger than its accompanied precedent release, giving it the credence to stand on its own musical merits such as You Can’t Always Get What You Want by The Smiths, We Will Rock You by Queen, I Am The Walrus by The Beatles, and for a much younger selection, Emotion: Side B by Carly Rae Jepsen. More than just an excess of production, the B-side tracks essentially function as a continuation of the conversation incited, burrowing deep into the curiosities of human complexity. “Songwriting is like indulging that feeling and hoping that you’re not alone in it,” she discloses in an interview with GQ. “I believe that other people have felt the same way before.”This feeling, as she has been known to dissect in what seems to be a lifelong dissertation on chiseling connection, feelings unrequited, and reckless abandon, treads the same path in her surprise release to her critically acclaimed 2019 hit, Dedicated. “There have been times that I have felt too shy to express what I am feeling, or the emotions that I experience are too much and make people uncomfortable. That is a pretty universally felt thing that isn’t talked about too much,” she says of the album. “People often say to me, ‘You talk so much about love—how scary is that?’ And I am like, ‘Well, it shouldn’t be that scary, it’s kind of the most important thing in the whole world.’” Apparently, there was much more to be said that didn’t make the streamlined cut, and for a while, was laid to rest in her infamous mauseloum of music. “So yes, there have been whispers and I’m bad at keeping secrets. Side B for DEDICATED is out now babies, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to share these tunes,” Carly Rae Jepsen writes on Instagram. “I hope it makes yah dance your pants off! Thank you for all the joy you shared with me on this last year of touring. I owe yah one…or like two albums turns out.”
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And it couldn’t have come at a better time, too, because just as we chalked one more day in quarantine, the patron saint of the longing and lovelorn, resolve and resilience blessed us with a gift, which she meant to help chase the blues away for the long drawn party for one that got way too real for a dance tune. A postscript to the previous year’s indelible imprint, Dedicated Side B is as intimate as its predecessor, but this time more intuitive to the swerves and spaces of feelings that are both fleeting and firm.
In the same scope of surprise as this release was, Carly Rae Jepsen takes a big and bold swing with This Love Isn’t Crazy, a jubilant introduction that ricochets between separate realities in a euphoric head-swinging reverie (We didn’t say too much, but I understood everything / That you could hurt me baby, and I could hurt you too), before turning the corner with the shoulder-shrugging appeal, Window. What follows is a unique exploration of singular lyrics rendered in separate studies of melody. Where Felt This Way presents itself as a wispy exhale of yearning bound by propriety (The city’s so hard when you sleep alone / I need your hands when you drive me home), Stay Away is the seductive reprise of stubborn desire unreciprocated (If it was only a distraction / How come I can’t stay away). Clever in its diverging orchestrations, the twin tracks speak of how something so fundamental as attraction can drape itself differently based on cognisance and perspective. Yes, she did that.
Carly Rae Jepsen traipses through her discography with an acute sense of psychology, yielding only to the dictates of heart over the mind in a rhythmic release that oscillates between furious dancing to wall-bound hysterics, which couldn’t be more evident in the transition from This Is What They Say (So won’t you cover me like full eclipse / Can’t remember loneliness / Got me feeling delicate) to the slowing down of time in a moment ensconced with Heartbeat (I’m suddenly scared of my feelings / This might be all I ever wanted / All I ever wanted to happen to me). From that heart-gripping articulation of emotions contained in palpable silence and tender gaze, Dedicated Side B flirts with a succession of musical eras, evoking the funk of Motown in the frisky Summer Love, the exuberance of mid-tempo 80s disco in Fake Mona Lisa, and the grit of 90s pop-rock in the drum-focused banger, Let’s Sort The Whole Thing Out.
More often than not, we latch on to music because it essays what is often left unsaid, betraying long-held secrets in an exposition of rhythmic out-of-body experience. An apparent arbiter to the dog-eared chapters of our undisclosed accounts, Carly Rae Jepsen function as the empath of great consideration, making sense of our insomnia-induced 3 A.M. thoughts replete of judgment. “I don’t know what I’m feeling, but I believe I was thinking ’bout making a comeback, back to me,” she sings in the Bleachers-backed entry, Comeback, a synth-driven ballad that heroes recovery in the both the physical and profound sense. Much like that fragment of time when you’ve exhausted yourself of energy and emotions on the dance floor, Dedicated Side B rounds itself up in a similar breath, slow and steady, with a brightness filling up the cavern of introspection in the sparkling song, Solo (So what you’re not in love? / Don’t go wasting your nights getting so low / So what you’re not in love? / You shine bright by yourself dancing solo), and the hopeful punctation, Now I Don’t Hate California After All, which features the ambience of tropical mainstays such as palm fronds rustling in the salt-licked breeze and gentle waves washing up against the breakwater.
Just as the last few notes fade away into the oblivion of our emotional cache, it becomes very clear that Dedicated Side B was not meant to be a by-the-way, one reduced to the intimidating shadow cast by its sonic precursor, but rather, it was intended to stand on its own accord. Conscious in its structure and storytelling, it echoes the murmurs of the heart, flowing from one necessary track to the next. With a trajectory outlined by musings and memories, as well as of reasons and resolutions, Carly Rae Jepsen, authors a sentimental chronicle that is vulnerable, honest, and liberated, which at this point stand to be the very things we need to get by, making you feel a little less alone in your self-prescribed party for one.