Maghull, UK – After dominating the charts with 2012’s smash hit “Call Me Maybe” before disappearing from the public consciousness, one could be forgiven for disregarding Carly Rae Jepsen as another one hit wonder rather than a trailblazing pop mastermind. Yet it’s arguably everything Jepsen has done since her moment of fame that marks her as one of the most interesting artists of the modern age.
The commercially underwhelming follow up album to Jepsen’s 2015 breakthrough Emotion emerged as a surprising critical success, regarded amongst the most notorious pop albums of the decade amongst ardent music followers.
This propelled Jepsen to become one of the defining archetypal figures of a new category of music star in an era where streaming allows artists to operate not in mainstream chart success but rather catering to a niche yet dedicated fan base to sustain their career.
This puts Jepsen in the unique position of a pop star making music that is not actually intended for popularity but rather embellishing in the very essence of pop as a genre: exquisitely catchy melodies, elaborate production and feverish emotional rawness. It’s the type of music that sounds like it should fill sweaty dance floors and be played unrelentingly on the radio, yet you’ll likely never hear it in public outside of the most obscure DJ set in a gay club.
As a result, Jepsen is able to be simultaneously anonymous to the public while known as a legend in crafting pop perfection by a specific subset of the public – the LGBTQ+ community.
This awareness of an audience with an insatiable appetite for glossy, whimsical and unabashed pop music is abundantly clear in Jepsen’s new album The Loveliest Time, which, despite being her second album in 10 months, still feels like a fresh, innovative and highly welcomed treat for fans.
The album serves as a sister album and set of B-Sides to her 2022 album The Loneliest Time and while for many this could reflect stale, uninspired work, it is a testament to Jepsen as an artist at the absolute apex of her skills that The Loveliest Time emerges as an invigorating pop explosion dripping in confidence and swagger.
Slick production and varied experimental sounds heard throughout, particularly on opening track “Anything To Be With You” and single “Shy Boy” allow the album to perfectly navigate a narrow line between bombastic pop fun and cheesiness, emerging with a sound that is probably the closest Jepsen has come to sounding genuinely cool.
The project is also Jepsen’s most sonically cohesive since Emotion and perhaps her most thematically unified so far.
Like so much of Jepsen’s music, this album is centered around the most immediate and passionate feelings. While the repetitive structure of pop music may seem restrictive to some – resulting in uninspired lyrics – Jepsen leverages this formula to her advantage, allowing her to highlight the most instinctual emotions in such a way that feels like these songs are bursting out of the most frantic part of the human mind.
The album is centered almost entirely around a blossoming romance and all the different feelings associated with it, including the delicate process of allowing someone to become an extension of yourself and the associated anxieties. From the initial surge of adrenaline and fear when crashing into her partners life on “Kamikaze” to the ecstasy and giddiness of “After Last Night” and “Stadium Love” to the more sensitive side of a relationship with Jepsen confronting how her own pain hurts her lover on “Kollage,” the artist fully interrogates her subject matter in this album. She does this in a way her previous, more scattered projects have been unable to do.
This is powered by an unrelenting ability to craft unique pop melodies and dance-worthy choruses without feeling derivative. The joyous and euphoric “Psychedelic Switch” – the undoubted centrepiece of the album – is the greatest example of this, containing the quality of all the best pop songs that are so irresistibly catchy you feel like you’ve known the song your whole life and can’t quite believe this melody didn’t exist before.
There is, nevertheless, a slight nagging sense of a lack of overriding personality with Jepsen’s music. While she is the auteur crafting this pop perfection, there is an also evasiveness. It’s difficult to locate the emotional core of the artist. The clear narrative voice and heartfelt perspective of a Taylor Swift type singer-songwriter or the cult of personality surrounding a Beyonce level performer is missing here and you still leave the record still wondering who exactly Carly Rae Jepsen is. Perhaps this contributes to the album becoming slightly stagnant towards the very end.
That being said, not every album has to have a unique perspective or deep emotional connection. It’s ok for a pop album to be just that, and when it comes to catchy, well-produced pop you can’t do much better than this.
Matty Ennis is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International.