By Ansharah Shakil, August 20 2023—
Carly Rae Jepsen first started dropping B-sides from her album when she released the B-side to her 2015 album Emotion a year later, a tradition she continued with her 2019 album Dedicated and its 2020 B-side. She had fans on the edge of their seats after the release of her 2022 album The Loneliest Time in anticipation of another possible B-side and finally satisfied their wishes by unveiling The Loneliest Time’s Side B, The Loveliest Time, on July 28.
The Loveliest Time is less of a B-side and more of a companion album. For Jepsen, the songs left behind are never simply the rejected ones. She has an unabashed love for the music she creates, and it bleeds through to her audience, making her one of the most authentic pop artists of the decade.
In terms of the themes and experiences of her albums, Jepsen has always gone all out, and her sixth and seventh albums are no exception. Both The Loneliest Time and The Loveliest Time have album covers with matching, sunset orange-hued tones, though the latter depicts Jepsen in sparkly club attire with her head thrown back as compared to her pensive expression on The Loneliest Time. There are deliberate callbacks from this album to the last one: 2022’s “So Nice” and “No Thinking Over the Weekend” and 2023’s “So Right” and “Weekend Love.” The moon is a central theme for both albums. From this and from their titles, it’s clear how The Loveliest Time is meant to build upon and complete its predecessor. Where The Loneliest Time is full of more introspective, emotional ballads — though with plenty of danceable tunes — The Loveliest Time begins off with confidence and unadulterated happiness.
The album’s opener “Anything To Be With You” is jubilant and groovy, while the second track “Kamikaze” is exactly what its title suggests: a free-falling, exhilarating rush of a song that describes the thrill of a relationship that is destined for disaster. “So Right” describes a similar relationship, but with a spoken interlude between Jepsen and her current boyfriend, and dazzling high notes in the chorus.
Loud and triumphant “Stadium Love” is another track with a spoken interlude, although this one is briefer, lasting a few seconds before Jepsen bursts into her lyrics, which echo Dedicated’s “Too Much.” On “Stadium Love”, Jepsen wants something big, something more, and the whole song sounds like all that unstoppable longing condensed into two and a half minutes.
“After Last Night”, a track produced by Vampire Weekend’s Rostam — a frequent collaborator with Jepsen who has in the past worked on fan-favourite “Warm Blood” from Emotion — is as dreamy as “Stadium Love”, only in a different way. Its first verse is utterly sublime. Jepsen sings “Gravity is not enough to keep me on your street / Walking twenty feet above the ground”, in a song that feels gravity-defying in itself, with the floaty synthesizer and the sweetness of the precisely sung vocals transporting the listener high above any earthly realm.
“Shadow”, another Rostam-produced song, is spell-binding. The connection Jepsen forms with her audience is, as always, entirely intimate, quiet and loud at once. No lyric on the album encapsulates that better than “Shadow”s “City to city, heartbeat to heartbeat.”
Tracks like “Aeroplanes” and “Kollage” meanwhile, are experimental, but as meticulous and moving as ever. “Come Over” is immediately striking and intoxicating, and the soft piano at the beginning of “Put it To Rest” compellingly turns the rest of the song and Jepsen’s voice into something transcendent and aching.
The closing track “Weekend Love” is ruefully romantic, detailing the collapse of an ordinarily brief love affair and the acceptance of its end: “Guess it was a past life, I haven’t seen you around,” Jepsen sings, “But it’s alright, I’m alright.” She might as well be shrugging: romance can be forever and fickle for Jepsen, and while it’s a mistress she never leaves behind, she loves to describe finding love for yourself and for the little things in your life.
But it’s the only single released ahead of the album, “Shy Boy”, that’s a true standout from the album. Disco-inspired “Shy Boy”, which samples Midnight Star’s 1986 R&B hit “Midas Touch,” sets the tone for the album: brazen, infectious fun with Jepsen’s trademark passion. Something about it is reminiscent of The Loneliest Time’s “Beach House”, and of a flirtier, poppier version of Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock n’ Roll”, echoing that confidence and power dynamic switch of traditional relationship roles.
Like “Shy Boy”, “Psychedelic Switch” is a track for the dance floor, but the tinkling drums and euphoric guitar are as mesmerizing as Jepsen’s rapturous voice. “You feel just like home, I’m not scared to show you,” Jepsen sings, and of course, she isn’t. That’s always the point of her music: to be brave when it comes to the highs and lows of love.
The Loveliest Time isn’t as perfectly polished as Dedicated: Side B, nor is every song as enchantingly endearing as the eight tracks on Emotion: Side B. But it’s an excellent album: both exactly what you expect and nothing like what you think it’s going to be. There’s a bittersweet quality to Jepsen’s music, with melancholy and happiness warring together. The happiness wins out, but the sadness is never dismissed. The Loveliest Time is about pure love, real love. After delving into loneliness Jepsen finds the joy which comes from continuing to move on and creates an album that is lonely and lovely, sharply beautiful, completely sure in what it wants to do and a glorious experience from start to finish.