The Loneliest Time is another undeniable treat from one of pop’s greatest stars.
Three years after her last bright-eyed pop album, Carly Rae Jepsen returns with The Loneliest Time, an exploration of the anxieties percolating within an increasingly isolated society. Jepsen takes an open and honest approach to the moody material, the topicality of which has been exacerbated but all less abstracted in the few years since her last release. Given the context of that time period, this work could have easily come off as glib or even manipulative, but Jepsen instead chooses to treat it delicately, giving space to a vast discourse that comes inherent to the subject matter.
For those familiar with the singer’s earlier work, the particular character of the bubblegum beats and extended pop jams that make up The Loneliest Time won’t be a surprise; the record is sweet without being particularly saccharine, and evokes a sense of genuine joy that isn’t often found in the increasingly manufactured world of modern pop music. It’s in this lane that Jepsen has found her groove over the past decade, her career marked by an unmistakable sense of fun and refreshing rejection of cynicism. It’s a notable quality to her live show during this most recent cycle too, with the face in the moon from her music videos announcing before the show that there’s a space to let loose, a space to cry, and a space to experience new emotions if need be. Such a proclamation would be lost in the hands of a lesser artist, but Jepsen handles it with such genuineness and geniality that it never feels cheap or misleading; the world has been a strange place for the past few years, and she’s just doing her small part to help free us all from such shackles.
All of this live-and-in-color tone-setting is, of course, an extension of her latest album, and tracks like “Beach House” go a long way in cutting through the emotional tension at play with relatable quirks, while slow ballads like “Go Find Yourself or Whatever” evoke the escapist image of a classic ’80s popstar pining for what could have been. The dynamic shifts are never so major that they feel jarring or suggest an album at war with itself, but instead provide a variegated listening experience that keeps each moment fresh and uses its pop confection to speak to an array of emotional textures. The album culminates in “The Loneliest Time,” an exquisite duet with Rufus Wainwright, which lands in line with the best pop singles of the past decade, featuring a bridge that could melt even ice and marking the greatest triumph on an album rich in them.
More than anything, what Jepsen accomplishes on The Loneliest Time is further proof that there are few artists who can pull off sincerity to quite so affecting ends. It’s a record that adds to the beautiful bridge she has built between her and her fanbase, always inviting them to feel something with her, providing the space and spectrum to speak, with joy and grace, to our shared human experience. For some, Jepsen may never quite shake the “Canadian Idol” persona that ushered her into public consciousness, but she has inarguably cemented herself as one of the most essential pop stars of the last decade. The Loneliest Time is an assertion and celebration of that, and everything still to come.