Carly Rae Jepsen Is So Great Even Her 'Dedicated' B-Sides Are Brilliant Pop Gems
Published May 28, 2020A year after the release of her fourth album, Dedicated, Carly Rae Jepsen has gifted her fans with a collection of unreleased material simply titled Dedicated Side B. "Gifted" is the key term here, as Carly seems well aware of how eager her fans are to hear every piece of music she has ever recorded. She is only too happy to oblige, having also released the excellent E•MO•TION: Side B a year after her 2016 pop masterpiece E·MO·TION (although she has since revealed that she wrote over a hundred songs that did not make it onto the album).
Both Side B albums are remarkable in that they are both stacked with high-quality songs that could have easily fit in on either of their respective albums. It would not be unfair to claim that Jepsen has found a formula that works well for her — sparkling synth-pop inflected by giddy romantic anticipation — but the magic of her music goes beyond familiar pop music tropes. What makes her music so enchanting is its complete and utter devotion to pure expressions of emotion and an insistent focus on the excitement and torture of romantic longing across her entire body of work, qualities that have had particular resonance among queer audiences.
On the upbeat "Window," she implores her lover to "Keep a window for me open / Open for me always," an extension of a theme she first explored on her first album, Tug of War, in the song "Sweet Talker" ("I will slide me through your window") and then later on Dedicated's "Want You in My Room" ("Slide on through my window…"). Familiar themes abound on Dedicated Side B, yet it does not simply tread well-worn ground. Songs such as the slinky, sexy "Fake Mona Lisa" and the bubbly, shimmering "Now I Don't Hate California After All" sound like nothing she has ever done before.
In another captivating experiment, she includes two different versions of the same song, each interpreted through a different emotional tone. "Felt This Way" takes a melancholic approach to the material, whereas "Stay Away" is more cheeky and upbeat. In the former, when she asks "How can I stay away?" she sounds frustrated and exhausted, whereas in the latter she asks the question with directness and confidence, indicating that she has no intention of staying away. Jepsen smartly makes space for such experimentation by explicitly packaging these songs as "B-sides," rather than a proper full-length studio album.
Although Dedicated might be a more comprehensive piece of work as a whole, Side B is so impressively strong that it could easily be a continuation of the album (its B-side, even). Side B is brimming with starry-eyed euphoria, glittery synth-pop confections and her characteristically odd lyrical syntax ("Dance the night down on your knees," "I need your hands when you drive me home"). In essence, it has everything that makes Jepsen's music lovable and bewitching, and raises the question of how many more sparkling musical gems she has hidden away, waiting to be compiled on her next Side B collection.