Music

Carly Rae Jepsen Breaks Down 'Dedicated: Side B'

Carly Rae Jepsen's 2019 album Dedicated quickly entered the canon as a disco-themed summer triumph. Steamy and lovelorn, it was a fitting sequel to the singer songwriter's now-legendary album, Emotion. Naturally, fans expected yet another follow-up: Jepsies needed a Side B. Last week, she surprised people around the world with just that. Picture us checking our timelines in disbelief at the prospect of 12 brand new songs from pop's top prophetess.

While Dedicated: Side B doesn't follow the lineage of part one tit-for-tat, the songs are in the same conversation. The sonic identity remains intact, with the help of her all-star roster of producers, and the writing still follows the rom com-esque narratives laid out on the initial LP. Jepsen kept the secret of Side B tucked away deeply, only every once in a while alluding to the existence of a treasure trove of new hits. Longtime fans had a hunch, however, that the "Call Me Maybe" legend wouldn't disappoint by beginning a new era without closing the chapter on the old one.

After teasing "Comeback" several months ago, fans finally got to hear the Bleachers-assisted hit in all its glory, which alone would have sufficed — but no, anything Jepsen does, she does larger-than-life. All 12 tracks on Dedicated: Side B will make you want to dance, sway and get all nostalgic over not-so-distant days pre-quarantine.

PAPER sat down with Jepsen exclusively to discuss the assembly of Dedicated: Side B, the songs that almost didn't make it on, and her writing process during COVID-19.

Read the full interview, below.

It was such a treat last week to hear that Dedicated: Side B was coming out. I was scrolling through the forums and noticed, "Oh, people are buzzing." The actual release was such a secret, though.

Thank you. Yeah. I mean for me, it was a relief to get it done. It's not a joke to get a quarantine album out there, but we got it polished and it was a real relief to me to finally be able to share these tunes.

So you're aware of the mythology around a "Side B" for each album, or the unreleased songs. Did you have that in mind, to tease it a little bit before it came out?

I mean, we didn't want to do a huge tease. I think we kind of liked the element of surprise with this one because it was a B side. My manager teases me because, on the night that we handed in Dedicated, I sent her my list of B sides immediately. And she was like, "Can we just celebrate this moment?" And I was like, "OK, but I just don't want us to forget that there's more out there."

Yeah, you're like, "OK, tomorrow."

Yeah, it has always been a two-part project for me. There were lots of other songs that I kind of loved equally as much on this project, on this album.

Was the song-making linear? The evolution from Dedicated, did those songs get written in the first crop of songs, or has it all been kind of picking and developing?

It's more the latter; a little bit of just experimenting on different types of songs throughout the years and then it became time to select it, like ones in the Sweden session and ones from the New York sessions, and I just kind went with what felt really good.

When you say "the New York sessions," do you have a sonic identity that goes along with each of those location-specific sessions? Different ideas that come out where you kind of brand each session?

I don't know if I brand it as it's happening, but looking back, I think I'll definitely be like, "Ah, those two weeks in Sweden when I was newly in love and all this crazy stuff happened!" It's a very magical time and I think the songs kind of represent that. I love using an example of that summery romance that I was going through. Then, New York I always just find to be such an inspiring city. That's where I work a lot with Jack [Antonoff], that's where I allow myself to be like a little bit more playful, out-there and extra experimental.

Speaking of Jack, it was a real treat to also see the Bleachers feature on my favorite song off the B sides, "Comeback." Sonically, how did that track start?

My keyboardist Jared came down to my house in LA, and him and I decided to have a couple days of writing without overthinking what we were doing. It became very journal-like for me. It was a little bit of a melancholy time in my life, so I think I wanted something to motivate me. So I started with the lyric concept during that visit, and Jack's always so great about being open about, if I have like a little nugget of something I want to share, that he can just like develop it to like a whole different place. So when we had sessions in New York later on, I brought that idea to him, or just the top-lines of ideas, and some of the words weren't right yet, but he ended up embracing that hook. We just wrote new verses around it and just gave it some new life. And Jack was an incredible... I don't know, he didn't want me to shy away from the melancholy of it. I think sometimes I'm scared to do that, so I really appreciate that he kind of pushed me to go a little deeper.

