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Photo courtesy Carly Rae Jepsen's website

Album Review: Carly Rae Jepsen’s The Loneliest Time

By Ansharah Shakil, November 7 2022

Chances are that telling a stranger you listen to Carly Rae Jepsen will receive an uncomprehending response. If they’re Canadian, you might receive a glimpse of solidarity for fellow Canadian Jepsen, who performed at the Calgary Stampede this summer, but generally, a stranger will associate her with “Call Me Maybe.” Jepsen’s current album count, though, is at six, and “Call Me Maybe” was 10 years ago. As a long-time fan, I eagerly counted down the days until Oct. 21 when she released her latest album The Loneliest Time

Jepsen’s music has always preoccupied itself with love. “Call Me Maybe” rose to such popularity for that very reason, and while the rest of Kiss never quite grasped that popularity, what I love about Kiss is the same thing I love about all of Jepsen’s albums. I love how she wears her heart on her sleeve and is unafraid to embarrass herself for the promise of love.

The Loneliest Time, with 13 tracks with 3 bonus songs, bravely persists with this vulnerability. 

Like its precursors, it is a soundtrack for a romantic. In the opening track “Surrender My Heart” Jepsen sings, “I’m out here in the open,” and expresses an earnest desire to change this time for this love. In “Far Away,” “Sideways” and “So Nice,” love is exciting. The world is brimming with possibilities. “So Nice” confesses, “He’s my cup of tea, sugar on my street,” the saccharine successor to “Sugar, sugar, spice and all things nice,” in Emotion’s “Never Get to Hold You.” 

Tracks like this are firmly and happily grounded in the present, while others are more melancholy, reflecting on the past. The lead single “Western Wind” is a perfect example, with its memories of how “Once, we were pressed into the / Love, we were pressed into the breeze up on the mountain.” Jepsen asks, “Do you remember a conversation / With our heads against the pillow?” It’s a new, introspective and bittersweet streak in her music. 

“Go Find Yourself or Whatever,” similarly, might be the most resigned track on the album. “You made me vulnerable,” Jepsen sings, but in this case, vulnerability has only hurt her when a lover abandons her. The title track “The Loneliest Time,” however, comes right after to lighten the mood, and bridges the past and present, holding its breath for the future. A dramatic collaboration with Rufus Wainwright, “The Loneliest Time” ends hopefully, with Wainwright and Jepsen crooning, “Is this nirvana?” 

Romantic love, while being Jepsen’s forte, is far from the only subject she sings of. “Bends,” a gentle song about the aftermath of the death of a family member, asks, “How can this be life?” Jepsen has also always touched on love for yourself, not just for others. Her songs “Boy Problems” and “Party For One” have advocated for embracing friendship or being alone, however beautiful being with someone romantically can be. “Joshua Tree” serves this purpose in The Loneliest Time, as Jepsen sings, “I drove miles away to finally feel alone.” Confidently, “Joshua Tree” proclaims Jepsen to be “like Aphrodite.” However much of her discography loves love, Jepsen knows that romantic love shouldn’t eclipse your love for your personality. 

In a similar vein, the campy and parodic song “Beach House” seems to be the most cynical track on the album regarding romance, detailing an endless cycle of humorous dating failures and recounting all the disappointments which can come from trying for love. This is not the first time we see this cynicism from Jepsen. Emotion’s “Store” and “Fever” lament problems in love that might be depressing if not for the bright synth-heavy music which shrouds the lyrics. “Beach House” is quintessential Jepsen. 

Even more classic Jepsen is the euphoric, upbeat, and summery “Shooting Star.” Jepsen sings cheerfully, rhyming “last chance,” with “romance,” and turning the mundane walk down the street into something fantastical. She still believes in “her New York City”, and all other seemingly unattainable dreams. Most of all, she charms her audience into wanting to believe in them too, which is why “Shooting Star” is one of my favourites on the album, along with “Keep Away” and “Bad Thing Twice.” 

Though The Loneliest Time feels in many ways mature, giving way to cynicism and letting reality in, it is a reconciliation of beautiful contradictions. It has roots in the indie rock of Tug of War, the bright-eyed optimism of Kiss, the magical romance of Emotion, and the intimate confidence of Dedicated. Jepsen provides a spectrum of human emotion with unguarded passion in an album which is inspired by disco and harkens back to the 2010s yet clearly connects to the present. Timeless, bold and vulnerable, The Loneliest Time is an album that is not to be missed.

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