Carly Rae Jepsen is no stranger to the ins and outs of dating, relationships, and love. As Canada’s reigning pop princess, she’s carved out a body of work that channel the feeling of butterflies in one stomach, or the full-bodied ache of feeling someone’s absence. Her bubblegum lyricism roots itself in unfiltered romanticism, as she offers cathartic release to anyone weary from carrying around their heavy heart all day.
On her newest record, The Loneliest Time, Jepsen offers room for the often dreaded feeling of loneliness and takes it for a dreamy spin through the California countryside, all while exploring the deeper roots of pop. The record explores what happens after the bubble of love has burst and you find yourself alone, yet still looking forward to the next fling on the iridescent horizon.
With The Loneliest Time, Jepsen takes the highs of love and the lows of isolation and places them on the same podium, treating the emotions as different sides of the same melodramatic coin. Like feelings of amour and infatuation, everybody feels the pangs of loneliness at times, and Jepsen leans into this universality.
“Loneliness is a similar thing to love,” she says in an interview with The Cut. “It’s felt everywhere by everyone at different moments in their life.”
By no means is The Loneliest Time vacant of euphoric pop hooks or the sunshiney candor Jepsen’s become known for, but we do find the singer at her most trepidatious when it comes to connecting with others, and understandable, yet carries a hindering effect on the album. However, she’s far from giving up on finding her happily ever after.
Jepsen makes her intentions clear with the first line, “So I’ve been trying hard to open up,” on the epic pop starter “Surrender My Heart.” It’s a testament to this unwillingness to let go of the ideals of love and romance, even if it’s been less than rewarding thus far. The opening song lays its foundation with high-spirited synths, which glimmer underneath Jepsen’s empowered vocals.
Just as she refuses to allow past experiences to taint future elation, Jepsen exorcises some of the ghosts which haunt her abode, allowing an untainted view of her surroundings. Buried at the end of her most recent full-length project, Dedicated Side B, Jepsen laid “Now I Don’t Hate California After All,” which signaled a release of the negative emotions she held about the place she’s called home for 10 years now. The Loneliest Time does more than embrace the bounty of nature and space the state has to offer, but allows it to build the framework of the record, with songs like “Joshua Tree” and the lead single “Western Wind,” both of which turn to the whimsy of Cali’s environment for inspired, breezy lyrics about blooming love and desire.
Dedicated and the subsequent Side B leaned into the rhythm of disco, whereas The Loneliest Time takes it and kicks it into campy pop overdrive, with all the grooving bass lines and dramatic, dance-spurring synth work the genre has to offer. The enchanting single “Talking To Yourself” comes in at the right time with an infectious chorus and only a little bit of taunting of a former fling. “Sideways” feels razor-focused, a little nugget of pop bliss about feeling on top of the world when you garner someone’s affection. The song marries well with “So Nice,” a crisp, bubbly track that’s unafraid to cherish the “nice guy.”
While Jepsen’s status as a Scorpio has always been crystal clear in her music (See: “Too Much,” “Gimme Love,” and “I’ll Be Your Girl”), the songbird finally gives an anthem for those who constantly crave intense connection with the glitzy “Shooting Star,” singing, “I’m Scorpio/It’s physical, it’s natural/ My spiritual, my animal.” The experimentation with disco-pop reaches its peak with the club banger, as Jepsen’s voice warps with autotune, the synths bounce to and fro, all embellished with a bright hi-hat cymbal.
“Beach House” comes in as Jepsen’s play on the app dating scene and the immense disappointment it tends to bring, not to mention weirdos, adulterers, and people who aren’t over their exes. It’s akin to some of her other syrupy pop songs, such as “Store” (á la Emotion Side B) and her star-maker “Call Me Maybe.” Even when Jepsen broaches corniness, she’s so earnest about it that you find yourself pulled in, bobbing your head along in spite of your best attempts to fight it. Ultimately, it’s what made her successful—this ability to put these twee thoughts to paper, allowing us to eventually indulge in the same sappy little feelings.
Everything slows down with “Go Find Yourself Or Whatever”—a folksy guitar-strummed song about a painful goodbye. Even when Jepsen tries to be flippant with the chorus, real pain echoes in the chorus line, “I wake up hollow/You made me vulnerable.” It’s emotional potency is palpable, and offers the first deep exploration of loneliness on the record.
It’s this change in tune which cast the spotlight on the weaknesses of the record, with its uneven mood and eagerness to try out new sounds without clarity on how they meld together. The Loneliest Time ends up toggling between this effervescent disco-inspired pop and Laurel Canyon folk sensibilities, with neither shedding light on a new facet of the other.
In spite of The Loneliest Time’s tinge of cynicism when it comes to relationships, the title track (which serves as the album’s finale), ends everything on a high note as Jepsen runs to the arms of a former lover, looking to give things another try. The song’s been a highlight of the singles released prior to the album, and remains a gem on the record as a whole. Jepsen fully takes hold of the reigns on her inspirations and delivers a yearning, rom-com style pop song that advances her previous sounds and perfectly encapsulates the emotional power of infatuation and loneliness. The bliss of listening to a CRJ record comes right in this sweet spot, as she opens up the space for cathartic ruminations on heartbreak and hope. When she feels like cracking the vault of song material open once more (hopefully for a side B of the record), may more songs of this caliber pour forth.