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‘The Loneliest Time’ Review: Carly Rae Jepsen Broaches New Sounds and Fresh Takes

4.5 stars

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In a line from her latest single, “The Loneliest Time,” Carly Rae Jepsen energetically calls out “I’m coming back for you, baby!

The song, featuring Rufus Wainwright, is upbeat, catchy, and has more than 11 million views on TikTok — and this line has gone viral for a good reason. This breathy spoken word interjection calls to mind disco vibes, replete with fuzzy ‘80s filters in the accompanying music video. Oh, and with glitter everywhere, of course. “The Loneliest Time” has the undeniable pop grooviness she’s known for. It follows in the legacy set by Jepsen’s other smash hits, “Call Me Maybe” and “I Really Like You.”

However, the album as a whole is more nuanced than the title track suggests. Written during the lockdown and released on Oct. 21 the album approaches familiar topics like love, longing, and grief with a maturity that speaks to the unusually reflective period it was written in. In songs like “Bends,” longing is interspersed with introspection. Set alongside a laid-back thrumming beat, she whispers gently, “Hold me in your humble grace 'cause I can feel the darkness sometimes too.”

This contemplative mood is felt throughout the album. In “Bad Thing Twice,” Jepsen asks, “Is it my, is it my destiny? I wanna do a bad thing twice.” Although the rest of the song is addressed to an unnamed “you,” her supposed lover is not just a stereotypical object of longing but a mirror through which she considers the contours of her own life. She injects stereotypical pop tropes with a refreshing thoughtfulness.

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This maturity results in an album with a markedly different sound from her previous work. She experiments with different genres and sounds, from the congas in “Western Wind” to the sultry twinkles in “Sideways.” There is a real sense of Jepsen’s maturity as an artist and creative. While some may see these forays into different sounds as a lack of cohesiveness, it is precisely this willingness to move beyond the typical “pop beats” and TikTok-ready songs that makes Jepsen’s work stand out. Despite the somber lyrics, Jepsen’s experimentation is a joyful display of her musical range. She continues to surprise even now.

“Beach House” is a testament to this growth as a person and an artist. She moves from the singular “you” to the general “boys around the world” as she addresses the shocking (and sadly, relatable) disappointments that come with dating apps. This is not a “woe-is-me” song though. She reasserts herself declaratively as she repeats “I got a beach house in Malibu and I'm probably gonna hurt your feelings.” She moves between personal reflection and social commentary without missing a beat.

This emotional intensity reaches its peak in the slowed-down song “Go Find Yourself or Whatever.” With its steady beat and mellow sound, Jepsen’s voice loses its upbeat pop-music tones as she sentimentally croons “So go find yourself or whatever I hope it treats you better than I could do And I'll wait for you.” It feels like a country-style ballad in the best way possible. Her lyrics viscerally capture her maturity — the responsibility is on her lover to find themselves, it is not her burden. The singer behind is wiser than the relentlessly romantic head-over-heels persona she first embodied in “Call Me Maybe.”

It is after this considered portrayal of relationships that the title track “The Loneliest Time” comes up. In light of her ruminations on love, destiny, and growth, it is impossible to see the famous line “I’m coming back for you baby!” as just another fun disco-party call-to-action. It is weighed with a certain melancholic undertone, a fraught longing. Its energetic beat breaks through the contemplation with a payoff that feels rejuvenating and fresh but considered. She takes her listeners on her journey to maturity.

A quick note must be made of the three bonus tracks: “Anxious,” “Thinking Over The Weekend,” and “Keep Away.” It is obvious why they are relegated to bonus tracks: They don’t fit within the narrative of growth and empowerment that her album carefully charts out. This separation speaks to a unified artistic vision that shines through.

While the experimentation with different sounds may at times feel incohesive, it is a fresh breath of air for an artist who’s been around since 2008. Being released on the same day as Taylor Swift’s album “Midnights” might have drawn some of the focus away from Jepsen, but hers is an album worth listening to, especially for fans who have followed her since her earlier days. Do not be fooled by her TikTok fame, this is an album that breaks away from pop trends to present an important message about self-reflection. The album makes it clear: Jepsen has grown as both a person and an artist.

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