Was there a reason he chose to be featured as Bleachers, and not "Jack Antonoff" for the feature? Why it felt more Bleachers for him? Was something behind that, or was it more subtle?

No, I think it was just because it was a little bit more subtle. We wanted there to be a really introspective narrative to the song, about a girl coming into her own. It was less of a duet and more support, and it just made sense for us.

I also wanted to talk about the retro synths that make their way onto both albums, both Side B and Dedicated, and Emotion, too. Does that element of production draw up any specific emotions for you that really compels your songwriting? They do seem to be a motif in the last couple of studio albums.

Originally with this project, I was looking to go into '70s disco, and I think we thought that was "Julien," but the rest of it kind of just led me right back to what I think is my idea of one of the greatest eras of pop music, which is the '80s. It's very heart-on-your-sleeve, and it's very to-the-point and not afraid to really be vulnerable and say the things that you really mean. I'm kind of drawn back to that place and I think the synth sound is still so very '80s, and it allows me to be like, "I'm going to tell you the deep secrets of my heart, let's go!"

I also wanted to talk about "Fake Mona Lisa." It's a song title that's just as fun to say and read as it is to listen to.

That song was born in Vegas, actually. I met a guy who did have a beauty mark on his face and it was just gorgeous. I found out later that he was seeing someone. "Fake Mona Lisa" is like an analogy of like, "Can we? Can you? Can we start something new?" And then I took that concept to Sweden and I got to work with two of my favorite writers over there, Julia and Anton, and they liked the concept of it, too. We just started the room with just knowing the title but nothing else yet, and got it to a bigger place.

That's really interesting to hear, because "Fake Mona Lisa," maybe it's just the words, but the title does sound like a title that would be written before the actual song. It's one of those titles that just looking at it visually on a tracklist is so stimulating; that's where you want your mouse to click first.

It's funny because it's the opposite of how I normally go. I usually am against the songwriter's thing of going to sessions and being like, "Here's a couple titles I have," because it just feels a little too manufactured that way. But this one has an actual real-life memory to it, and it's like, "I don't know what this idea is yet, but I know we're going to dig for it."

"Now I Don't Hate California After All" is another one of those titles that kind of evokes something immediately looking at it. You visualize a beach, you see an image.

That was in the Sweden phase of my writing. You can kind of hear it. I also had a really big relationship with Los Angeles. From first moving here, I felt a little bit like Alice in Wonderland. I remember, it was around the time "Call Me Maybe" was happening. Everything was new and people were very intimidating. I had this new role in my life that I was still uncomfortable with. So I think it's been a lot of time of falling in love slowly with Los Angeles. It's taken me having to find the right friends. And then of course, when you fall in love, the place that you're in just becomes absolutely beautiful. I feel like even with "LA Hallucinations" on Emotion, I was also dipping into that sort of concept of, "What the hell? Where am I?" And now I've come to some peace with it, I guess.

What were your influences for these beach-y, dream-pop songs that have a little bit of an element of melancholy to them?

I mean we wanted the beach-y vibe of Beach Boys, the stoner sort of — where you're following a guy around at the beach and like making love and doing all the things that are very holiday-ish. More allowing ourselves to get as weird as we wanted that day. I can remember Noonie and Patrick and I, we even had written another song earlier that day, we just stayed late into the night because we were having a good time. We were like, "Let's make another one." Then Patrick just started that little bubbly sound that you hear and we were like, "Oooh." So yeah, that's kind of all I can remember from that session.

From the listeners' perspective, how do you think fans are consuming Side B differently than something like Dedicated, that came out at the very exigence of summer, and it could live on throughout that period in the live performance space, or around peoples' friends? Under COVID-19, it's different.

I find that I'm taking in music more than I ever have before actually, just because it's so meditative and gets me out of my head if I'm in a space of overthinking things or getting anxious. I take music on my walks with me. I mean, the joke title for this album was Music to Clean Your House To. I didn't know how real that was going get, and it got pretty real. And that's when I listen to music, too. So I'm hoping that you put the broom down and you have a little dance party, it can be sort of a helping friend if you're alone, you know?

