I liked Carly Rae Jepsen’s new album The Loneliest Time. I really did. But maybe I feel disappointed because I expected to love it. I’m not trying to rag on it — there were so many big and little things I liked about this album, and so many songs I enjoyed — but it’s hard for CRJ to live up to her previous work. Perhaps I shouldn’t expect that of her.

These are my thoughts after my first listen of The Loneliest Time.

Carly Rae Jepsen is known for writing many (hundreds?) of songs for each album, and cutting down the list until she has just the perfect ones for the album. It’s an approach that worked for her acclaimed 2015 album E•MO•TION and its followup Dedicated1. To me, both E•MO•TION and Dedicated represent CRJ at the top of her pop game. And I’m just not sure that The Loneliest Time continues that trend.

Let me first take stock of the many things I did enjoy about this album.

The album is filled with composition and production choices that I love. On “Joshua Tree,” the bass tone is Dua Lipa and the chorus is Charlie Puth “Attention” and I love that. (Actually, the bass sounds good throughout this album.) The bridge on “So Nice” woke me up because I live for that shit stuff. The flutes on “No Thinking Over the Weekend (Bonus Track)” were such a simple choice that paid off. I’m here for the bubble risers on “Shooting Star” (shoutout underscores?). “Sideways” is so smooooth in its groove, and it’s at the perfect tempo. It was my favorite track up to that point in the album. I really do think there were a lot of great composition and production choices made here.

Beyond that, this album demonstrates mastery when it comes to crafting the vibe for a song based on its themes — “No Thinking Over the Weekend (Bonus Track)” is such a beautifully washy experience. “Shooting Star” is squorpy and bloopy and phasery. “So Nice” is saccharine in its sound design. And “Bends,” which talks about the warmth of a lover, is itself an incredibly warm song. This thematic vibecrafting is not something I picked up on in previous Carly Rae Jepsen albums2, and I very much appreciated it in The Loneliest Time.

Single “Beach House” is wonderful. It’s camp. Which rocks. The lyrics are so good, and I am not normally a lyrics boy. The men who sing a little bit in this song are great for the texture of the song. It’s just so cheeky and I’m really a fan. Something I like about this track is that it really feels like something new for Carly Rae Jepsen. It feels like she’s taking a risk, and it paid off.

Title track “The Loneliest Time (feat. Rufus Wainwright)” has been endlessly promoted on tinktonk. Rather, one specific approximately five-second segment has been. The song is a little messy, but I will praise it for taking risks. The strings throughout the track give it a cool chic sound. The vocal melody feels classic somehow. But the feature doesn’t add much, and Rufus Wainwright’s awkwardly robotic vibrato towards the end is jarring. I do like a long song that slows down3, so I’ll give it that.

And now back to my criticism of The Loneliest Time: I just feel like overall, it doesn’t shine. As I’ve gone through above, there are so many elements that I do like, and some bits that I don’t. Each song on its own, aside from “Anxious (Bonus Track)” and maybe “Go Find Yourself or Whatever,” stands up just fine. But the album doesn’t feel special. It doesn’t grab me like E•MO•TION or Dedicated. I very well may change my opinion after re-listening, but for now I just think this album isn’t original enough. Or maybe it’s not risky enough.

A few other notes about specific songs:

I can tell that I will come to know the chorus of “Talking to Yourself” really well. It’s just that kind of thing. I love the rhythmic pit right before Carly sings the word “self.” And the bridge is so needy! We love a needy song4.

When Carly sings “I’d like to get to know you” on “Far Away,” I,,, swear I’ve heard her sing that before?! Was it on a B-Side?

Oops just looked it up and yes!! It’s on “Summer Love” from Dedicated Side B.

What’s the deal with “So Nice”? It sounds like it’s from a musical. And the lyrics are soooo much. I swear I thought that she was being sarcastic about a “nice guy” and the meaning was gonna flip on its head halfway through, but she stuck with it. I’m confused about that. I guess the next track, “Bad Thing Twice,” did feel like it was a response.

Those are my thoughts after my first listen. I’m going to be listening on repeat tomorrow, because tomorrow night I am seeing the one and only Carly Rae Jepsen live in concert, and I need to know the new material before I see her! It might very well be that my repeat listens will lead to a more favorable opinion of the album. It always takes quite a few listens to form a solid opinion of an album5.

I’m definitely being more harsh on Carly Rae Jepsen than I have been on other artists in my recent “First Listen” series. I am fond of her previous work and I definitely have high expectations. And I do like this album, I do. But I wish I could love it.

  1. And in addition, each of those albums was followed by a “B Sides” record containing tracks cut from the original. These also slapp! ↩︎

  2. Which is not to say it wasn’t there… ↩︎

  3. 🦑✨🐠 👀 ↩︎

  4. 🥺🙏🧼 👀 ↩︎

  5. The purpose of this “First Listen” series is not to create comprehensive album reviews, but just to capture my initial thoughts. The first listen of an album is important and often short-lived, and I’d like to be able to come back to these posts in six months to see how my opinions have shifted. ↩︎