By Nicholas Kobe, Contributor
Key Tracks: “Talking To Yourself”, “Western Wind”, “The Loneliest Time”
Carly Rae Jepsen is the ultimate unsung hero of pop music. You know “Call Me Maybe” from 2011, an innocent flirty pop song that broke Carly into the mainstream. Despite scoring a few more hits, Carly started to fade from the public eye. Soon, however, she found a new reputation, not as a mainstream sensation but as a critical darling. Carly’s 2015 album Emotion is often cited as one of the best of the decade. The best thing about that is Carly didn’t change her sound much. She earned this critical acclaim by just making some of the most solid pop tunes of the 2010’s. Carly has consistently put out really great work ever since, and even if it doesn’t hit the top of the charts, it always has its fans. Ever since 2015, Carly’s records have been released in a set, like Emotion (2015) and Emotion Side B (2016). The same scheme followed Dedicated in 2019, with the B side coming the following year. Now as we enter 2022, it remains a mystery of how Carly’s sound would fit into the music landscape and how she would grow and change on this record.
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I’m not going to beat around the bush, The Loneliest Time is exactly what I needed from Carly Rae Jepsen in 2022. Despite having some pretty stiff competition for pop records this year such as Harry Styles, Beyonce, Lizzo and Taylor Swift, the last of which came out the same day as Carly, I think Carly trumps nearly all of them (maybe not Beyonce). The first big notable win of this record is its balance of sound. What I mean by that is that the record has a consistent theme and identity in its music, while also being very diverse. Most of this record is groovy, upbeat, and masterful pop. You see this best on the first three tracks “Surrender My Heart”, “Joshua Tree”, and “Talking to Yourself”. Even on these tracks with a similar vibe, there’s still enough difference to make them unique. “Surrender My Heart” is a big love-sick synth anthem, “Joshua Tree” is a guitar and bass groove fest and “Talking To Yourself” is more of a middle ground between two. All of this diversity creates a listening experience that feels much quicker than it really is. Carly experiments with influences from country to disco, and it all goes over really well. That’s because the consistency in this album lies in its sense of groove and how insanely catchy it is. Just like all good pop music, The Loneliest Time will get you up and moving and feeling good. Above all else, this has always been Carly’s greatest strength. Emotion is a go-to record for me in that vein, and The Loneliest Time does a good job of picking up the torch and running with it. In terms of lyrics, what is going on here is not terribly complex, but it’s effective. Mostly just being love songs, what Carly provides to this album in terms of lyrics do a good job at matching the vibe of the actual music, and putting some words behind the feelings evoked. Some songs like “Beach House” are exceptions, which is more of a ludicrous narrative; and despite being one of the most disliked songs on the record, I actually really enjoy it. While this is also not one of the most lyrically complex albums, you will certainly find yourself singing along after repeated listens.The lack of cohesion in the lyrics is pretty much the biggest negative I can think of in this record, and on a Carly Rae Jepsen record, that’s not a dealbreaker for me.
The Loneliest Time stands as one of the more memorable and exciting pop releases of the year. It reminds me once again of why pretentious hipsters around the world all love this artist. She continues to feel fresh and exciting even a decade into her career, and simply put, writes some incredibly solid songs.