With live performances, I was curious about how you feel not having a stage right now to perform these tracks. Did you have plans to eventually perform and incorporate a lot of the Side B into a setlist? Or were these always kind of meant to exist on a record, more so than the live performance?

We were toying with the idea of doing a very exclusive Side B tour, just hitting five cities, and I was looking forward to that, not going to lie. I think there will be time for all of those good things to come in the future. And in the meantime, I'm using my creativity to do Zoom sessions with Tavish Crowe and kind of write to each other from afar. And it's weirdly working, it actually changes how you write because there's so much room to analyze what you've done and pick it apart a little bit more meticulously than normally we would if we were just doing a one-day thing.

Are you one of those writers that comes into the sessions with the lyrics already written, rather than coming in with a blank slate?

I think of it more as a cookie jar. I'm writing quite constantly, so I'll have a little hook idea here or I'll have a little melody that I've had stuck in my head for a verse-thing right here, and then I'll kind of see what fits together. But I definitely show up with my hands full of ideas. And then the lyrics are really important to me, that's something that I fixate on probably more than the average Joe, and really care about it sounding like me. So that's something I would say I generally, I dominate that part just because it feels more real. Also, right now when Tavish just sends me like a track, I'll send back a top-line, and then I'll send him a couple lyric ideas and he'll tell me which ones he likes and we can do the rest together afterwards. It's just like a little game of musical tag.

Like you're texting someone a song.

He puts together a production and then I get a surprise in my email the next morning of him being like, "What do you think of this?" And I'm either like, "I love it!" or "I hate it!"

I also wanted to ask retrospectively about Dedicated and getting to tour with it. Any of those songs that ended up on Dedicated, do you wish they had ended up on the B sides or switched it around? Over the test of time, what does that record mean to you now?

I think maybe because it's fresh blood right now that I just got to share this, but I'm probably leaning with [Side B] almost being my preference at the moment. We have toured Dedicated for so long, it was like seven months of pretty non-stop touring. It's definitely like, once you've sung a song so many times, you get a little burnt out on it. I definitely feel like I'm the most thrilled about this project right now, but I don't think I would do anything differently. I feel like, at the time, those were the songs that were just standing out to me and to my friends and collaborators, and it felt like the right first offering, but it really is a package deal. It's less of a Side B versus just a part two of the time of creativity in my life.

Do you see yourself always having those two concurrent creative statements, coming in duos where you can comment on one or expound upon it later on down the line? Do you see that always being a theme that you want to continue in your works?

I think it'll depend on what I'm making, but I do like the idea of having a B side. I think it's a time to offer up the other half of things, like some of the more experimental things that maybe didn't make sense for the first run. And for me, it's my time to play extra. My A&R is very nice about just letting me be like, "Whatever you want!" And I'm like OK, cool, here's what it is!

Well, that sounds like a fun A&R!

The only debate we had is: they would be like, "You get eight songs!" And I'll be like, "I'll take 14!" And that's where we landed with 12.

They're like, "I heard 11?"

Actually, we did land at 11, and then last minute I called and I was like, "You're gonna hate me, but I need to have 'Solo' on there."

Was "Solo" one of the ones that you were going back and forth with?

Yeah, "Solo" and "This Love Isn't Crazy" were not on the original list, but when I was looking for an opener I wanted something to really be a theatrical knock on your head and that's where "This Love Isn't Crazy" made it back into the ring. And now it's kind of my favorite, so I'm glad that decision changed for me. And then "Solo," I just was losing sleep like three, four nights in a row, and every time I would have "Solo" in my head and I felt like it was just such a perfect song for people who are in quarantine right now and alone and feeling like, "Where is my person?" I go through my own loneliness, so it was really kind of motivating me to get up and stop feeling sorry for myself and dance it out. I hope that would help other people the same way.

To imagine a Side B without those two songs to anchor the rest is kind of an interesting idea, looking at the final tracklist.

I know, I mean I make jokes with my manager that we should make a C Sides because there's more that I like. I have so many. I did do that to make her laugh the day that we released Side B I sent her my C Sides list and she just rolled her eyes at me.

Stream Dedicated: Side B, below.

Photography: Julian Buchan for PAPER

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