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Carly Rae Jepsen makes pop fun again with ‘The Loneliest Time’

Carly Rae Jepsen makes pop fun again with ‘The Loneliest Time’

Carly Rae Jepsen makes pop fun again with ‘The Loneliest Time’
November 04
13:00 2022

The underrated cult queen of pop has finally made her return.

More than two years after Carly Rae Jepsen’s fifth studio album release, she re-entered airwaves and streaming platforms with her latest project, “The Loneliest Time.” The 13-track production has been described as Jepsen’s “most introspective” yet. However, many of the songs fail to breach past surface-level pop as promised.

Opener “Surrender My Heart” is an obvious hint at Jepsen’s progress toward self-contemplation, both as an artist and a human being. Lines like “I paid to toughen up in therapy / She said to me, ‘Soften Up’” give listeners insight into Jepsen’s personal journey with openness. By unabashedly revealing her own inward growth in the first few minutes of the album, Jepsen easily builds a foundation for an introspective album.

However, many of the following tracks seemingly reverse Jepsen’s initial efforts. “Talking to Yourself” is presented as a typical pop-y breakup song. The repetitive lyrics easily turn the tune into an upbeat ear-worm. While an enjoyable listen, its common theme of haunting an ex’s thoughts makes it tough to set apart from hundreds of similar synth-pop hits.

Later songs, like “So Nice,” also fail to live up to previously set expectations. Again, Jepsen masterfully crafts a smooth, bright baseline pop number. Her post-chorus chants of synthy “la la”s provide fans with a perfect, head-bopping tune. However, when looking for the more in-depth, complex themes that were marketed, it’s just yet another piece that misses the mark.

The album’s namesake track, “The Loneliest Time,” is a cynical take on past relationships sheathed in spacey pop production. In an interview with The Atlantic, Jepsen revealed it’s a parody of a “dangerous” return to an ex. Without artist insight, the song serves as another shallow, upbeat fairy-tale love song. But knowing Jepsen’s true intentions with the track help give credit to the album’s development, as well as her creativity and maturity as a songstress.

The album also contains two surprising standouts within its tracklist: “Bends” and “Go Find Yourself or Whatever.” “Bends,” a look into the aftermath of Jepsen’s recent family tragedies, is one of the few songs that accomplish what Jepsen seemingly attempted.

Heartfelt lyrics like “‘Cause I can feel the darkness sometimes too” and “Tell me this isn’t happening” give true insight into the artist’s relatable personal loss. This intimate subject shows some success in Jepsen’s efforts to reveal herself and closely connect with her audience.

Similarly, “Go Find Yourself or Whatever” conveys the bitterness left after heartbreak. Unlike industry-crafted breakup songs, Jepsen’s dejected delivery of “You feel safe in sorrow / You feel safe on an open road” crafts a unique hollowness. Jepsen clearly wrote this track from a broken, empty place.

Other aspects of “The Loneliest Time’s” production follow trends of ‘70s-inspired artists like Lizzo and Silk Sonic, while also inserting Jepsen’s signature bubblegum flair. This is most evident in songs like disco-esque “Shooting Star” and “Bad Thing Twice,” which is reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac-type old rock. These tracks show another version of the easygoing flawlessness Jepsen inserts into her projects.

As seen through certain missteps in the recent release, the pop star may not be as introspectively developed as some of her peers. However, Jepsen is clearly still talented enough to adapt to the ever-changing pop scene while staying connected to her “Call Me Maybe” roots. Although a bit removed from her 2010s bubblegum sound, she still manages to take audiences back to a time when pop could just be simple. 

Aside from a few standalone tracks, “The Loneliest Time” is evidence that music can be fresh without complexities. There are no underlying pressures to look inward and self-reflect — all that’s required is having a good time.

Instead of rebranding themselves as deep, intense songwriters, pop artists — including Jepsen — should look toward their discography’s impact as a leading example. Pop shouldn’t have to be profound to be good. It just has to be fun.

Samantha’s rating: 3/5

Featured Illustration by Erika Sevilla

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Samantha Thornfelt

Samantha Thornfelt

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