CARLY RAE JEPSEN
In the wide shoulder pads/high hair/dancing with a keytar Julien, which opens Dedicated, Carly Rae Jepsen pinpoints the essence of her appeal. Or indeed, the crux of what puts people off.
From this starting point you can mostly summarise the remaining 14 songs, stylistically and tonally, handily allowing you to guess whether you will dive in or run away. Which is, you must agree, a decent act of public service in these time-poor/TL:DR times.
Julien feels rampantly retro, but unashamedly so, almost daring you to either object or begin listing the influences as some world-weary effort (let me save you some trouble: Prince, Madonna, Gap Band for starters). Yet there’s a faint strain of oddness about, as if these influences have been taken in slightly warped by a few decades’ distance from the source.
There’s a sexiness to it but is a sweetened version that is rising on joy rather than pumped up on urgent need: that is, the hips glide on this groove rather than thrust. And yet somehow, she doesn’t sound like a young avatar for some creepy need in either a Swedish factory songwriter or slobbering dirty mac-wearing listener. She may sound young but she’s not going to be your starter pack.
Julien is ostensibly about love that’s no longer here but as the keyboards vamp up and the post-Chic guitars step forward more in the second half of the song, it feels like a minor celebration of love that once was, rather than a great pining for what won’t be.
If you’re not getting sunshine and movement, if you’re not feeling a reclaiming of the centre and owning the future, if this isn’t fun and, well, fun, you should get out now. Get it? Got it? Good.
From there onwards the differences tend to be in degrees rather than any volte-face, the standard pretty high most of the time and only the extended nature of the album – it runs two songs over I reckon, and those two weak songs are clear – diminishing its appeal.
Feels Right somehow blends Jackson 5 and Hot Chip with some late-period Motown, offering a spring in the piano, light gospel and gossamer-weight pop, and then that English sound in the keyboards is explored further in Too Much, which brings the most R&B to bear of any track here.
For Sure somewhat disappointingly mines the 1980s love of quasi-South African rhythms and vocals, allied with squeaky clean blandness, but that is balanced by how Now That I Found You ups the almost modular electronic pop before going the Full Minogue of airy and bouncy machinery.
If Happy Not Knowing and No Drug Like Me take their cues from a good portion of La Madonna’s Like A Virgin, and Real Love imagines Prince had produced that album instead of Nile Rogers, then Everything He Needs and Party For One are True Blue-period Ciccone (including some notes on self-pleasuring) fed through a letterbox, but skirting the Meagan Trainor quagmire that I’ll Be Your Girl sinks into.
That’s a good ratio of straight out fun pop songs isn’t it? And it’s all there from the start.