One of the funniest lines in Amy Poehler’s new movie Wine Country is when Paula Pell tells Rachel Dratch that her soul’s age is around 18-and-a-half. “Probably old enough to drink and bone … almost out of the house.” It’s a sentiment Carly Rae Jepsen can certainly relate to. The 33 year-old pop star specializes in dragging our souls back to that special, post-pubescent place. And her fourth LP keeps on doing it with the precision we’ve come to expect from her.
The album beings with “Julien” – a watered-down version of ABBA’s “Waterloo” – but revs up with some good, old chaste titillation. “Automatically in Love” packs a whole CW season of romantic cliches, from rollercoasters to getaway cars into an Eighties-Madonna track. Jepsen tries out a breathy purr on “Too Much.” Then really goes for it on “Everything He Needs.” “Like pressure points/ My love can ease him in my hand,” she sings. The lyrics were actually inspired by cartoon couple Popeye and Olive, which, for a Carly Rae Jepsen album, sounds about right.
Four albums in, the notion of Jepsen coming out with a “mature” album would be anathema to all that is Carly Rae. And she seems more than happy holding the mantle of cheerful, mid-tempo pop-rock for her generation – a great American tradition passed down from the Monkees to Wilson Phillips to Hanson. The downside is that when your fans expect you to bring the hooks, you better bring them. Jepsen doesn’t appear constrained by those expectations, maybe because pop’s two main ingredients – melody and melodrama – come to her naturally. But with all its polish and production, Dedicated can sound less like an artistic benchmark and more like throwing gum drops at the ceiling to see which ones stick.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. And if that’s the case, “Want You In My Room” and “Now That I Found You,” are up there for good. They’re both joyous gallops in the vein of her previous slam-dunk, “Cut to the Feeling.” The album-closing “Party For One” is another easy success. Like her apocalyptic hit “Call Me Maybe,” it rides a sparse, peppy melody, but takes a subtle turn when Jepsen proclaims that she’s better off alone than with someone who won’t return her calls. “If you don’t care about me/I’ll just dance for myself,” she sings. Jepsen may have the soul of a teen queen, but she’s also got the wisdom of a 33-year-old woman.