It’s difficult to escape the perception of being a “one-hit wonder.” Like an actor being typecast, a one-hit wonder is often never able to shake the shadow that the hit casts over their entire career, spending their time trying to replicate its sound in an effort to replicate its success. In the case of Carly Rae Jepsen, things are different. Exploding onto the scene with the unavoidable “Call Me Maybe,” Jepsen was an overnight star.
The single was followed by an album of songs that sounded exactly like it, even featuring Justin Bieber to only exhaust its commerciality even further. Jepsen, however, didn’t allow her career to descend into desperation. Instead, she chased another hit. With 2015’s Emotion and 2019’s Dedicated, she has carved out a niche but potent fan base, hooking them with bright synth-pop and dazzling disco.
With the release of Dedicated Side B, a new trend has emerged in Jepsen’s sound, and it’s one that is sure to keep her fans happier than before.
Following the release of Emotion in 2015, Jepsen released an EP as a B side for the record, housing some of the songs she had left off the original tracklist. This time around, Jepsen upgraded big time, with Dedicated Side B being an entire record of songs left on the cutting room floor. Nothing here feels out of place in the world of Jepsen’s Dedicated era, but it also never sounds like a simple repeat of what we have heard before.
Despite being left off of Dedicated, each track on Side B is just as immaculately crafted as the original record, delving deeper into the nostalgic sounds of the 80s and 90s, and expanding her influences to keep things fresh.
Side B, in classic Jepsen style, is full of bangers. The record opens with the throbbing “This Love Isn’t Crazy,” a 90s-inspired house track that seems destined to fill many a dancefloor. Elsewhere, album highlight “Summer Love” is a groovy, disco-fuelled banger that feels ripped right out of a third installment in the MMCU (Mamma Mia cinematic universe).
While the newest tracks very much exist on their own, Jepsen also slips in a couple of references to their parent albums. “Solo” is the motivational speaker version of Dedicated’s “Party For One,” raising the original, “If you don’t care about me // I’ll just dance for myself,” to, “So what, you’re not in love // You shine bright by yourself dancing solo.”
“Window,” a funky number infused with clicks and lop-sided basslines, cleverly nods to lyrics from fan-favorite “Want You in My Room,” in which she tells her lover, “I keep a window, for you, it’s always open.” Here, she’s asking him to do the same for her: “Keep a window for me open // Open for me always.” Album closer “Now I Don’t Hate California After All” cheekily nods to Dedicated’s “Right Words Wrong Time” and Emotion’s “LA Hallucinations.” The track is really quirky, with bubbling production that feels appropriately tropical, with wistful lyrics of fondness about a place Jepsen lamented on those two earlier releases.
Side B isn’t entirely dancefloor-ready bangers, though. “Heartbeat” is a sumptuous slow jam that is ready-made for any lucky couple’s first dance. “Comeback,” which features producer Jack Antonoff’s Bleachers, is a chugging synth-ballad that feels deeply Bleachers-esque. It’s as forlorn and gloomy as the record gets, yet is still full of that wistful love and hope that litters the rest of the album. “I was thinking ’bout making a comeback, back to me,” Jepsen whispers as she picks up the pieces of herself. It’s the album’s heart — its mission statement — and among its finest works.
Its hard to become more than a one-hit wonder. It’s also hard to make one great pop album. On Dedicated Side B, Carly Rae Jepsen makes both look easy, producing a perfect record from her scraps that most artists – one-hit wonders or not — would kill for.
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