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Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘The Loneliest Time’ delivers soulless tunes dependent on nostalgia

Album fails to replicate sounds of 2010 dance music, signals mainstream shift to recession pop

<p>More than anything, “The Loneliest Time” signals how more mainstream pop artists prioritize content suited for online virality over a high quality product.</p><p>Courtesy of Andy Witchger via Wikimedia Commons</p>

More than anything, “The Loneliest Time” signals how more mainstream pop artists prioritize content suited for online virality over a high quality product.

Courtesy of Andy Witchger via Wikimedia Commons

“I’m coming back for you, baby. I’m coming back for you.” 

These catchy lines from Carly Rae Jepsen’s latest single “The Loneliest Time” took TikTok by storm, adding the single to a long list of songs that found popularity on the social media platform. “The Loneliest Time” is Jepsen’s fourth single from her album of the same name, which hit streaming services Friday. The artist also released a lead single “Western Wind” earlier this year and singles “Beach House” and “Talking to Yourself” at the end of the summer.

But no other single from Jepsen’s new release — which fought for attention on Friday against Taylor Swift’s “Midnights” and Arctic Monkeys’ “The Car” — has managed to gain popularity like its titular track. This might be attributed to the misleading nature of the viral snippet, which Jepsen delivered with more personality than the entire rest of the album combined — the needle in a haystack of simplistic lyrics and overused sounds.

Jepsen first made a name for herself with her 2011 breakout song “Call Me Maybe,” which debuted on the Hot 100 in March 2012 and spent 50 weeks on the chart. “Call Me Maybe” remains Jepsen’s biggest hit to date, widely regarded as a staple of 2010s pop and garnering the singer a cult following that endures to this day. Jepsen has since released numerous albums — six in total including Friday’s addition — but none found much mainstream recognition.


Jepsen’s latest album has been widely acclaimed by reviewers, with Rolling Stone’s Robert Sheffield referring to it as “her most emotionally adventurous music yet.” But if “The Loneliest Time” is the deepest music Jepsen is able to produce, perhaps she should have remained a one-hit-wonder.

“The Loneliest Time” attempts to replicate the club elements of 2010s pop music that defined the genre of recession pop, a genre of music focused on quickly-produced, danceable music during times of crisis. But most of the album’s songs fail to achieve this goal. Made up of unmemorable lyrics and songs that blur together, the album feels like a soulless rendition of the genre. Perhaps Jepsen’s lackluster mainstream persona is part of the problem, as she is missing the public charm that makes this type of music work.

Most of the album’s songs, including “Surrender My Heart” and “Joshua Tree,” have catchy choruses, but listeners will not find much in terms of emotional depth. Jepsen’s album is riddled with simplistic lyrics composed of incomplete phrases that rarely ever form coherent thoughts. Instead, Jepsen produces songs like “So Nice,” which takes three minutes to praise a man for just being nice and leaves the listener wondering if she has ever felt emotion beyond the surface level. “Go Find Yourself or Whatever,” a pop song that awkwardly introduces a country twang halfway through, sticks out like a sore thumb from the rest of the album.

The album does shine in certain moments. It is inarguably a danceable collection of songs, and listeners can consume the music mindlessly and enjoy standout instrumentals. Songs like “Talking to Yourself,” “Sideways” and “Bad Thing Twice” manage to successfully replicate the dance elements of 2010s pop music that Jepsen was clearly aiming to recreate throughout the album.

More than anything, “The Loneliest Time” signals how more mainstream pop artists are now producing content more for the sake of virality than quality. After two years of stripped-down pop albums such as Swift’s “folklore” and Lorde’s “Solar Power,” Jepsen’s release implies a return back to dance-pop — a disappointing shift.


Alex Nadirashvili

Alex Nadirashvili is the managing editor of multimedia and social media for The Brown Daily Herald's 133rd Editorial Board. As a former University News editor, he covered faculty, higher education and student life, though his proudest legacy is The Brown Daily Herald TikTok account.

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