Photo Credit: Meredith Jenks
Back in 2012, online dating and sharing cell phone numbers were still relatively new things, so there is no wonder that Carly Rae Jepsen’s ridiculously infectious guilty pleasure “Call Me Maybe” would go on to become the best-selling single of the 21st century by a female artist and one of the most successful singles of all time. Since then, Canada’s biggest female pop star has released the critically acclaimed pop masterpiece E•MO•TION and another set of high-quality pop records, most recently the two Dedicated LPs.
The Loneliest Time, her sixth full-length album, opens on a familiar note with the shimmering dance pop of “Surrender My Heart” wasting no time until a dense bass groove drags you to the dancefloor. It is followed by a consistent group of similarly crisp, modern pop songs all dominated by the same polished synthesizers and ‘80s-influenced guitars. “Joshua Tree” opens will a slick guitar riff, “Talking to Yourself” would fit perfectly into most contemporary pop radio stations, and “Sideways” delivers the best catchphrase of the record: “I like to get my way // Even when things go sideways.”
On “Beach House,” the record’s centerpiece, Carly calls out the most pathetic version of playboys. “I’ve got a beach house in Malibu, and I’m probably gonna hurt your feelings,” a male voice proclaims, as Carly victimizes herself in what she describes as their “hunting season.” For all its musical simplicity, it’s meaningful without being severe, feminist without being political, and catchy without being irritating.
The lack of the irritating – call it infectious, if you prefer that – aspect is not necessarily a good thing, though. The tunes are mostly catchy and always supremely produced (as many as fourteen producers are involved, so anything else would be a failure) but there are no obvious stand-out tracks or earworms in the league of “Call Me Maybe” or “I Really Like You” that will never escape your mind. Instead, Jepsen drops a quite nice acoustic ballad with “Go Find Yourself or Whatever” and invites fellow Canadian folk-pop troubadour Rufus Wainwright to the album-ending title track in which Carly compares her broken love story with a Shakespeare play to the tunes of the most Bee Gees-Esque disco-strings of her career. Considering “Call Me Maybe” (I promise not to mention that song again) was originally written as a folk song, this could be the beginning of a new turn in Jepsen’s career. Will her next record be a folklore?
If there is an upcoming turnstile lurking beneath, The Loneliest Time offers relatively few surprises. More than anything else, this is a grown-up piece of sophisticated and just catchy-enough pop record of the same caliber as Kylie Minoque’s DISCO. The teenage year’s often so foolishly exciting actions and thoughts have been replaced with mature reflections about what could have been different and what happens next. Sassy but samey, The Loneliest Time isn’t good enough to stand out in her discography. Still, it remains essential listening for anyone looking for a likable pop record with no major flaws.